Why We Run Wednesday: AJ

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I started running when I was in high school because I thought it would be a good way to meet cute boys. The boys' team would run hills a couple of times a week on the rural roads and meet afterwards at one of their houses for pancakes.  I had a crush on one of them, so I weaseled my way into their workouts each week. Even though I never would have considered myself a “runner” before that, I ended up officially joining the team when school started in the fall.

Until I started running, I never even thought of myself as athlete: I couldn’t coordinate my hand with a moving object enough to serve a volleyball, changing directions suddenly on a basketball  court while also remembering to dribble the ball made me nervous, and I was too indecisive to decide whether or not to swing a softball bat at a pitch. But if you wanted someone to run hard and follow a white line until you told me to stop—I was your girl!
While I kept up with running through college, it wasn't until afterwards, when I moved to Montana, that I started to push myself to run for me. I ran to release the stress of a new job in a new town where I knew no one. I ran to see how fast I could go. I ran because we had feet upon feet of snow in the winter, I didn’t have a snowmobile, and I had to do something. And in the spirit of setting goals that seemed unattainable, I decided I was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

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My Boston Marathon training went well. I trained hard, lost ten pounds, and felt confident that I was prepared to run my best marathon ever. I signed up for a full marathon in Colorado that I had done a couple of times before that was mostly downhill. My parents came with me to compete in the half marathon while I ran my full. I felt confident that I could qualify, that I could do this for myself.
Race day could not have started off better—I ran with an old college friend and we hit our splits mile after mile. I didn’t feel myself start to tire until mile 22, and I knew I could push through the pain to finish close to pace and make my qualifying time. I was pushing to try to find my dad, who was walking the half marathon. As the miles counted down, I knew I would be passing him soon.

At mile 24, there was a crowd of runners on the side of the trail. As a trained EMT, I am conditioned to respond when I see someone that needs help. So even though I was closing in on the final stretch, when I saw someone down on the side of the trail I thought I would stop and make sure that everything was okay before I kept running.

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Everything was not okay.

It was my dad that had collapsed. When I reached him he was in full cardiac arrest. CPR was started shortly after I stopped and—luckily—within seconds a race official came riding down the trail on a bicycle and was able to call the fire department. The paramedics arrived and had to shock my dad three times to get his heart going again. I left the course in the ambulance with him. Thankfully he made a full recovery. To this day he still says we should have let him keep going after he was shocked back to life and followed him with the paddles until he finished.
I tell this story as part of why I run not to startle people. I tell it because the people involved are a great example of why I run now and why I will continue to run: runners are the best people. We all struggle towards our own goals and against our own demons to achieve what we think is impossible. The other people who stopped their races to care for my dad were all runners with their own goals who recognized someone in need and helped immediately. The medical director for the Boston Marathon who gave me an invitational entry to run later that April could have given it to anyone. The high school cross country coach who encouraged me at practice my first summer as a runner had a million other things he could have done with his time. Instead, he helped a hormonal teenager find her inner athlete.

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When I moved to Washington—again, a place where I knew almost no one—a work contact told me that Cascade Run Club had the best people she knew. I joined as soon as I could and have met some of the best running buddies and supportive friends I could have imagined.
I still run to challenge myself. I still run to relieve stress. But now I run most of all because I believe that runners are the best people, that it brings out the best in people. I’m proud to call myself a runner, proud to have met so many amazing fellow runners, and prouder still to be a part of such an incredible club. I don't just run for myself—I run because of people like you.