A Mother-of-Five’s Couch to Half Marathon Story


Run a half marathon?

Kelli Stanley’s doubts and insecurities wracked her mind with countless reasons why covering 13.1 miles on foot was an impossible feat.

A single mother of five with a full-time job – the children ranging in ages from 7 to 14 – where was she going to squeeze in the time? At 5-foot-6, 220 pounds, she wasn’t exactly a lithe Ethiopian. And at 37, she had never been the athletic type.

“I used to laugh with my friends in P.E. during high school,” says Stanley, who lives in the Chicago suburb Oak Park. “We’d be playing soccer and the coach
 would yell at us. ‘Quit killing the grass!’ We’d take one step, move over a bit and say, ‘Is this good?’ He just rolled his eyes.”

Now in adulthood, Stanley faced one other not-so-minor obstacle.

“I didn’t run at all,” she says. “I couldn’t even run around the block before saying, ‘That’s enough. I’m done.’”

But last February, after hearing from friends who had tackled the running challenge with the help of a Christian-based running club, Stanley posed
 a question to herself: Why not me?

The six-month journey leading to last July’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon entailed pain, heartache, doubt and, in the end, the realization to Stanley that
 if you dedicate yourself to a task, surround yourself with a caring support group, sometimes you can accomplish things you thought were beyond your reach.

The program is called The Elijah Running Club. It was founded by Darnell Williams in 2001. The club’s purpose is to take people with little or no running background
 and show them that with faith, education, visualization and action, they can stretch themselves, achieving goals they thought were unattainable. To date, more than 
1,000 people have started the program as non-runners and gone on to complete half marathons and marathons. Some went on to cross Ironman triathlons 
and ultramarathons off their bucket lists.

Stanley joined the club in February, during the heart of Chicago’s bitter winter. For the first seven weeks, the once-a-week indoor meetings were primarily
 educational, emphasizing basics like running form, nutrition and shoe fitting. The participants designed visual boards, cutting out pictures and writing captions,
 visualizing the person and the lifestyle they wanted to create.

By April, Stanley began the physical training in earnest, starting out using a walking-running combination to cover three miles. By late May, her once-a-week 
long run/walk with the group had stretched to 10 miles. It was only supposed to be an 8-miler but Stanley took a wrong turn on the course and inadvertently
 covered 10 miles. She had lost 30 pounds.

“I felt awesome,” she says. “When I got home (from the 10-miler), I wasn’t sore or anything. I didn’t believe it was me.”

But like anyone who accepts the first-timer’s long-distance challenge, there were setbacks. She missed about 10 days of training in late May when her
 high-school daughter, in Stanley’s words, “was making some bad choices, bad friends. I had to get in her back pocket.”

Having missed a couple of the club’s long workouts, she tried to jump right back in on the group’s schedule and tackle a 10-miler along
 Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, fronting Lake Michigan. But her legs cramped and she had to hail a taxi for the last three miles.

Then her grandfather became gravely ill, eventually passing away in June. Helping her mother deal with funeral arrangements and all the details
 that go with a family member’s passing cost Stanley about another month of consistent training. Two weeks before the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon,
 Stanley considered not running the race.

“But as a mom of five kids, you don’t waste money,” she says. “I said, ‘I accepted this challenge. I’m going to do it.’”

So two weeks before the race, having not run farther than seven miles the past seven weeks, she adopted a game plan. Start out training with a 3-miler,
 increasing the distance by about a mile each workout. She got up to about 7 miles. Realistically, Stanley knew it had hardly been the ideal
 four-month training regimen.

Life was throwing roadblocks. Too many workouts missed. But sometimes resolve takes the body places it didn’t know it could go. Stanley recalled her original thinking
 when undertaking the 13.1-mile adventure.

“I thought if I could learn to love something I completely hated, finish something I didn’t think I could finish, I could get that same push for
 other challenges in my life.”

Then came race day.

Read the full story at http://running.competitor.com