Making a Run For It

Running…seems like you love it or you hate it. I have to admit, I hate the training but there is nothing that I love more than race day! Whether it’s an adventure race with obstacles and mud, or a distance run, there is something about the energy of race day that keeps me wanting to look for the next best race.

I’m so thankful that this year I get to complete a major bucket list race of mine – the Ragnar. We have a team of 12 strong women that are going to run a relay from Milwaukee, WI to Chicago, IL. I can’t wait!

And it’s no surprise that my guest writer today is the team captain. She has set an amazing goal for herself and I am greatly inspired by her determination and hard work. She has me thinking that I might just have one more marathon in me before retiring from that distance all together.

picture of racer

Racing the States

My Odyssey to the Fifty States

by Melissa Polivka

I used to hate running. When I was fourteen, I was on the cross-country team because all my friends were. But I was miserable. I used to think about tripping myself during practice so I could get injured and not have to participate. Then miraculously I did get injured, and I had to quit cross-country. Yay! I traded my running shoes for swim goggles and found my zen in the pool.

Later, in college, I thought I’d pick up running again. It was free, and it was a good way to burn off those beer calories. I’d put on my headphones, leave the dorm, and run for hours. Most of the time I didn’t have any idea where I was, unwittingly exploring the northshore suburbs of Chicago, but I enjoyed the sense of getting “lost” and finding my way back home.

After I was out of school and working, I ran occasionally. I can’t honestly recall what inspired me to start training for my first marathon. Maybe it was that Oprah did it. Or it could have been one of my old friends who had done a few. Regardless, I started to get serious, and began running a few days a week, with the goal of completing a marathon in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana.

I did the race and checked off the box reading “run a marathon.” It was a fun experience, and in some ways not nearly as difficult as it seemed it would be. I was the star of my family for the day. My loved ones came to cheer me on. I got a medal, and bragging rights. And I got to eat whatever I wanted to for a few days. The feeling was a little addictive, and I soon decided to run another marathon, this time in my current home of Chicago.

That race went even better than my first. Wow, maybe this could be my thing. In fact, now that I’ve run two races in two different states, maybe I could run one in every single state. So the next year I ran two more marathons, one in Wisconsin and one in New York. Four down, 46 to go.

In 2005, my husband and I decided to start growing our family, and I took the next five years off to be a mom. I liked the break from running, and I sure got out of the habit of exercise very quickly. But I knew I had unfinished business, and as soon as I felt I had the time, I started training again.

Training with kids was a whole new challenge. I am a stay at home mom, and with two kids, two years apart, finding the time to run was a puzzle. And I hate running strollers. I would wait until my husband would get home from work, watching the garage while wearing my running gear, so I could hand off the kids and head out instantly. Or I would pry my eyes open at 5:30am to go run, knowing the moment I returned the whole family would be awake and clamoring for my attention. And then on the weekends I would do my long runs that could last up to three hours. The entire time I would be thinking about the disaster mess at home I would return to, or all the problems my husband would be having managing the children.

We got through it somehow, and since 2011, I’ve been running two to three marathons per year. As of January 2015, I’m up to 20 total. My goal at this point is to complete a marathon in all fifty states by the time I turn fifty. That will mean another two to three for the next thirteen years.

This project has brought so much into my life. First, I get to see the whole of America. And I get to see it from ground level. I get to run places that a regular tourist might not venture to see. Second, I get to take great trips with my family and make memories. Third, I get to visit my friends and relatives in far flung places. And fourth, it gives me direction. This long term goal is a compass for the way I treat my body. I want to be healthy enough to finish this project, so I need to take care of myself.


I love this story because not only is Melissa striving for an amazing lifetime achievement – she makes the time, and takes the time for herself. Many of us can identify with being short on time and long in the list of things to do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find time for yourself.

Find something you love to do and take the time to do it!


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