I have been slacking on my blogging and Athlete of the Week posting so here we go. This week’s Athlete of the Week is Mandy Witt. Mandy and I worked together about 8 years ago and were able to reconnect through the wonders of Facebook. She has become an avid runner (she is doing the Love Run Half Marathon this Sunday, March 30th) and I think you will really enjoy what she has to say. Her honesty in telling her story is truly inspiring!
My name is Mandy Witt and I am 32 years old. I currently live in Tuckerton, NJ with my boyfriend Donovan and my wheaten terrier, Bowie (who I’m obsessed with. But she is just so damn cute!). I’m the Program Manager of 3 adult partial care programs in Camden County. We provide treatment to adults with severe and persistent mental illness.
The first time I really started running (besides short distances occasionally throughout high school) was in 2011. My best friend asked me to run an 8K and then suggested we do the 2011 Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. Since then I have run 1 other Half Marathon (2013 Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon) and I have run Broad Street twice, with a few 5K’s and 10K’s mixed in. I never considered myself “a runner”. I played sports in High School (Basketball and Lacrosse) but never ran long distance. Because of having asthma, being overweight, and in general just not being all that healthy, I really didn’t think that it would ever be possible for me to run anything more than a couple of miles. And certainly not to run it comfortably! But I followed a training program and worked hard and ended up completing the Half Marathon in 2011 in a time that exceeded my expectations! And I wasn’t sore or hurting afterwards, I felt great!
Right now I am training for the Love Run Half Marathon at the end of March. I had gotten away from running and ended up gaining weight and feeling like crap. So I started this training pretty much from the bottom. After the Love Run I am looking at running the Broad Street Run in May, the Oddyssey Half Marathon in June, and possibly the Philadelphia Marathon in November :)
My first goal is always just to finish! For me, that’s an accomplishment. But I do like to challenge myself and I’m hoping to finish the Love Run in a faster time than when I did the Rock and Roll Half in 2011. I finished that in 2:18, so I am hoping to finish in under that time. But, really, seeing how far I have come in the past few months and to cross that finish line is a reward in itself!
Besides the races I have already mentioned, I have done a number of small local runs. This year my boyfriend and I are going to Pottsville, PA in April to do the Lager Jogger 5K. That will be a chance to see a city we have never been to, run in a race, and drink some Yuengling Light, lol.
I moved about 4 months ago and now I live over an hour away from work. Some days I am at work by 7:30am and some days I do not even leave until 6pm. During the week I get up at 4am to run. I know myself and I know that I won’t feel like it when I get home at the end of the day. After a long day at work and a long commute both ways, all I want to do when I get home is relax! Plus, I have found that running in the morning helps me set a good tone for the day. I feel like I walk out the door knowing that I have already accomplished so much.
I always used to run with music. I thought that it helped distract me from the rigors of running. And then I did the Broad Street Run in 2012 and after a mile or 2, I took my head phones out and turned off the iPod. I realized how much I was missing out on, the sounds of the city, the cheers of the spectators, and the bands playing music. I became so much more attuned to my surroundings. Now I never run with music. I have found that I focus more on what my body is telling me, my form, and what’s going on around me (I am really big on safety and I feel better knowing that I can hear what’s going on around me).
I love my new Garmin Forerunner 310xt!! I used to use an app on my cellphone, but that meant I always had to carry my phone when I ran. Now it’s all on my wrist and I can keep a better eye on my pace since I don’t have to constantly have to pull out my phone to check.
There are so many things I love about running! (WOW, 18 year old me NEVER would have said those words! Lol). I love how I feel after I finish a run. Whether it is 13 miles or 3, I feel great. Runners high is fact! I also love that running gives me a way to challenge myself. Whether I am pushing my distance or going for a faster pace, I can see myself accomplishing goals every week. I also love the running community. I love interacting with other people who run. It’s so nice to share stories and to support each other. Whether we know each other or not, runners have a great camaraderie. I dislike being smelly afterwards. Oh, and I hate using the gross port potties at races.
Running makes me feel strong. It makes me feel confident. My mood is better when I run. It’s a stress reliever too. When I am running, I don’t spend time stressing over things. It helps to clear my mind.
Since 2007 I have battled with an eating disorder (and the roller coaster ride that comes along with it). I have had so many ups and downs over the last 6 1/2 years. Running has always been with me during the ups. It has helped me in my recovery efforts. When I am running and focusing on being healthy I forget to focus on weight. Instead I feel good about myself simply because I laced up my shoes and pounded pavement. And I feel strong. Even if the scale isn’t where I would like it, the way I feel when I am running overshadows that. When I started training 11 weeks ago for the Love Run, I had gotten to the heaviest weight I had been in years. And I was being lazy. I didn’t want to resort to bad habits just to lose weight but I couldn’t keep going on with being lazy about my health either. So I decided, no more excuses. I registered for the run, got my training plan, and got out there. And in the last 11 weeks I have lost a few pounds. But more importantly, I FEEL better. The improvement I see in myself mentally is much more important than the physical improvement. I may never “look like a runner”, but hey I also don’t “look like I have an eating disorder” either. You never know what someone is going through in their life. But when I am out there with my sneakers on and soaking in my surroundings as I put one foot in front of the other, I am not focused on how I look, what I weigh, or how others perceive me. Running gives me a better perspective on myself. And that is a gift that I cannot take for granted. My mantra is “just keep going”. This applies not just to my running, but to my recovery also. But really, the more I run the more I see that my running and my recovery are one in the same. I will always struggle and I will always have to be careful. And I may even slip up at times. But I really have found that running is the best medicine. And for that, I am grateful.