Melinda Kunz is running her sixth marathon this fall, training using the Finish It Plan. We met her at the Zooma Austin pre-race event.
I was 20 when I watched my older brother cross the finish line at his first marathon. I should have been excited for him, but all I could think of was, “I could do that!” Frankly, I never saw my brother as a runner. I was the one who ran track in high school; he was a swimmer. I knew if he could do it, I could, too. Plus, I never forgot what he said as he crossed the finish line: “I feel like I can do ANYTHING.” I think it was what he needed at that time of his life. And I needed it, too.
So the next year I was there, crossing the finish line with him. And I did feel like I could do anything. The feeling was so powerful, I ran the race the next summer … and the next. The empowerment I felt got me through some tough years: breaking up with a boyfriend, an internship in a big city, taking risks, and finding love again. That third marathon I crossed the finish line with my best friend, who then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.
My life shifted in purpose as I became a wife and mother. And I found myself four years later with a need—no longer did I need to feel like I could do ANYTHING; I just wanted to feel like I could do SOMETHING other than change diapers. I was the poor wife of a medical student, living off his future commitment to the U.S. Army, while staying home with two small children under age three.
My husband and I ran the next marathon together again. There were crazy long runs where we paid a babysitter to come at 10 p.m. so we could run along rural highways, jumping over road kill as cars blinded us with their headlights.
I ran No. 5 by myself the next spring. My husband had been out of town for medical rotations for most of the training, so I ran on a treadmill while my kids played in my gym’s daycare. When I dropped my kids off at the sitter’s so I could do a 20-mile run, I remember telling her that if I was not back in five hours, she should come looking for me. We couldn’t afford a cell phone.
The day of the race I was sick. (Later I learned I had mononucleosis.) It was the ultimate test of my stubbornness as I competed 26.2 miles with a fever and feeling horrible. It was not pretty, and not fast, but I finished.
Over six years passed before I had the time or energy to try to race again. In those six years, we added baby number three and four to our family. My husband completed his residency and then a deployment to Afghanistan. We moved three times as the Army directed.
As I signed up my youngest for her first year of preschool, I felt that need again. After helping my family with their needs and goals, I knew I needed to have a goal of my own again. And now I had a few precious hours a week that were all mine. I signed myself up for a half-marathon.
Now, a year and half later, I’ve completed five half marathons. And not long ago, I went online and officially signed myself up for a full marathon this fall, my sixth one. I no longer need to feel like I can do ANYTHING, or even SOMETHING. I run because it makes me happy.