Thursday, April 19, 2012

Featured Runner Friday: Meet Crystal!

Every runner has a story and we believe sharing those stories is a great way to share the gift of running while helping motivate others.

This week's Featured Runner is Crystal. Crystal started running for all the right reasons. She has a true running spirit. Her incredible drive and inner strength has pulled her through circumstances that would have caused others to just give up. Not Crystal, though. She is a fighter who doesn't let anything keep her down for long.

Meet Crystal

In August of 2010, my younger brother spent a weekend in the ICU where he was diagnosed with diabetes. Our dad’s side of the family is plagued with heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid issues, and diabetes. Due to my hypothyroidism and high blood pressure, I was already exercising on a regular basis but this incident really shook me up. I realized I needed to step up my exercise even further and put all my excuses as to why I couldn’t run out to pasture. Game on!

Through the fall and winter of 2010, I just went out and ran without having any clue as to what I was doing. I was sidelined by shin splints, knee problems, and hip pain. I became very frustrated when I hit a mental roadblock. I had finally got myself to running 2 miles at a time, and even improved my pace, but couldn’t seem to move beyond that. But still I didn’t stop.

I decided to join Building Steam in spring of 2011 in hopes of improving not only how far I could run, how I run, and to feel better while doing it. Building Steam was a very helpful tool as far as keeping me on track. I was able to utilize the interval approach of walking/running to increase my mileage but I was left wanting more from the experience. After running by myself all winter I had hoped to feel more a part of a supportive group and bond with other runners.

I learned of Peoria Sole Sisters through Toby, who was going to be a pace group leader. From the first night, when we met at the old Running Central, I felt like there was an electric energy in the air. I knew immediately this group of women was going to make positive changes in my life. This was the experience I had been waiting for!

Our core pace group of Patty, Tiffany, Tracey, Jen, Laura, and I just seemed to fall in place with Kenna as our leader. Over the next few months we started running not only faster but also further. My initial goal for this new fitness regimen had been to be able to run 3 miles a few days a week. I will never forget coming home after a Sunday morning long run and telling my husband, “I just ran 5 miles! Did that really just happen?!”

Many of the Sole Sisters were signing up for the Pumpkin Classic in September of 2011 and honestly I wasn’t too interested. I had run a few 5K races over the summer and had been struggling with the heat, making race days very frustrating. In the end, the camaraderie of my Sole Sisters won me over. On September 17, 2011, just 6 weeks after my 40th birthday, I ran my first 10K race! (And I still have to thank Patty for sticking with me during that race or mentally I wouldn’t have finished within my goal!)

The same exact thing happened with the Spartan Sprint on October 15th, 2011. Some of the Sole Sisters were signing up and not only was I not interested…I was scared to death! I had fractured my right arm 7 years prior and didn’t want to get injured again. Then I decided to silence the negative voices in my head telling me I wasn’t capable of doing this! I am not a prissy girl with no guts! (OK, maybe a little bit prissy but I have some guts!)

As we weren’t running for time, Patty and I decided to be running partners for the Spartan Sprint. We both just wanted to gain satisfaction of finishing the race. We had only made it through the first couple of obstacles when I fell in slick mud and fractured my left arm (proximal humerus fracture)…almost the exact same break as I had done to the right arm 7 years prior! This was my worst nightmare! And honestly my husband’s as well. While he is 110% supportive of my running and being healthy, he was very concerned about me doing this race because of my prior injury…but never once told me he didn’t want me to do it. Bless him!

Pre-Spartan Sprint- 10/15/11

Post-Spartan Sprint- 10/15/11

To say that I was devastated doesn’t even begin to explain my state of mind. I still felt like I had something to prove to others but more importantly to myself. Not only did I not get to finish the race but now I was injured and wouldn’t be able to run at all for a good chunk of time. So, I gave myself a couple of days to wallow in pity and then I snapped out of it. What good was it going to do?

The orthopedic doctor told me I would be in a sling for 6 weeks and then that would be followed up with physical therapy. I would be able to run again in 12 weeks when the bone was fully healed.

I started walking several times a week, even while still wearing my sling, and finally started setting goals as to what pace I could get walks completed. I honestly feel I was able to stay so positive thanks to the support and kindness from my Sole Sisters. They took time not only out of their running schedules but their busy life schedules to walk with me on Wednesday nights and even other days or nights as well. Patty started marathon training and was even getting her runs completed in the morning so she could walk with me on Wednesday nights during the normal Sole Sisters weekly run! Now how cool is that?

Over the 12 week period, I followed what my doctor said, did the exercises my physical therapist gave me, and on January 6, 2012 I was back to running again! I have spent the last couple of months trying to catch up to the level that I was at before my injury. I have had shin splints and admittedly other struggles, as well. On days when I don’t feeling like running or I get frustrated with the way I’m feeling when I do run, I remind myself what it felt like when I couldn’t do it. It really is all in the perspective because in the past couple of weeks I have finally started breaking my old pace and distance PR’s and feel that I am now getting to a level of fitness that I hadn’t reached even before the injury.

I feel so thankful to be a part of this fabulous group of both mentally and physically strong women who are not only my running partners but have become my friends who hang out, help each other through hard times, and celebrate the good times. I truly love them more than my words could ever express.

I am contemplating running the Quad Cities Half Marathon in September 2012. My main goal, however, is to continue to grow more mentally and physically strong and keep enjoying my girlfriend time with my Sole Sisters!

I'm sure Crystal would love to hear your thoughts and comments! Feel free to leave her a note of inspiration!

If you would like to be one of our Featured Runners, send us an email to let us know!


  1. Love your story, Crystal. You are such a talented writer! You have helped me so much, too. I've always enjoyed our runs together and our in-depth conversations while we try to breath and run. Thanks for being there!

  2. Awesome come back! Way to go!