Despite some occasional flurries, spring is finally here. Sunshine and warming temperatures are on their way to Rockland County. It’s the time of year when many individuals are motivated to wake up and go outside for a run.
For some people, seeing the light is not so easy. Several factors, whether they are time constraints or health issues, limit an individual’s ability to be active. Motivation takes a lot of personal drive and discipline. Sometimes, an individual needs to hit rock bottom or be encouraged by others to get active and stay active.
As our spring races approach, we are launching our “Members on the Run” blog series. Over the next four weeks, we will share stories from our members about how they overcame unique struggles to earn the title of “runner.” We hope their stories fuel strength in those who may be experiencing similar challenges. We hope their stories show it is possible for anyone to start running and witness the benefits of it.
Our fourth member story comes from Kesha Samuel, who used running as a means to overcome health issues and to build self-esteem.
What prompted you to start running?
In September of 2012, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I was experiencing severe pain, swelling and stiffness in my hands and wrists. It impacted by ability to handle simple daily tasks. Once the symptoms migrated to my shoulders and knees, I was placed on a series of aggressive steroids and medications to slowdown their progression, preventing permanent damage, and to stabilize my ability to function without pain. I finally began to receive some relief from the pain; however, after suffering for over a month, I had gained some weight. I quickly became discouraged. With the approval from my doctor, I began to seek physical activities to help me stay motivated, regain my confidence and keep me accountable.
How did you start running?
I heard about an event for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) through a friend and attended an information session. LLS was looking for individuals to run a half marathon (physical fitness – check) to raise funds for cancer research and support for survivors (accountability – check). “Perfect,” I thought! Wrong! I had never run before, let alone 13.1 miles at one time; I didn’t think I could do it. Yet, I received an outpour of support from my family and friends for entertaining the idea, which motivated me to sign up, start fundraising and start training. I thought the fundraising would be the hardest part, but it became quite easy. The most difficult part was the running. I had to learn to run and breathe at that same time (insane!). Although, with hard work and dedication, I completed my first half marathon at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in D.C. on Sunday, April 28, 2013. I ran it in under 4 hours. The opportunity, support, gratitude from survivors and community involvement is what got me to the finish line.
Describe your regular workout routine.
During the winter, I run two to three times a week on the treadmill because outdoor temperatures cause frequent flare-ups with my RA. During the summer months, I run up to 4 times a week outside.
What was the biggest hurdle to running and how did you get over it?
The biggest hurdle with running was stamina. I began using the landmark running technique to help get me through the daily mileage, even when I was extremely tired or experienced leg fatigue. I would tell myself, “Just run to the next house, garbage can or whatever object far away” before resting. I continued to use that method and soon after realized my progress by being able to run farther than my initial landmarks.
What is the most rewarding part of your running life?
Initially, the most rewarding parts were the personal sense of accomplishment and the admiration from supporters and spectators at races. Also, the ability to do something that I never thought I would be able to physically do due to my initial weight was fulfilling. Running is not easy; therefore, being able to start, finish and improve is commendable. Lastly, the friendships I’ve made and the overwhelming support and encouragement I’ve received from fellow runners is what single-handedly gave me the confidence to continue running after my first race.
What advice would you give to a beginner or someone just starting out?
After you commit yourself to running, surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your passion. That group of supporters will make a huge difference in your progress.
What are your favorite motivational quotes or ways to motivate yourself?
I have a few, but the affirmations that I live by are as follows:
- When your legs get tired, run with your heart.
- Sacrifice is giving up on something good for something better.
- When everything feels like an uphill struggle, just picture the view from the top.
- Let faith be bigger than your fears.
- When I lost all of my excuses, I found my results.
What is your favorite piece of gear?
I like to use my Garmin watch or my Endomondo app on my mobile device to track my progress. Although I do not run for time, but rather for endurance and stamina, I do find small victories in seeing my pace increase.
What is your long-term goal?
I have already accomplished my goal by simply starting to run, but overall, I would like to run a half marathon in 2 hours.