Melissa Kirkham, 39, didn’t take “no” for an answer, and she’s got a slew of training runs and races to her name to prove it. How’d this San Diego, Calif. mom of two teens stand up for herself exactly? She refused to follow her (former) doctor’s advice to stop running. Melissa, who has a full 2013 race calendar, is eager for what lies ahead: "I turn 40 this year—I can’t wait!”
Best recent run: I try to get my long runs in with my running group, but we're all different paces and I often find I'm still running alone. Recently, another mother runner decided to run with me. There were some miles we chatted, other miles we ran in silence, lost in our own thoughts. Neither of our husbands run, so having someone to run with who knows the joy of the run, the hardship of training, and coming home to a house full of needs and other priorities was great. I was encouraged, pushed, and ran a minute per mile faster than usual!
Don’t tell her “You can’t”: Last summer I was having hip pain that my doctor couldn't diagnose, hence her suggestion of not running. My initial reaction was, I could punch you in the face, that's active, right? I'd already run my first 5K and signed up to run my first half-marathon. Between asthma, allergies, and anemia, I didn't need more excuses—I needed to kill some goals. I switched doctors and found I had a labral tear in each hip, but both were clean tears and neither would be aggravated by running. I've since run eight half-marathons, one full, and have nine more half’s this year!
Marathon Mama: Being a new runner and training for a marathon was more than I bargained for. In spite of some injuries and training setbacks, the emotional stress was hard and unexpected. This was my goal; my non-running family was not against me, but not supportive. I relied heavily on the support from runners via social media. Most long runs were on my own, but that only strengthened my resolve to prove everyone wrong. Thirty-eight is not too old to start running. The run itself was an AMAZING experience. I finished a half-hour faster than I expected, and will definitely run another.
Can’t Run Without: My iPhone & Nuun. Mr. Running It [her husband] doesn’t like me running solo, I love my music, and I can be a bit picture happy on my runs. Having my iPhone with me solves most of those issues, and having Google maps handy doesn’t hurt as I can be directionally challenged. The first time I ran 10K in my neighborhood, I started too late in the day, it got hot, and I had no water. I asked a guy watering his lawn if I could have a drink from his hose. True story and totally not awkward!
Running for Health: I lost 20 pounds running. Everyone said I wasn’t fat to start with. Duh. We are quick to judge based on appearances. There’s a history of chronic diseases in my family, and while I wasn’t obese, my numbers were borderline high. A few years ago, I lost a friend to a massive coronary. In her early forties, she was thin, ate well, and looked healthy. She had undiagnosed heart disease. As mothers, we have a responsibility to educate our girls, not have pop culture define health and beauty. Healthy starts on the inside. Healthy self-image/worth translates into lifelong self-care.
Running Dreams & Plans: I’m working on getting my personal trainer certification this summer and I’m already working on next year’s race schedule (Ragnar 2014, anyone?). Through my ambassador roles with FitFluential, Girls Gone Sporty, and Fit Approach (Sweat Pink), I’ve had so many opportunities to share about my later-in-life running start and motivate other mothers who think it’s too late or they’re too busy to make health a priority. In my dream world, I would be writing and speaking, training, and teaching women to dig deep, no excuses!