I am thrilled that today’s guest spotlight hails from my workout buddy and friend, Laurel! We recently ran a 10-mile trail race together and in recent years she has ventured into the marathon and ultra-marathon world. This is the first of a two-part series, so stay tuned for what’s next. Her story is both inspiring and heartfelt. I hope that it encourages you today.
Guest Blogger: Laurel Wemhoff
I never considered myself a “runner” but played a bunch of sports growing up, but long distance running was never something I did.
That all changed about 4 years ago, when a friend of mine asked me to run a Disney half marathon with her. In a moment of weakness my sister and I signed up and slowly but surely, I began my training. It was the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which takes place in the evening, after the park is closed.We ran through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, etc. The reason why this race is the one that started my running career, is because a month before the scheduled race, I had a pretty horrible life experience that rocked my world and threw everything off course. I stopped training, and went into the race just hoping to finish. After the first mile I felt ok, then came 3, then 5, then 8, and I was hurting. I wanted to stop so badly, and walk the rest of the way, but thinking about where I was a month before, the hurt, the struggle, the injustice, I kept on going. I told myself that I am stronger than I think and that I could finish this race by running the whole thing. Crossing that finish line was the proudest moment of my life. I never thought I could run 13.1 miles without stopping. I did it. And I was ready for the next challenge…
I loved the endorphins I had after 13.1, so why not go for 26.2? 🙂 My birthday is in August and usually every summer I like to take a week long or so vacation, preferably overseas. For my 25th birthday, in 2013, my parents and brother were living abroad and I wanted an excuse to go overseas and see them. I looked up international marathons that were taking place in August and saw one in Helsinki, Finland. It seemed like a cool and fun place to visit and convenient for the family, so I decided to sign up for my first ever marathon. I created a four month training schedule that increased my mileage every week and then tapered down as it came closer to race day. The weather in Helsinki in August that year was perfect. It was warm during the day, but not humid and miserable. On the actual day of the race, it was about 65 degrees, overcast and a bit rainy, which turned out to be very refreshing. I ran with a poncho for about 3 miles of the race, and then ditched it, because I was starting to warm up and the rain dissipated. My parents and brother flew in, as well as my sister and very best friend. I was so nervous before the start…”What was I thinking? What did I get myself into? An international marathon? Can I do this?” My mom teared up before she said good bye to me, as I headed for the start line. She was more nervous than I was. I put my iTunes playlist on, started thinking positive thoughts, and crossed the start line. I have to say that I was in a zone, in a mental space, that I had never experienced before. I felt focused, determined, and nothing negative was getting into my head. Mile after mile, song after song, I felt better and stronger. I kept looking around me, taking in the scenery, realizing how lucky I was. To be running in Finland, to be able to physically run a marathon, and to have my family there cheering me on…my heart was so full. At mile 22 I started to get some pain in my heels, but pushed on through. The one thing that got me through the race was picturing myself finishing strong and proving all those that didn’t think I could do it, wrong. Also, seeing my family at so many different points throughout the race gave me that extra motivation and adrenaline to keep on moving. The finish line was in the old Olympic stadium, on the outskirts of Helsinki. I was almost there, and was losing steam. But the moment I saw the stadium, all those cheering people, I started to tear up and run faster. As I entered the stadium, I saw my family in the stands and felt so proud. I sped up even more and crossed the finish line. That euphoric feeling was more than what I ever imagined. I soaked up the pride and the moment, and started thinking about what race would be next…