What inspires someone to take up running?
For ER nurse MJ Miller, it was the sight of those medals her co-workers earned running on Akron Marathon relay teams that provided the spark.
“I was tempted by other co-workers who never ran before and then participated in the relays,” she said. “I learned that both good runners and rookies are welcome. And even though I was an avid walker, I never considered running a race. I saw my co-worker’s medals hanging on the locker next to mine and they were calling my name. So I gave it a try.”
MJ was hooked after her first relay race. Now she helps organize teams and encourages new and experienced runners to participate, finish the race and have fun. This will be her fifth year participating in the Akron Marathon.
“I’ve been able to talk people into running who never thought about it,” she said. “I tell people, ‘If I can run on a relay team, I bet you can too.'”
MJ has had various joint and bone issues since childhood. After undergoing 8 knee surgeries, she was told knee replacements or a wheelchair was in her future and that keeping weight off is essential to not having pain.
“I often alternate walking and running with lap swimming and water jogging if my joints hurt,” she said. “Moving in some way is vital to avoiding more problems.”
When MJ decided to try running, she modified the Couch to 5K running program and built on it.
“Little by little, I got stronger, my breathing got easier and I could do more distance,” she said.
Now MJ finds she’s able to more easily keep weight off − even losing a bit. She also experiences less arthritis pain and enjoys the mental escape running provides.
“It took me awhile before I actually began to enjoy running, but now I love it,” MJ said. “I run with my dog, and he loves the exercise. I’m not fast and doubt I’ll ever be, but I have personal milestones.”
MJ has increased her distances each year and ran her first 10K at the Goodyear part of the Akron Marathon series last year.
Enlisting others to run
When MJ brings new and experienced runners on the relay teams, they follow the same course as the full marathon, with each member of a 5-person team running a segment ranging from 3.6 miles to 5.8 miles.
“I’ll go up to anyone–younger, older, muscular, whatever–and ask them, ‘What are you doing on race day?’ I’d sometimes just tell them I need them for their bodies,” she said with a laugh. “I get the younger or experienced athletes to agree to run the longer relay legs, and the rookie runners or those less in shape to run a shorter distance.”
MJ’s not above begging people to sign up to fill last-minute spots to cover for injuries and, once, cover for a newly confirmed secret pregnancy.
“Some relayers don’t meet until the race ends, and others never meet,” MJ said. “They run their leg and go home. This appeals to those with such busy schedules they’d otherwise not be able to run.”
For more information on the 2016 Akron Children’s Hospital Akron Marathon Race Series, visit www.akronmarathon.org.
This story is part of a series called A Mile in My Shoes that features Akron Children’s Hospital employees who are participating in the Akron Marathon Race Series.