My Running Truth: Simply Try

Hi! I’m Erin, a mother to two girls (6 and 2) and have been married for just shy of 10 years. My family and I are San Jose transplants; we moved here at the end of ‘13 after living in Chicago for 11 years (and before that, I lived in the Akron, OH area until I was 18). Spending time with my family, running, reading, writing (I have a little blog, runningruminations.com, and freelance/ghostwrite for a bunch of running-related websites) — I’m pretty easy to please.

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When did you start running, and what inspired you?

I have been running for as long as I can remember; I can recall running around my elementary school playground, around 1st grade, chasing boys while wearing frilly and lacey dresses (thanks, mom!). I ran middle school and high school track, just like my older brother and sister, and happily ran nothing longer than 400 meters because anything beyond that was “too far.”

I began marathon training for the first time in ‘07 with Team in Training (TNT), the fundraising and training arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). I wanted to honor my mom, who had survived breast cancer in ‘03 and then a stroke in ‘06, and my dear friend Traci’s mom, who had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and TNT had a huge presence in the Chicago running community. I managed to convince Traci to also run the Chicago Marathon that year (and many years thereafter) with TNT, as well. Aside from taking a Track and Field PE elective my senior year of undergrad, I hadn’t run since I was a high school senior. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Initially, my draw to the marathon was a simple fundraising/bucket list thing — I figured I would never do something like this again, so why not make it memorable by doing some social good with it by fundraising? — but through the sport, I met tons of other runners, many who have become some of my closest friends. Suffice it to say that my initial inspiration came from the courage and bravery of people like my mother and Traci’s mother, as well as the many patient honorees we met through TNT; those people were the real heroes, the real badasses doing the real scary stuff. If I could do something positive and productive with my running — raising funds to help make their quality of life better, by helping to fund research to create better and more effective medications and treatment therapies, providing funds that would allow for different comfort measures or increased patient support, and the like —  then it was a no-brainer. Training for and running a marathon would be difficult, surely, but it’d pale in comparison to the stuff my mom, Traci’s mom, or the many patient honorees endured/were enduring.

 

How has running affected your personal self-esteem, body image, goal setting, as well as other aspects of your life?

By its very nature, running is difficult, whether you’re sprinting 100 meters as fast as you possibly can or are struggling to keep making forward progress for hours on end in an ultramarathon. Despite (or because of) running’s challenging nature, I find it to be supremely rewarding because in it — through it — you can see progress. Sometimes progress will manifest as times on the clock getting faster, the distances you’re capable of running getting longer, your body or your body image changing in a way that is favorable to you, or maybe for once finally feeling strong when you’re facing something insurmountable (run-related or not). Running is an excellent teacher because it challenges me to get beyond my comfort zone —  and sometimes, quite frankly, it humbles my ass and tells me that I have to try again another day! — and honestly, it’s great. I find that running gives me many opportunities to reflect and to process, and it’s in those moments — and on the runs that I share with my friends or with my kids — that I find that this little hobby of mine has empowered me in ways that I wouldn’t have anticipated when I began it in earnest a decade ago. Running has taught me that I’m physically and mentally stronger than I realize and that nothing is impossible. Some tasks or goals will be more difficult and more challenging than others, of course, but if I’m willing to put in the work, the sky’s the limit. Therein lies the beauty.

Two Cities Marathon 17 Erin Mink Garvey

What piece of advice do you have for new runners?

Give yourself both the permission to try and the permission to fail. So often we tell ourselves that we’re only capable of X or that Y is outside our wheelhouse, and we shut ourselves out from the experience.We don’t even let ourselves try! We implore our kids to be brave and try new things, but as adults, we face uncertainty and failure with far more trepidation. I think we let our fears and anxieties get the better of us, and as a result, we sell ourselves short and under-perform. So many of us undermine ourselves and in the process, do ourselves a huge disservice. Believing in yourself — and trusting yourself and your training — can go a long way. I have a temporary tattoo from SIB ‘17 that says something like “she fiercely believed in herself, and that made all the difference.” There’s a lot of truth in that.

 

Why do you keep going? What has kept you motivated to continue to reach new goals and get out the door?

I keep going simply because I have more to give; it sounds trite, but I feel it, and I know it. So many people keep me going — my supportive husband, my kids who are watching my every move, my family and friends — and I’m extremely grateful that so many people believe in me and so enthusiastically support me. I believe my best years of running are ahead of me, and I’m committed to my own progress: getting faster, going farther, digging deeper, whatever, while continuing to remain healthy. It’s really important to me that I model positive behaviors for my girls and that they see how gratifying the process can be when you work hard day in and day out to chip away at a goal. I want my girls to grow up knowing that running — and more generally speaking, regular physical movement — is a normal part of a healthy lifestyle. Plus, practically speaking, running is a social thing for me, too. Being a stay-at-home mom, my social circle is pretty small and things can be somewhat isolating, and it’s through running that I’ve made some of my closest friends, especially after my family and I moved to California. I aspire to run in a way now that will allow me to be the 90+ year-old lady you see at a race many years from now, rockin’ a sweatsuit and headband and just throwing down. Ultimately, I guess you can say that I treat my running like a long-term relationship, and my motivation to keep at it and to improve trickles down from that.

 

What are your favorite running shoes and why?

I rotate my shoes pretty regularly (and have an embarrassing number in my current mix), but my fav for the past couple years has been Hoka One One’s Clifton. They feel great on my feet, are extremely lightweight (their moonshoe look belies their weight), and I appreciate how responsive they are. I’ve used them for many training runs on roads and trails, as well as for many road races, and I couldn’t be happier with them.

 

Do you have any running buddies that have inspired you along the way?

I’m lucky to have many running buddies who have helped me, and who continue to help me, become a better runner and a better human being. We runners are so lucky because while running can be a solitary sport, it can also be extremely social; we can have it both ways if we want. I am so appreciative to have so many people in my pocket who not only understand all this weird running stuff that I do but who also encourage me and embolden me to think and dream bigger.

 

What’s on your race calendar this year?

After racing some short stuff this spring and the San Francisco Marathon in late July, I just paced the 3:33 marathon group at the Santa Rosa Marathon — my 30th marathon! — in late August. This fall, I’ll train for December’s California International Marathon (CIM), with some cross-country action with my team, Wolfpack Running Club, in the mix.          

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Do you have a big, scary running goal you want to accomplish in the next five years?

I purposely haven’t put a deadline on my running goals, but arguably my biggest and most intimidating is to break 3 hours in the marathon. I’m working on whittling it down from my 3:19 PR, and while I know the progress isn’t going to dramatically happen overnight, I’m excited to continue to improve — to get stronger, to get faster, and to stay healthy — over the long-term. As my kids get older, I may foray back to ultras — I ran a 50k unknowingly pregnant and consequently put a 50-miler on the backburner — but we’ll see. I’m open to wherever my running takes me. My joy is in the journey.

 

Fill in the blank: my running truth is _________.

My running truth is to simply try. Give yourself the permission and the opportunity to try, to give a damn, and to fail. Don’t sell yourself short. Running can have a transformative effect on your life; dare yourself to let it.

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