Lessons from the Road:
This isn't Just about Running

Think. Believe. Dream. Dare
– Walt Disney

Okay. I’m guilty. There are days when I happen to like running more than my job. I think my boss figured it out last week or maybe five years ago, when I arrived to work a few minutes late again with wet hair and a smile on my face.

But no one seems to mind anymore. People simply say that I’m a little competitive and crazy. All I know is that I’ve always wanted to be better. Not better than the guy over there, just better than I was the day before. You see, running and walking are more than just sports for me. It is a way of life. It’s a day-in, day-out, ongoing, unremitting, inspiring, persevering, and compassionate type of activity that I love. It’s me.

And it has given me a lot more than blisters, trophies, sore muscles, Olympic Teams, breathless wins, agonizing losses, vicious dogs, Presidential meetings, back surgeries, and proud parents. The real gift running has taught me is how to get where I’m going. Maybe it can inspire you too.

You are a treasure chest of talents, insights and remarkable gifts. Just take a big breath and listen to that huge heart of yours. What are your dreams? Let me tell you about one of mine and hopefully it will help you too whether you want to run, walk, dance, live.

Map your vision

I started running when I was seventeen. I wanted to become a better tennis player and thought this “jogging thing” would keep me in better shape. My big goal everyday was to run 2 miles—one mile to Busken Bakery, stop in and eat a donut, jog one mile home. I entered a small race after a week of bakery running and won it (nobody ran way back then). I got a free T-shirt, and a trophy. It was a male trophy. I saved it forever.

I was so proud of myself and had so much fun that I decided that I would make this something bigger in my life. I wrote down my dream and put it in my sock drawer. It’s still there.

Expect to make wrong decisions—not bad decisions

When I was a sophomore at Xavier University and well-entrenched in international competition and Accounting 101, the Olympic Committee announced that The Women’s Marathon would become an official Olympic event at the 1984 Games. I decided if I was going to train at the level it would take to compete for this dream, I would have to graduate from this grueling school quickly and get a job. Hello. What was I thinking?

Take a risk. Never compromise those butterflies.

Anyway, I graduated in three years, got a full time job, worked 10 hours a day, ran 100 miles a week and started getting slower. On top of that, it was the year of the blizzard and I was running
in weather that you could die in. Not good.

It was time to change the paradigm or give up my dream. So, I quit my job, packed my Honda, and moved to Florida. I was scared. I had those butterflies doing their own marathon in my stomach.

Believe that people want to help you. But you have to ask.

I was fortunate enough to find a family to live with. They wanted to help
me realize my dream. I bunked with a 5-year-old and was in bed before she was every night.
Dinner was at 6:00 sharp. I had dish duty every Wednesday. I had to share a bathroom with four
others. I had dibs on the TV on Thursday. I loved it.

I was surrounded by people who truly believed in me. Even the guys I trained with everyday would run according to my regimen instead of their own. Lucky me.

Find a mentor.

I had a great coach. He was my mentor, my friend, and my confidante. He inspired me to be better than I was the day before. He was always there . . .even when I failed.

Have a daily plan.

When you are aiming for a big one, you have to do some type of training every day to get there. Simply put, you run and run and run. Anywhere from 10-26 miles. Everyday. But dreams demand that--- a little bit of your heart and soul every day.

Have heroes.

When the Olympic Trials finally came, I remember standing on the starting line with 256 other women (you had to run a qualification time to go to the trials). Only these were some of my heroes who I had followed and admired my whole career. Wow.

Run your own life.

Before the start, I had written on my arm exactly how I was going to run each of the 26 miles. You guessed it---ink extended from my wrist to my elbow. But I knew that this
plan would be the best I could do based on my training. If I went out too fast with the leaders, I could possibly tire too soon and if I went out too slow, I would never have a chance to make the top three and be Olympic Bound.

Never give up

When I reached the ten-mile marker, I was in 23rd place. Remember only the top three matters. However, I was right on my time schedule (so said my arm). So I kept at it. Passed a few more women and came up to the final mile. Since my parents were sitting in the bleachers with hundreds of other, I put on my best smile and came around that final bend. I kept wondering why everyone was cheering so wildly considering I was probably in eighth place at least.

Dreams come true. Even when you least expect them.

One hundred yards from the finish line, I heard someone scream –“You’re in third place. You are going to the Olympics”. Well, those last few yards my feet did not hit the ground. (Do you realize I ran for 2 1/2 hours and only enjoyed 20 seconds of that race?). But the best moments are right before you reach your dream. Because once you’ve crossed the line, you’re looking ahead to the next big challenge.

Team Goals are fun too

I moved out to Los Angeles and lived in the Olympic Village. I bunked with Mary Lou Retton and Mary Decker Slaney. I had Cheerios with Mary Lou, watched her win Olympic Gold, and had Cheerios with her the next morning. There was something very special about being on the same US Team. It was exhilarating, scary, challenging and fun. I made lifetime friends.

Expect to trip and fail

Sad story. I dropped out of the Olympic Marathon at the 11th mile. I tore a tendon in my foot, experienced paralysis, and fell over. I failed.

Pick up the pieces and find one that works

Moved back to Cincinnati and worked as a sports reporter for Channel 9. Do you remember the nights I forgot the name of the show? How to talk? I do. But even worse, I ruptured a disc in my back, lived in gut wrenching pain, and finally had to undergo surgery. No more running ever they said. At that point, I would have settled for a nice, painless

My big dream now was to be able to take out my own trash and carry the laundry to the washer.

You get a second chance in life.

Surgery was successful. I learned how to walk again, and drive again, and one night I went to the local Withrow track just to see if I could run one lap around the track. I had to know if I had the ol’ rhythm. If I could feel my legs. If I could do it. I did it.

So I kept doing it more and more. And I got my gift of speed back. So I set my sights on the Los Angeles Marathon. I went back to the sight of the 1984 Olympics six years later and won the biggest race of my life. I got a second chance at life.

This story isn’t about running. It’s about growing and exploring a new view of life. . .whatever comes your way….going a little too far to see just how far you can go.


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