Everyday life can be filled with lessons, celebrations, and heartache that challenges us and ultimately leads us to our life’s destination.
My story begins in Erie, Pennsylvania. Growing up in a small town with little to do we embraced the outdoors. When I was younger, we played outside in the woods and in the neighborhood until the streetlights came on. When I was in high school, I spent my weekends working or with friends on year-round fishing excursions. I wasn’t what you would call athletic. I’ve had asthma since I was two and used it as an excuse to get out of a lot of things, especially running in gym class. I always told my teachers running would make breathing harder, so I walked during warmups. No one in my family was very athletic at the time except for my mom. I remember she would get up early every morning and run thinking she was crazy for doing it. When I was in high school, my grades for the most part were just passing and in my senior year, my English teacher told my mom I wasn’t college material.
In 2000 I graduated from high school and went to college in Pittsburgh at La Roche University. It was close enough to home but far enough away for me to gain some independence. I lived on campus and majored in Graphic and Communication Design. Some of the best memories of my life happened while I was in college. I was never very good at school but loved art, so I put a lot of my attention and effort into it. The only one who I ever felt believed in me was my sister. Feeling at the time that I had to prove something to everyone, so I focused on graduating and doing it in four years.
During my sophomore year, I turned 21 and really started to rebel. I discovered alcohol and oftentimes stayed out all night which resulted in me falling asleep during class the next morning. It happened so often that during my sophomore year, everyone was required to go through an interview process with the faculty to determine if they will move to the next level with the program. I barely passed and the rest of my time at LaRoche, I worked to refocus myself and really push to stay on track with my education.
During my senior year, I met my ex-husband. I met him through a friend from school and we started dating. After graduation, I started to really focus on my health. At this point in my life, I was really down on myself, even though I was in a relationship. I was the heaviest I had ever been and knew I needed to start changing my habits. I took up healthier eating habits and walked almost every day. Around this time, my mom had started to run some races and I remember telling her, “you will never see me running”. Eventually, my sister met her husband and they both got into running and started racing with my mom.
In 2006 I married my husband at the time. We weren’t even married a year and I got
pregnant with my daughter. Things seemed to happen so fast and at the time I thought this is how I am supposed to live my life. The plan was to finish college in four years, get married and then have kids, and in 2011 I had my son. I felt things in my life were going pretty well and my ex actually started to take up running and told me I should try it. I thought okay, this could be a great way for me to lose the baby weight, even though I hated running. I started with the run/walk method which didn’t seem so bad. I decided to sign up for my first 5k and give it a try. My ex and I ended up running it together and after this race, I was hooked. I signed up for a few more 5k’s and then a half marathon. After I ran my first half marathon, I moved right into the marathon. My mom loves to always remind me of the comment I made, “I am never going to run”. Around this time, I met a group of girls in my neighborhood and would meet them for early morning runs. With two kids at home and a tired husband I always thought the 5:00 am runs would work out well. I can get my run in and then get home in time for them to be just getting up. This was my escape from everything. However, it didn’t go as I expected. My ex hated me not being home and didn’t support me through the longer distance runs. There were many times when I had races, I asked him to stay home and not bother coming to support me because it always resulted in some sort of argument afterward.
My marriage was starting to get rocky and having my kids most of the time on my own, I felt I needed this escape. By 2015 I had run three Pittsburgh marathons and the Disney Goofy Challenge. They were all great experiences, and I took away so much from each race. With my marriage on the rocks in 2016, we decided it was time to call it quits. I know many people that think 2020 was the worst year for them, but 2016 was the absolute worst in my mind. My ex and had split up and it was a rough divorce, to top it off my dog was very sick, and I had to put her down. I was dealing with so many emotions at the time, I turned to alcohol to numb those bad feelings I was having every day. I remember almost every night I was coming home, drinking, and asking God why these things were happening to me. At the time I felt I had no other way to cope with my stress other than drinking. I lost most of my friends during my divorce and my family being far away, I had never felt so alone.
At first, I didn’t think I had a problem even though I was going to work hungover every day. In December of that year, I traveled for a work trip and ended up belligerent. At the time I did not think I was that bad, but I was so wrong. My boss was with me and watched my behavior. I came home a few days later and I remember him calling me into the president’s office, sat me down, and came right out and said, “Pam you have a drinking problem”. He had seen too many people go through what I was experiencing with divorce and kids. He told me you need help, and you need to get better so you can take care of yourself and those kids. Sitting there I remember looking at him and a light bulb went off. I realized; I do have a problem. He told me you have two choices, either we get you help, or you need to go work somewhere else. This was my rock bottom moment. I sat there and cried for an hour before I left. I had thought I had held it together for so long and could not believe what I was putting myself and my kids through. After some much-needed time to collect myself, I ended up in an outpatient program for four months. I also went to AA meetings regularly. I got the help I needed and realized that there is life after all these bad things and that these bad things are all learning experiences.
Since then, I’ve tried several times to make my come back to running. There are always going to be ups and downs in life, but I’ve basically had to start over with myself after coming back from my divorce. I’ve signed up for many races in the last 5 years thinking, “okay this is going to be the next one”. I always ended up talking myself out of them. I felt I’ve lacked the extra confidence I needed to get through the training and a lack of support in some ways.
This last year pre-covid, I was given the opportunity to run the Marine Corp Marathon (MCM), which has been on my bucket list for some time. I started to work through my own training program, but the negative thoughts started to enter my mind again. I was on Instagram one day and saw a video of Michele doing some exercises with the agility ladder. I then started looking more into her posts and then at Rugged Runnings’ website. I connected with her and Salynda and began training with them. Unfortunately, my race was canceled, but I was given the option to run it virtually. I thought okay do you want to give up on this again or go for it? I decided to stick with it! Last summer MCM decided to offer runners the option to run a trifecta which included a 10k, marathon, and 50k. I thought to myself, might as well go for it. Not only did I sign up for these races, but I also had to run them all within six weeks of each other. So, on October 16, 2020, I ran my first marathon in 5 years. I remember texting Michele and telling her my goals for that day and the last one that was most important to me, “It’s been five years since I ran my last marathon. I’ve had many obstacles that I’ve overcome along the way and met some pretty amazing supportive people. My family has always been very supportive, my sponsor, my coworkers, my boyfriend, yourself and Salynda are all contributing factors. This is a hurdle I’ve been trying to accomplish for years and feel like I am shutting a door on an old chapter of my life. I’ve come a long way and continue to strive to make improvements in myself and with my life. Keep pushing forward and know there is light at the end of the tunnel”. Self-supported, I did it, I ran my race! After completing my marathon, I took some rest time and went back out and ran my first 50k which was once again self-supported. The biggest mental obstacle for the 50k was the multiple loops I had to run around a local park. The weather was warmer that day and I did it, I accomplished my first 50k just three weeks after my marathon.
Running is a big part of my life and it helps me stay sober. I am proud to say that I am four years sober and it is one of the best things that could have happened to me. There are so many amazing people I have met throughout my journey. My perspective on life has completely changed and I focus on the positives and not so much on the negatives like I used to.
I am ready for some exciting new challenges in 2021. I have planned a 50k in June and my first 50 miler in September. Since I chose the road to sobriety, I’ve had nothing but great experiences and have met the best people along the way. I am so happy and proud to be a part of the Rugged Running Community.