Why I Run: Ellison Weist



Ellison, 1/2 mile from the 2010 Boston Marathon finish line. She tagged the photo "Boston Tough." We totally agree.

Meet Ellison Weist, 54, one of Sarah’s best running friends in Portland. A mom of one twenty-something daughter, Ellison is the runner who passed Sarah right near the of her PR marathon when her engine had sputtered and died. (If you feel left out of an inside joke, read the mental toughness chapter of Run Like a Mother.) Sarah loves tweeting with Ellison (@egwreads) and reading her book- and running-related blog.

I was a scrawny kid.

Growing up in South Carolina, I was always one of the skinniest kids in my grade. Any and every team sport was an episode for embarrassment and defeat. In gym class I sucked in basketball, ducked in volleyball, and swung wide in badminton. Even neighborhood games of Red Rover, Red Rover were shameful occurrences thanks to my inability to keep anyone from busting through with my toothpick-sized arms.

What I loved to do was read and daydream. Not always in that order. My mother, a voracious reader herself, felt that afternoons and weekends were for outdoor play so she would send me and my two brothers out to run with the neighborhood kids. And run we did, through a large chunk of land known as Hitchcock Woods. Entire afternoons were spent dashing in and out of what I now know are miles upon miles of sandy paths and trails.

The year I entered high school we moved to a small town in the Canadian province of Ontario. For the first time I was introduced to the sport of distance running. Our gym teacher, resplendent in a ruffled tennis skirt, would send us out on two-mile runs with explicit instructions not to dawdle. I found myself running second in a pack of 20 or more girls, trailing only behind a beautiful Chippewa Indian who made her sub seven-minute miles look effortless.

From that point on, running became something I excelled at. More than that, it became a way for me to accept myself as scrawny, yes, but also strong and fast. It saw me through college and my first real job. Through marriage, new motherhood, divorce, and re-marriage. Through 10Ks and marathons. It sustained me through the death of my beloved mother, the very person who gave running to me whether she knew it or not.

After nearly four decades of running, my stride is awkward (“Have you had a stroke?”) and my times are slower. Still, I run each and every chance I get. These days I run so I can reconnect with the dreamy child I was. In my mind I am still that skinny, knob-kneed little girl--only this time I am proud, fast, and strong.

25 responses to “Why I Run: Ellison Weist

    1. Nance – We lived in Southampton but I went school one town over in Port Elgin. Both little towns on Lake Huron smack between Owen South to the north and Kincardine to the South. You? I have yet to find a place with more magical fall smells.

      1. I was further south and lived along the St. Clair River. I went to high school in Wallaceburg. I know Southhampton well. It is magical. You may have heard that Goderich (the prettiest town in Canada according to some) was just hit with a tornado that destroyed the market square.

        1. No, Nance! Guess I was worrying too much over my friends in the D.C. area of Virginia. That’s terrible. We went to a couple of festivals there and, if memory serves me, our high school played a basketball tourney there as well. I hate to hear that. Canada is still very special to me and always will be.

  1. How about ole Dad with his early morning runs around the neighborhood in his kahki trousers, tee shirt and safety shoes(much to the puzzlement of local cops) in that bygone era when running wasn’t popular and top of the line “running shoes” were white Keds. With all modesty I must say you inherited a running gene along with your good looks, intelligence and wit.

    1. Yes, I was trying to work out a way to include my father who back in the 1960s blazed the path by running early in the morning before the days of fancy shorts and shoes. I’m trying to convince him to get back into the game and give Ed Whitlock of Toronto a run for his money.

      And let’s just say that no one would believe how old my father is. He’s a prime example of how exercise contributes to good health and sharp looks.

      I love you, Daddy.

  2. Moved to tears! I feel like this story was mine, even the Red Rover part. Amazing how running has made me a strong, confident woman from the scrawny, bullied little girl I was. I can only hope my girls find something that makes them feel as powerful…be it running or something else amazing 🙂

  3. I can only hope my Ellison, 8 yo, scrawny, bookish and definitely not the “athlete” that her siblings are, can find such a life long joy in running. So far, so good!

    1. Oh, another female Ellison! Megan, I have to tell you this story. Once I was in a greeting line at a Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC and so excited because the wife of a couple who joined was named Ellison. I got to her husband first and said, “Your wife and I share the same name!” and he said, “No, her name is Ellison, not Allison.” And I said, “Yes, me too!” and he looked at me a bit more impatiently and repeated his line. Fortunately I was able to pull out my driver’s license when I met his wife.

      Warn your Ellison that she will get called “Mister” more than once on the phone. And get offers from diesel mechanics school when she gets to high school. And that possibly some very sweet woman over the phone will say, “I don’t mean to be rude, but are you saying ‘Elephant?'”

      I adore my name and hope she does as well. Is it a family name? I was named after my grandfather.

      Sorry to blather but it’s so seldom I meet another one. Please give your Ellison a big hug from this one.

  4. I’m a librarian and always psyched to find a “reader advisory” related blog. I put it in my feed reader and look forward to reading your recommendations.

    1. Thank you Stacy for the idea of pixie magic! I love that thought.

      And many hugs to Terzah for the feed reader link. It’s a bit frightening how much I love giving recommendations!

  5. [These days I run so I can reconnect with the dreamy child I was. In my mind I am still that skinny, knob-kneed little girl–only this time I am proud, fast, and strong.]

    This is beautiful, Ellison. Running is like pixie dust….pure magic. 🙂

  6. What a great story! I love that Ellison credits her mom with helping her discover running. As moms we try so hard to teach our children, it’s heart warming to know that even the things we might not expect teach our kids through a life time!

    I run to be a child again too. Don’t we all?

  7. Jo! You are a lifesaver! and my personal PR gal from now on…. yes, here’s the link and I’m sure Sarah will fix in a bit. About to head out for a thank-the-gods recovery run but I’m always available for book ideas.

    Let me know what you’ve enjoyed lately and/or what you’re in the mood for. Happy running and may a good book sit within one foot of you at all times. Best, Ellison

  8. Thanks for sharing this …love how through running we find self acceptance and also discover “hidden” strengths and talents.

    Debra, I had the same broken link for the blog….. but found it through (make sure you get ‘the’ in there, otherwise it’s a whole ‘nother kinda site. 🙂 Always looking for good leads on book, too!

  9. Great story but I cannot get into the link to Ellison’s blog. Something about not being able to find the server. It may be a glich. I’ll try again later and hopefully it will work.

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