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Running Is Personal: How Maureen Follows Her Own Path

Running Is Personal: How Maureen Follows Her Own Path Run Tri Bike
Maureen Johnson
Year started: 2012
Next race: March 3rd / Arnold Sports Festival 5k / Columbus, OH
Favorite gear:
  • Garmin Watches – Forerunner 45 (currently)

When we open our phones and scroll social media, we often see people discussing a pre-plotted path but running is personal. They talk about going from 5k to 10k to marathon and beyond. In some cases, the discussion is about how running a marathon is the ultimate goal. In reality, that isn’t the case for everyone. Sure we will want to test out a new distance but it doesn’t mean that we are intended to stay there forever, especially if it doesn’t resonate with us. 

When I was requesting conversations on Threads, Maureen would often say that she didn’t have a story or wasn’t doing something extraordinary. I thought to myself, not following the path that seems to be laid out for you is extraordinary. That is different and I want to know why you don’t follow some predetermined path that social media tells you to go on.

Meet Maureen: A Relatable Journey Through Endurance Sports

Every story is unique and holds its own significance. Not every athlete’s journey is marked by life-altering events; sometimes, it’s just about an ordinary person deciding to embark on a new adventure. Maureen, a devoted runner, shares her story, proving that even without a grand narrative, her journey matters. In our conversation, she talked about how she got started on her running journey. She discussed the reasons behind her decision to lace up those running shoes in 2012.

“There are so many people who don’t have some sort of life-altering experience, but they’re just your average mom runner.” Maureen reflects on the hesitations many individuals like her face when contemplating sharing their stories. Her humility highlights the misconception that only those who have overcome significant obstacles have stories worth telling. Yet, every runner’s journey is that of resilience and determination, regardless of the hurdles they’ve faced.

The Beginning: A 5k and the Inspiration of a Friend

In 2012, Maureen took her first decisive step into the world of running by registering for a 5K. Her inspiration? A friend named Jennifer Smiechowski, who achieved many successes in her running career, including running a marathon around that time. Maureen recalls thinking, “Well, I probably wouldn’t be able to do a marathon, but maybe a 5K, I could just do that.” Little did she know that this decision would set the stage for a journey that would surpass her initial expectations.

“I just sort of hung out there in the 5k and 10K land for a couple of years, thinking, well, I can’t do more than that. That’s just too much for me,” Maureen admits. The apprehension and self-doubt she felt resonates with many beginners when they first start running. The belief that one must progress rapidly from 5Ks to marathons is dispelled as Maureen shares her personal running story.

Navigating the Lands of 5ks and 10ks: A Personal Evolution

Maureen’s journey through the distances of 5k and 10k were marked by personal discoveries, gradual progress, and the influence of a supportive community. Starting with solo runs, she eventually joined the Moms Run This Town (MRTT) group in Columbus. Her introduction to organized races came through local running stores and companies hosting events.

Her transition from 5Ks to 10Ks was not swift, as she candidly admits, “I just did 5Ks probably for about a year, even though everyone just kept telling me, well, you’re going to want to do more.” Maureen’s approach challenges the conventional narrative that urges runners to continually up the ante in distance. Her story encourages beginners to find their comfort zone, enjoy the process, and progress at their pace. In this way, runners will find their personal running journey.


The Leap to Half Marathons and Confronting Self-Doubt

There was a moment in Maureen’s journey that would lead her to tackle a half marathon, a leap she initially found daunting. She recalls the fear and uncertainty associated with pressing the registration button for her first half marathon. The absence of confidence, common among novice long-distance runners, is reflected in Maureen’s words.

“I didn’t have that confidence for the first one. First, I picked, for some reason, August, the hottest month of the year in Columbus.” The apprehension she felt during her training and the race mirrors the mental challenges many face when stepping into unknown territory. Maureen’s journey highlights the importance of perseverance and the gradual build-up of confidence. This is a crucial aspect for anyone discovering the world of endurance sports.

From Half Marathons to the Unthinkable: Full Marathons

Maureen’s progression from 10Ks to half marathons was gradual, challenging, and accompanied by self-discovery. When asked about the decision to run a full marathon, she humorously labels it as “complete craziness.” Yet, the unpredictability of her journey becomes evident as she nonchalantly shares her decision-making process: “I was just like, well, I guess I’m doing this now.”

Her candid admission of self-doubt, especially when contemplating the idea of running 26.2 miles, resonates with many who wish to run the marathon distance. The mental journey from disbelief to acceptance reflects the power of consistent training and personal dedication.

The Marathon: A Mix of Emotions and Personal Triumph

The conversation turns towards Maureen’s first marathon, exploring the emotional tapestry she encountered during those 26.2 miles. From the jubilation of starting to the trials of mile 10, her journey unfolds with a blend of vulnerability and strength. Her marathon story is the essence of endurance sports. Overcoming physical challenges and the triumph of the hurdles in front of you.

Understanding that running is personal, Maureen choses to not emphasize the marathon in her running journey. She acknowledges that the marathon accomplishment is something that she will treasure, the distance is not her preferred finish. Throughout her marathons the feeling she has had during the half-marathons she has raced has not quite shown up. This realization showcases how running is personal and why you should go the distance that you prefer.

“I was smiling the entire time.” Maureen’s revelation about her recent half marathon highlights the diverse range of emotions individuals experience during such events. Her story challenges the common narrative of running long distance events being excruciating ordeals, portraying them as a transformative and joyous adventure.

Lessons Learned: Embracing the Journey and Honoring Personal Growth

As the conversation nears its conclusion, Maureen discusses the lessons she has learned through her running journey. Her insights are grounded in relatability and authenticity, emphasizing the significance of embracing the process. Maureen’s reflections echo the sentiments of countless runners. They find peace, strength, and self-discovery through their personal running journey.

“I think if you’re going to get into running, you just have to embrace the journey. Because if you’re doing it to be competitive with others or with yourself, it’s just not going to be fun.” Maureen’s advice transcends the realm of running, offering a profound life lesson. The essence of embracing the journey, valuing personal growth, and finding joy in the process resonates beyond the confines of endurance sports.

Resilience and Personal Triumph

Maureen’s journey is an example of every runner’s path. An exploration of personal limits, the discovery of inner strength, and the triumph of resilience. Her story challenges preconceived notions about who can be a runner and what constitutes a noteworthy journey. Through her authenticity and relatability, Maureen invites others to lace up their shoes and embrace the journey. She wants you to discover the joy of putting one foot in front of the other.

“How much time did it take you to go from a 5k to a half and then to a full?” I asked. Maureen’s response reveals the nature of her journey: “It was probably three years before I even thought about running a half?” From that first half-marathon, it would be another year before running her first marathon. This elongated timeline dispels the notion that runners must swiftly progress to marathons. Be sure to pace yourself and enjoy each phase of your journey. Running is personal and this is your path.

Running Is Personal: Choose Your Own Adventure

When Maureen thinks of running a thought comes across her mind. The idea of “choose your own adventure” like those books we used to read in the 1980s resonates with her. The idea is that you get to pick where you want to go next. You make a choice, try something out and see if it fits for you. There are those that love racing triathlons, and they started with running a 5k. Others like the cheering and volunteering aspect that comes along with running, they might become leaders or RDs. Some will choose trail running or running and crewing ultras. Or try for a specific qualifying time goal. And others will mix it up depending on what fits for a while. Listen to what you want to do and enjoy. You are never “locked in” with your choices as runners. Running is personal, choose your own adventure.

📸 Photo Credit: Kristian Mines