Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why I Run by Joanna Berentsen

January 2004

I had just left my job as a youth minister, and had filled my void of being involved in the Greater Good with tater tots. Yes, tater tots. And ketchup. Lots of ketchup. Maybe a fried buffalo chicken sandwich on the side. And a chocolate malt. You get the idea.

I was sitting on my couch popping tater tots, and wondering about my contribution to society when the mail came. An odd tri-fold flier for an organization called Team In Training sat amidst the junk mail. I opened it. Intrigued, I went to an information meeting.

At the time, I weighed 208 pounds. Aside from the tots, my biggest hobbies were smoking, throwing back some cocktails and playing cards. Lots of calories burned in the last one. And I had just signed up for an adventure (with some sort of race involved) to raise money to help find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and other blood related cancers. I was told I’d learn how to run, kayak and mountain bike. I laughed, but signed up anyway.

After the first group training, I went home and cried. I felt so sick. I could barely run a mile.
Stick to the schedule. That’s what I kept hearing. Stick to the schedule. Every day, I did what was on the calendar. I was given so much support: a mentor who called me every week to check in on my training and fundraising, a top notch coach who diligently helped me learn about weight training, spin classes, endurance running, mountain biking. And a team that helped me with that pivotal piece: confidence. You can do this.

And I did it.

June 2004

We finished the adventure race. My team finished in second place (out of all the Team In Training teams)! I had traded tater tots for spinach salads, cigarettes for gum, but I still had the occasional chocolate malt. I was 165 pounds. I had taken step to take care of me – and Team In Training was the vehicle for that self-care.

Of course, it didn’t stop there. Not surprisingly, I was addicted. I ran my first marathon in October of 2004. And another one in October of 2005. I ran through more weight loss. I ran through a divorce (I wanted to liken myself to Kristen Armstrong, but I wasn’t that fast…). I ran through joy and I ran through pain. But I was never alone.

I have made the best friends of my life through Team In Training. The women I met in 2004 moved my stuff three times during my divorce (we still joke about the metallic green prom dress). If that doesn’t speak volumes about the depth of our friendship, I don’t know what does. Or maybe I do.

How about this? My 2004 teammates are STILL my teammates today. We are all training for an adventure race and a triathlon together. We are still a constant source of love, support and encouragement…oh yeah, and built in training buddies.

In 2004, I started with the vague notion of ‘doing something good.’ In the process, I met this woman I really like: me. Happy, healthy and usually around 145 pounds…I am the woman I am supposed to be. Thanks to the community known as Team In Training.

But the best is yet to come. My greatest joy is that I am a running coach for the program and that I will be leading a group to this year’s Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco.

Now, I run to share my passion with others – to do good and to help others find their true selves. I have the pleasure of coaching some of the most amazing men and women who are drawn to an awesome cause: to find a cure for blood related cancers. This is what real life is about.

Come find yourself. Come run with Team In Training!

Check out Coach Jo with Honored Hero Kate on 11Alive News! Click here.

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