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Barbara comes to just about every ARC social and training run, so odds are you’ve seen her around! We asked Barbara to share her story and tell us why she runs with ARC.

I began running in 2000, shortly after I moved to Austin. My fiancé at the time was training for the 2001 Motorola Marathon 10K relay, and I cheerfully volunteered to keep him company on his training runs, not knowing what I was in for. Note that I was in my mid-40’s and had never even thought about running before. I could barely do one lap around the track! A co-worker was training for the full marathon, and I was amazed that anyone could do that. His advice to me was, “just keep adding a little bit each time.” So, that’s what I did. I reached one mile, then two. Breaking the 3-mile barrier seemed tough, but I did it. I got up to about 9 miles on my own this way. Then I saw an ad in the Austin Chronicle that said “Run a Marathon, Change your Life.” I showed up at Austin Fit, ready to run and change my life.

Deep down inside I didn’t think I could complete a full marathon, but I just wanted to see how far I could go. During the training, I loved the challenge and sense of accomplishment of increasing the miles toward the seemingly impossible goal. Turns out, I did the whole marathon in 2002. Typical for a beginner, I bonked around mile 20 and struggled and ran/walked the last 6 miles, finishing with a time of 4:17. Being a perfectionist and somewhat hard on myself, I wasn’t particularly happy with what I perceived as a disappointing and anti-climactic ending, so the next year I was determined to run a smarter and faster race. Focusing on nutrition and beginning to train with Austin Runner’s Club at the track workouts, I shaved over 30 minutes off, with a time of 3:50… good enough to qualify for Boston.

The rest is history. I’ve done about 15 marathons so far, including two Boston’s in 2004 and 2007. I discovered during marathon training that running is a metaphor for life: each mile helps me run through doubt and overcome negativity when I don’t think I can continue.

I love competing in races of all distances. Apart from marathons, I’ve run hundreds of half marathons, 10ks and 5ks; dozens of 8Ks and 10-milers. I recently even completed my first track races, including three distances of 100m, 200m and 400m. In fact, I try to sign up for every race in town, along with a few (a 10k and half marathon) out of town every year in Pittsburgh, my home town.

Running provides me with a myriad of benefits that I’ve never found elsewhere. It helps me clear my head and stay focused, positive and motivated; it relieves stress; fights depression (to quote a well-known running slogan, it’s “cheaper than therapy”) and of course, it keeps me fit. I’ve also had “aha moments” while running, coming up with creative ideas and solving problems. As one of my favorite sweatshirts fittingly states, “Running is my Happy Hour.”

Finally, I love that I have found “my tribe,” a supportive community of runners that share the same feeling for the sport. I love ARC for the camaraderie and special events it provides. I look forward to completing the Distance Challenge every year, and I especially love the classic Austin race, the Decker Challenge! I’m addicted (in a good way), and I’ll never stop running!