Monthly Archives: November 2013

Lucky to be Runners

cherry blossom run
Will this Pittsburgh runner trade three rivers for cherry blossoms?

The 2014 Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile lottery goes lives Monday, December 2, 2013 and runs until Friday, December 13, 2013.  The lucky ones who are selected for the Ten Mile Run and 5K Run-Walk will get an email or see their names on the website on Tuesday, December 17, 2013.

I’m so thankful I was able to run this race for the first time in 2011. Many other runners feel the same way. Meet Ali Mathis, one of the runners hoping to be chosen in the lottery system. Like most runners, she’s faced challenges and frustrations. But like most runners, she has big dreams and determination.  Here’s her story:

“Sometimes I feel like an imposter in the running community. At any given moment, it may be discovered that I am the girl who faked illness to avoid running the mile for the Presidential Academic Fitness Test in gym class. As a preteen, I was not a natural runner or athlete and I felt ashamed when by forced comparisons to my peers through the school mile trials. I was the girl who ran with a limp and was ridiculed by her peers. I was the girl who was lapped. At 35, I am still not a natural runner or athlete. It does not come easily to me. I am still sometimes lapped on the five mile trail I regularly run. But even as I am, my head is held high and I smile because I now know I am lucky to be running.

In 1987, Billy Ocean’s song “When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going” was at the top of the charts and I was nine years old. That was also the year that I was hit by a car while I was riding my bicycle. I landed on my face and split my chin open requiring 17 stitches. I also broke my right femur bone; that could not be stitched up as easily. I spent 6 weeks hospitalized with my leg in traction, meaning I was flat on my back with my leg suspended in the air. For two months following my hospital release, I was casted up to my hip. I spent my days mostly confined to bed at home, though occasionally I got to take a spin around our small condominium in a wheelchair. A brace and crutches, and relearning how to walk followed for another few months.

There were years of brutal physical therapy that I fought every step of the way. I loathed the little exercise bike that my mother had in our kitchen that she made me ride every night. My doctor told her that “She’ll be fine, but, she’ll never run marathons.” Perhaps that planted a seed in my brain that eventually grew…though at the time I remember thinking that marathons were only for Olympians. In the midst of this we moved to a new house, a new town, where the new kids couldn’t really grasp what I had been through. I was just the new girl with the limp, the one who sucked at the mile.

Today my legs are different lengths and I have scoliosis, probably as a result of the accident, though it is impossible to know. Most who know me as a runner do not know my story until they notice the scars on my leg from where the pin lived. When I began training for my first marathon it had been over 20 years since I broke free from my cast (and during that time I’d run recreationally, a 5K here or there) but, in my mind, I was still bound by its confines. Screw confines. Today, the girl who faked illness to miss the mile is now also the girl who has run 7 marathons and 3 half-marathons in 4 years. She runs 20-30 miles a week, voluntarily. Sometimes when she runs she still fights insecurities or hears the voices of her classmates snickering. She uses that to run farther, faster. Because just like Billy Ocean says: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Good luck to every runner entering the lottery!