I am so blessed to be a runner. It has taken me to places I never could have imagined and connected me to people that have changed my life. This past February, I ran in the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta — an experience worth a lifetime of miles and worthy of its own blog post! Since then, I have been reflecting a lot on the importance of the community that runs around me. I never would have made it to Atlanta without my community. I was honored to travel to Atlanta with eight of my teammates and our coaches and our families. In this time of social distancing and shelter-in-place, it can feel like we are running alone more than ever. But do any of us really ever run alone?
I made a decision a long time ago to prioritize running. It is a decision that I recommit to all the time. When I was young, it was easy. Running was by far the most important thing in my life. But, running is a funny thing. The demands of the road do not decrease just because I have a job or social commitments. A 90-minute run takes 90 minutes, no matter what else I have on my schedule. And that doesn’t even account for the stretching and meal planning and sleep that a 90-minute run requires. It’s a lot! Many times, it takes a toll on our family members and friends, not to mention… ourselves.
Committing to running and training does not happen in a vacuum. No one actually runs alone. Even when we literally run alone, we carry with us our families, our friends, our teammates, our children, our colleagues — they help to create the space that allows us to follow our passion.
It’s not all sacrifice and isolation. Running is a joy! It is playful and childlike and so fulfilling! Maybe it’s the endorphins pumping through our bodies, or maybe it’s that we all have to be somewhat crazy to be so passionate about a sport that crushes your body after every workout or long run. But, I think, more than anything, it’s the people I run with. Despite the cliches of the loneliness of the long distance runner, running is a team sport. I love my team. The people may change, but it’s always taken a team.
Today, I run with the Impalas in the Bay Area. They are amazing women — mothers and lawyers and nurses and architects with the same demands, the same passion. They help me focus and find joy when the demands seem overwhelming. They pick me up after a tough race. They celebrate my triumphs as their own. I was honored to race alongside eight of my teammates at the Olympic Trials. Nine of us! All amateurs. All friends. All runners. All people pursuing a passion that extends far beyond the finish line.
Imagine this scene: it is the night before the Olympic Trials Marathon. Four of us were in a hotel room — Lizzy, Camille, Anna, and I. Getting pumped up with our pre-race playlists. Arranging our bib numbers. Laying out our blue Impala race kits. Double, triple checking everything. Checking again. Tying streams of ribbon around our perfectly placed ponytails. It was the night before the biggest race of our lives. The anxiety could cripple any woman in a room alone. But we were not alone.
“Holly, did you bring the glitter?” asked Camille.
“SHOOT, no, I totally forgot it” I said.
15 seconds of silence and tension and then Camille! “I FORGOT I PACKED THE GLITTER IN MY SUITCASE! YASSSSS!
We were girls again. Teammates the night before any race. Bonded in support. I was transported back to countless evenings when my gals were my rocks: eating ALL the candy from our “Psych Boxes” after our middle school conference championship, keg stands at the track house with a bunch of low-tolerance runners after NCAAs, all the way to nights out in SF wearing liberal amounts of glitter and dancing until 2 AM. So, the four of us get to work placing gold glitter around the outside creases of our eyes. I may have gone a bit overboard, but hey, I just wanted to make sure it stuck for all 26.2 miles!
Glitterized and all, we got to the start of the race feeling jazzed. We were about to compete on a U.S. Olympic stage, with the best marathoners in the country (and the world!). We were doing it wearing glitter and we were doing it together. It makes me smile to think of how beyond insane we might’ve looked, but boy did we have a good time that day. When you feel good, you look good, and you race good! Me and my glitter gals!
Marathon training doesn’t allow much room for a sizable social life. Runners have to find the little things that keep us motivated and help us remember why we dedicate so much time to this sport. For me, that is my community. I would never have made it to Atlanta without my teammates, my family, my coaches, and the countless friends, colleagues, and mentors that supported me along the way. I think it’s wholly important to treat yourself to the things that make you the happiest and reflect on the people that make it possible, because without them, the thing that makes me happiest in this world — going out for a run — may not be possible.
Born and raised in a small town outside of Boston, MA, Holly started running on her middle school cross country team in 7th grade. Her passion for running hasn’t faltered since. For college, she moved to Baltimore to attend Johns Hopkins, leading the team to two NCAA XC Championships. She ultimately found herself in San Francisco in 2015 and joined the Impala Racing team within a month of moving. As a team member and board member of the Impalas, she has found success in the Marathon, becoming one of the women to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Team Marathon Trials!