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Turning Obstacles into Opportunities: A Runner’s Journey Filled With Grace

Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities. The How It All Started story of Dr Marie Whitt
Dr Marie Whitt
Year started: 2008
Next race: March 23/24 / Race to the Cave 10k / Woodville, AL
Favorite gear:

CEP Compression Socks (the more neon the better)

In 2008, Dr. Marie Whitt’s journey into the world of running began with an unexpected invitation from a high school friend. Little did she know that this seemingly casual winter run would lead her to turning obstacles into opportunities throughout her life. This would become a lifelong passion and a path filled with both triumphs and health challenges.

The Reluctant Beginnings

Dr. Whitt recalled, “I got brainwashed by a really good friend. It was sophomore year of high school, and she and another friend were getting ready for track season. So this is January in Michigan, and it is not uncommon for it to be 20 degrees. That’s a balmy temp, when it can be like negative 20 degrees.”

The initial reluctance turned into a pivotal moment, propelling her into track and eventually cross country. Dr. Whitt’s journey through high school running was marked by the discovery of her love for longer distances, despite initially attempting sprints.

Balancing Academics and Running

Fast forward to college, where academic goals led her to step away from running. She realized the challenging balance between academics and competitive running. However, this decision set the stage for her deeper exploration into health concerns that would later shape her running narrative. This was step 1 in turning obstacles into opportunities.

Navigating Endometriosis

In 2011, Dr. Whitt began experiencing symptoms that aligned with endometriosis, although the condition wasn’t commonly discussed. She navigated through these symptoms for several years, often questioning her ability to run and the unexplained challenges she faced. It wasn’t until 2016, during her graduate studies in physical therapy, that she decided to seek answers.

Reflecting on this period, Dr. Whitt shared, “I found that with my physical symptoms from running, plus the mental load that comes from not being able to physically do what you want to do on top of the academic load, something had to give, and I went to the doctor.”

Redefining the Runner’s Identity

The journey to diagnosis was not straightforward, and Dr. Whitt discovered she was living with multiple chronic illnesses. This revelation prompted her to redefine what it meant to be a runner, focusing on the broader definition that included anyone in flight phase.

The Run Will Still Be There

As she continued her studies and embarked on a mission to manage her health conditions, running remained a grounding force. “The run will still be there” became her mantra during challenging times. While the struggles persisted, she found hope in advocating for herself and others, recognizing the importance of being an advocate in the healthcare system.

Alabama Adventures: Fresh Challenges

Dr. Whitt’s story took a new turn when she moved from Michigan to Alabama, bringing fresh challenges and victories. She faced internal conflicts surrounding pace standards set by social media but resolved to embrace her own journey. “Fine, if we’re going to do this the right way, we’re not going to look at the pace on my watch. We’re just going to let it run for time.”

Celebrating the achievement of consistently hitting a 50-minute long run after 15 years, Dr. Whitt encountered new health challenges. Yet, the resilience she gained through her experiences allowed her to approach these obstacles with a sense of grace and acceptance. Her continued journey of turning obstacles into opportunities was taking shape.

A Simple Yet Profound Goal

Her goal for the future is simple but profound: running for an hour without stopping. Dr. Whitt acknowledges the unpredictable nature of her health journey and approaches this goal with patience and self-compassion.

In addition to her personal journey, Dr. Whitt now works as a physical therapist, guiding athletes through their challenges. Her mission is to instill hope and provide a space for athletes to embrace their vulnerabilities. By daring to train differently and focusing on the individualized needs of each athlete, she seeks to empower them on their unique paths.

From Personal Journey to Professional Mission

As Dr. Marie Whitt continues her journey, she shows a genuine passion for helping others overcome their obstacles. In sharing her story, she invites athletes to redefine success, embrace the present, and find strength in the unique journey each of them undertakes.