Lack of inspiration or motivation is a leading enemy of runners and would-be runners. As busy women pulled in a multitude of directions on a daily basis, we face special challenges on the road to a fit, balanced life, but we also have special weapons at our disposal.
As founder and executive director of a national series of women's half marathon races, I come across some pretty awesome women. Many of my favorite stories involve "fit friendships"--women who motivate one another to settle for no less than living their best lives.
Here is one of my favorite stories about Marne Curriden, whom I got to know when she and a group of women ran the ZOOMA Atlanta Half Marathon & 5K race in November this year.
Marne, 43, registered in late summer for the ZOOMA 5K, but she soon learned her girlfriends had all registered for the half marathon race. Bending to positive peer pressure, in early fall Marne decided to up her race registration to the 13.1-mile distance. This is when I got to know Marne. She is a member of a group of five women who call themselves the "Cardio Girls" and have given one another superhero names based on their unique talents and abilities. Sounds a bit like a runners' version of X-Men, right? Not so fast.
The Challenge It all started when Marne was challenged by a gym instructor to work out 60 minutes for 60 straight days. Sensing that a friend could use a "kick in the booty," Marne invited Leslie Campbell to join her. As it would happen, Leslie was turning 40 that year and was ripe for such a challenge.
Each day they emailed one another: Were they "IN" or were they "OUT"; had they completed their obligatory daily 60 minutes of cardio or had they not? There was no fudging or avoiding the question. The daily emails provided both encouragement and brutal accountability for what could be a burdensome daily commitment.
Superheroes are Born As word of the 60-for-60 club spread, other friends joined, each for her own unique reasons. To further emphasize their high hopes and belief in one another's abilities, the friends gave each other superhero names.
Leslie, who had once been in fantastic shape but felt she had let herself go, told the group that she felt like she had "eaten the girl with buns of steel" that she used to be. Her name became Phoenix, because she would be like the bird that burned and rose from the ashes. Skinny is tall, blonde and thin, and focused on toning. Shark is the mother of two boys who has learned to find the courageous and confident person within, and 6 Pak is one of the rare breed of female adults with visible abs.
Together over the last two years, the Cardio Girls have tackled half marathons and triathlons, and shed pounds as they never imagined possible. Far from having any supernatural powers, these women draw strength from the simple power of fit friendships--something we all have if we only seek it out.
The Best Weapon I love the image of five ordinary women--mothers and career women--whose friendship is so empowering as to bestow superhero status. These are fit friendships to the extreme. I take a lesson from the Cardio Girls about the potential I have (and we all have) to be a positive, motivating force for friends. Just imagine your next training run or road race surrounded by a pack of superhero-like sisters. What weapon could combat an evil lack of inspiration better than that?
Brae Riggins Blackley is the Founder and Executive Director of ZOOMA Women's Race Series, a national series of women's half marathon races. She is a middle-of-the pack runner who likes running with girlfriends more than just about anything else. www.zoomarun.com