Reluctant Runner Turned Ultra-Marathoner: New Friends, New Insights, and Her Pre-teen Son’s Bragging Rights.

Brandy WhitakerBrandy Whitaker – Lincoln, NE

I have never been a runner. In all honesty, I always thought it was a little silly and not really a sport. I dreaded running the mile in school and joined track for one pathetic year in junior high. (And that was only because a friend begged me to join with her.) It was awful… and one year was plenty. I was active otherwise in soccer and dance, even one year of football my freshman year of high school. But running was never something I just went out and ‘did’ for the fun of it.

Eventually, as my girlfriends and I approached our mid-20s, we joined a gym and would hold each other accountable for going. I really liked the group fitness classes, but still didn’t enjoy the idea of running or getting on a treadmill. One of my girlfriends wanted to lose weight and get in better shape so she would walk/run on the treadmill. I started with that alongside her. I always looked forward to the walking part. I somehow worked my way up from one mile to five as my top distance. I got to where I was trying to get it under an hour.

In 2008, my younger brother mentioned he was going to train for the Lincoln National Guard half marathon since he’s in the Guard. I figured if my kid brother could do it, then so could I. He had the benefit of training with a friend who had running experience. I googled Hal Higdon, printed off a plan, and got going. I skipped many runs, didn’t have proper clothes, and running shoes? What the hell were those and why would I need them when I had perfectly good generic tennis shoes. Never mind worrying about nutrition or hydrating.

Needless to say, as the day finally approached, I was unprepared for what the race might bring and how running 13.1 miles would feel. My brother smoked me, (of course), and made sure I knew it. I walked at mile 11 and didn’t think I’d be able to run again in the last two mile stretch. But I did it, slowly and painfully. I could barely move the rest of the day. And it was nearly impossible to sleep for the first several days after. Never. Again!

However bad I felt that day with the aches and pain and the true misery that set in at mile 11, I knew I had accomplished something big. I was 28, had been divorced almost five years, and the single mother of one five year old boy. I had recently started a new “big girl” job and was starting to finally feel like a grown up. (Plus the only thing my son’s father was accomplishing the same weekend as my race was a release from his first prison stint.) I knew from that moment on that I always wanted my son to be proud of me, to see my hard work and its payoffs, to know that I love him, and that anything can be done with the right determination.

Since that first half marathon, I have grown as a runner, mother and a friend. I have run numerous 5ks, 10ks, halfs, a few fulls, and a handful of ultras including a 12 hour endurance run last month in Gretna, Nebraska. I have gained new friends and new insights into myself. I have struggled in life and in racing/running. But each day is new and another chance to get out there and give it your best.

Currently, I have gone back into treatment for my disordered eating. But for the first time, I am truly there mentally. I am determined to get this right so I can be strong for my son, myself, and those around me who I love so much. This year I joined a few new running groups and have found the best support around. It’s not so much what I get out of the physical aspect of running but the overall experience as a whole.

I love that my running is the one thing my pre-teen son will brag about to his friends. (Even though most days I’m not cool at all.) He is proud of my running and I love that. Nothing can take away these accomplishments and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Who knew?

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Brandy — congratulations on all you’ve accomplished in just a few short years… amaaaaaazing! Whatever is next for you we wish you the very best the road (and the trails!) has to offer. Onward! xo 

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