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There are a few words banned from our home:
Nice. Stuff. Good. Things.
You thought they would be a little more colorful, didn’t you? But their lack of spark is exactly why these words are banned. They are vague. They are overused. They mean nothing.
“It feels nice to get good things and stuff,” just doesn’t paint much of a mental picture, does it?
There are a few more words I’m itching to add to that list. One among them is “inspire.”
Each time I log onto Facebook or read a blog, someone inspiring is doing something inspirational to inspire others. Ugh.
So why haven’t I eliminated the word from my extensive vocabulary? Because occasionally I still run across someone who truly deserves the moniker. To inspire is to create within others the motivation to be better. Whether it’s to be better people, runners, friends or citizens, inspirations spur us to action. No longer are we satisfied with the status quo. They help us find the drive to take action. Let me paint you a portrait of a few such people.
I know how strong I am, even when I don't want to be.
–- Lois Finley
First is a woman I feel blessed to call a friend, Lois Finley. Lois finished her first marathon recently as she ran the Ogden Marathon for the Huntsman Hometown Heroes, an organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research. After fighting and winning her own battle with cancer, Lois has run with HHH since 2008, giving her running purpose and meaning. Lois’s journey to the Ogden Marathon was especially significant as her mother lost her own battle with cancer only a few short days before the race.
This was a harsh blow to Lois and, in her words, it wiped away her desire to participate in life in general — much less the marathon. With some encouraging words from her husband, she suited up and found herself at the starting line. At Mile 8, she sat down, not wanting to continue. Once again, her husband urged her not to waste months of training. She got up. At Mile 14 she sat down, once again, begging her husband to let her quit. He was having none of that.
At Mile 26.2, they crossed the finish line together. It was as much an emotional journey as it was physical. In the face of some serious challenges and grief, Lois, with the help of her loving husband, found within herself the will to finish. The finish line has changed Lois. “I know how strong I am, even when I don’t want to be,” she says.
She inspires me to never give up, even when life makes us want to sit down on the curb and quit. Not only are her friends and family proud, but we are all sure her mother is, too.
Second is a woman I’ve only met once but has had a profound influence on my running. Kathrine Switzer, while not the first woman to finish the Boston Marathon, was the first woman to officially enter and complete the race. But she didn’t finish without incident. Her story is well known among runners. She entered under the name K.V. Switzer, her initials. Only a few miles into the race, Jock Semple, the marathon race director, recognized her as a woman and tried to forcibly remove her from the course. Switzer’s boyfriend pushed him away and Switzer finished the race in 4 hours, 20 minutes. During those four hours, she ran with fear — but she ran.
Her story doesn’t end there. She dedicated her time to promote women in the sport. She played a significant role in bringing the women’s marathon event to the Olympics. It should be mentioned that another legendary female athlete, Joan Benoit Samuelson, won that inaugural marathon in 1984. Switzer continues to be a large presence in the running community as she travels around the world to various races, encouraging and inspiring runners — both male and female — to see and reach their own potential.
When I met her two years ago in Boston, I asked her to sign my bib number. She did so upside down so when I needed words of encouragement during the race, I only had to look down and read, “You know you love this.” Yes. I do. And I’m grateful for her courage. Because of her, I can run anywhere without fear. She inspires me to give back to the running community as much as it’s given me.
At the risk of painting myself a stalker, I present my last inspirations whose names remain a mystery to me. Every morning as I’m getting my kids ready for school, I see two women running up and down the road behind my house. They rarely miss a day and I never see one without the other. I don’t know their story. I don’t know their relationship. But what I do know is that they are as dedicated as any runners I’ve ever met.
What I find most inspiring is that these two women obviously support each other’s healthy habits. Some days I see them laughing. Other days their conversation looks more serious. Some days they seem to run in silence. But they are running together, always. Their running is obviously a bonding agent in their relationship. It’s the kind of bond I seek and have been lucky to find myself. There’s no apparent competition between the two. They seem confident and happy. They are a beautiful sight to watch. When I see them, I’m inspired to share my runs with those I love, too.
So I won’t lock away the “inspiration” word yet. But like towels you only pull out when guests arrive, I will use it only when it’s appropriate. Luckily, I don’t have to look far to see the word in action.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and marathoner who is currently looking for inspiration to get her to clean out the garage. Read more of her work on the Deseret News blog, Reasons to Run.