Best Fit Friend Story: When Fit Friends Become Fit Family

What makes a fit life even better? A BFF! And by that we mean a Best Fit Friend! As part of BFF Week, we’re sharing some of our readers’ best fit friend stories! Today’s is from Mary, whose partners in (fit) crime are Kelly, Anna and Michael. See all the BFF stories here.

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If you were to tell me four and a half years ago that within the next four years I would become a runner, that I would run countless races (including a marathon), that some of my best memories and the greatest gifts in my life (including my husband), would have come from running, I would have told you that you were certifiably insane. Running?! I didn’t run; I couldn’t run. I loathed running, and every time I even thought about it, I had nightmarish flashbacks to being that embarrassed, overweight, teenage girl finishing the “mile run” in gym class … in last place. Despite those horrific running memories, though, on February 27, 2014, at the age of 35 years old, I celebrated my four-year running anniversary! How did I get started and why did I stick with it!? Well, that brings me to my best fit friends …

I once remember reading that “running is cheaper than therapy.” I would have to agree. I would also say that running with friends is the BEST therapy. What started out as me trying something new at a really difficult time in my life (and by “new,” I mean randomly hopping on a treadmill and attempting to “run” a mile one day) turned into an amazing journey. At the time of my new journey, I couldn’t even run the whole mile. I had to walk part of it. I had also been teaching at my current school for two years, and I had just started talking to Kelly, the physical education teacher, who had recently run the Boston Marathon. Kelly reached out to me, as she knew I was going through a rough patch, and she encouraged me to keep running and to use that running as a form of therapy. She encouraged me to run faster and to add on to my miles. I remember the first time I ran 3 miles. It was with her. We ran with some other people, too, and although I was slow, she stayed behind with me, encouraging me the whole way. Down the road, 3 miles turned into 5, which then turned into 6, which then turned into 9 … all of my longest runs were with Kelly. I was becoming a runner, and my life was changing.

On my one-year running anniversary, I ran a half marathon; my first race ever … a half marathon! And although Kelly wasn’t there (my race was the Princess Half Marathon in Disney World), she was encouraging me and cheering me on all the way from Maine. She even had the whole school (students and staff) make me a good-luck banner, complete with pink and silver sparkles — my favorite! She presented it to me at school the day before I flew to Florida.

That same year of my half marathon, we had some new teachers join our school. Anna was one of them. She started running with us … a new thing for her, too. Now I was the one encouraging someone else to run! Michael was the other new teacher. The four of us would run together after school, and Michael and I started dating. That spring we all signed up for our first race together … the Sugarloaf 15K. We had so much fun that we decided we needed to organize our own running events at school. We soon became “The Teachers on the Run!” For the past three years we have held monthly, themed 5K races for our school community. We also incorporate community service projects into our races, like food and toy drives. The money we raise from entry fees goes toward scholarships and also toward a savings account, which will hopefully someday fund the construction of an outdoor track for our community. Not only have my best fit friendships changed my life, they are changing others’ lives, too! We’ve watched and encouraged students and parents to become runners right before our eyes; students and parents who like me, once said, “I don’t run. I can’t.”

It seems only appropriate that when Michael and I ran a marathon together, Kelly and Anna would be there cheering us on every few miles … something that kept me going, especially from mile 20 on. And, of course, what would be more appropriate than Michael proposing at our next Sugarloaf 15K, the race that essentially started the “Teachers On The Run”? Kelly and Anna naturally helped orchestrate the whole thing, creating and placing the huge, pink and sparkly signs, which lined the course every two miles, one word on each that eventually spelled, “Mary will you marry” and the small sign that said “me,” which Michael pulled out of his pocket (with the ring) once we crossed the finish line. As for the wedding, which took place last June, Kelly was the maid of honor and Anna was a bridesmaid. Kelly’s husband married us and their kids were the ring bearer and flower girl! My best fit friends have become my family.

Not only do we encourage each other to run and support each others’ goals, we also hold one another accountable and motivate each other to do different types of workout challenges. We started something called “Textercising,” where we randomly send each other texts with exercises to do, and, of course, we have to do them at that very moment, or at the first available moment we have. One never knows when a “drop down and give me 20 push-ups” text might come through! We even started “a run a mile a day” streak competition in November of 2013 … which is still going on! My best fit friends make exercising fun!

A runner, a risk taker, a goal setter, a goal achiever … that is who I am now, and I never could have done it without my best fit friends, Michael, Kelly and Anna! They not only motivate me; they have changed my life. —Mary



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