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When Moms on the Run hosted its first destination run in Clearwater, FL, this past January, Jacksonville Moms on the Run member Chan You not only crossed the finish line of her first marathon, but celebrated her 39th birthday.
It was literally an uphill battle — both physically and mentally, Chan recalls, including facing several bridges and getting lost in a neighborhood. She persisted, telling herself not to give up, knowing that her Jacksonville MOTR teammates were waiting for her at the finish line.
It is that accountability — and her teammates running with her the final three miles — that ultimately propelled her across the finish line. Read more of Chan's story and find out why we chose her as May's inspiring member.
Q: How long have you been a member of Jacksonville Moms on the Run? How did you get into running?
A: I am a working mom with 2 kids (1 girl and 1 boy) and mostly just go to work and take care of my family. I was in a rut and just needed to find a way to get out of it. I was on Facebook and found MOTR and started my running journey in 2019. I did not realize that after three years how I have gotten stronger, not just as a runner but as myself. I know with “life,” I kind of lost me because there were more important things like my family, work and the situations that I was going through that came first. Therefore, when I saw MOTR on Facebook, I signed up for unlimited classes so I would give it a try for a season and not back out. Well, it didn’t just end with spring season but it was the start of a healthy awesome routine with friends, sprinkled with an official run, many runs and a first half-marathon all in the first year!
Q: Your first marathon did not go according to plans. Tell us about that.
A: In my second year with MOTR, I agreed to run my first marathon. After our Sunday Long Runs, a group of us would meet up for brunch. I am not 100% how it started, but I know Ginny’s birthday was in November and she wanted to run a marathon. Well, at the end of the conversation, KC found a race that was close enough where we could drive but far enough where we could say it was a run vacation, Hilton Head. Truthfully, I was nervous and scared to agree to this race because the longest I had run was 14 miles and it was hard. Now it is 26.2 miles, I know it would be hard and not sure at all if I can do it. However, I was at ease because my BRFs were going to train with me, run with me and Coach Amy will take care of the training schedule. Therefore, it shouldn’t be that hard and it will be fun!
Training started in end of June for 26 weeks. Jennifer Harvey and I were running buddies and she made training easy because on our runs, we would “house shop” or just talk about whatever came to our minds. However, some days it was a tough training because of the heat and the humidity that made our runs just awful. Therefore, to ensure that we do not run so long when the sun is up, we would meet up early, but that means we would need to wake up earlier than we have ever had to. A group of us would meet up at a Wal-Mart parking lot (The Wal-Mart Crew) on Mondays (Recovery Run) and Tuesdays (Track Attack or Speedwork). These were extra training runs on top of going to classes. Why? Why not? We all need a Monday recovery run after our long run on Sunday. As for Tuesdays, getting speedwork done in the morning is the best because again the heat is worst in the afternoon. It was great to have that for our extra runs.
Time for my first Marathon: After all the training runs and tapering, it was time for Hilton Head. I end up getting sick during tapering week. All that time training and I couldn’t run my first marathon and it was frustrating. However, I made a choice to accept that Hilton Head was not my race to run. I felt that if I accepted the fact that I am not able to run, I can move on and look forward to my other races. I committed to run my first marathon and if I did not do it, I will be disappointed in myself. Plus, there is always another race!
Q: We cheered you on as you crossed the finish line of Run Clearwater — not only your first marathon but on your birthday too! Can you please share with us a little about that story.
A: In January, Moms on the Run hosted a destination run in Clearwater, FL. I decided to run Clearwater; my BRFs will be running it and I will run my first marathon on my 39th birthday. Now, the hardest part was training all over again for my first marathon. It wasn’t all that bad because the weather was much cooler. However, I forgot that we have three weeks of break between seasons and knew I was kind of in trouble because I may be running my training runs by myself. I posted on MOTR FB about the Sunday Runs location and letting the ladies know about the run and invited them to join me. I kind of sweetened the deal by letting the ladies know that I will have water along with Gatorade and chocolate candy in the cooler for them during their water break. This training Jennifer helped me train again. Also, Sarah Mettler took me under her wings and ran with me. If she couldn’t run with me, she made sure that I had someone to run with on my Sunday runs. Of course, I still met up with the Wal-Mart crew to make sure that I keep up with my weekday runs.
Run Clearwater: I made it to the start line! I was so happy that during tapering week I did not get sick! The weather was perfect for my run. Sarah ran with me for my first half of my marathon because she was running her half marathon at Clearwater.
During the run, Sarah gave me tips, advice and pep talks because she ran her first marathon at Hilton Head. I don’t remember everything that she said about her experience but at the time of running Clearwater I kept those words in my heart. However, one of the things she said was “you know your body and you know when it is in pain and that you need to stop” (something along that line) but the other thing she said was “I am not telling you to stop running or use this an excuse to stop running but you know the difference.” I did know the difference. I felt weird on my left knee since the third mile of starting the race but it was not pain just discomfort. Then Sarah is about to leave me so she can finish her race, I experienced phantom pain on my right calf but it went away as fast it came. I knew it was all mental and I just needed to push through it but I did not want Sarah to leave me. Having her with me made me at ease and I knew I could finish with her but this was my race and I needed to finish it. After she ran toward the finish line, she made sure that I gave her things that I did not need with me for the second half of my marathon.
I cried and cried after she left me. I was so emotional and wanted her to come back! I was all by myself. Again, it is my race so I need to do this! I trained for this and I need to finish this! I went over the first bridge again and my heart sank. There was a police car at the top of the bridge and I can see the cones being removed! All I can say was, they better not pick me up! I do not want to be picked up plus some colorful words! Going down the first bridge again, I ask them, “Are you picking me up? They said “No, they were just rerouting the cones”. I was so happy and relived that I was not being picked up. However, as I was running, I passed our hotel because it was on the running route and knew I had to text Sarah once I get to a certain point so she knows that I did not give up and run into our hotel! LOL! Then there was another cop car behind me driving extremely slow and they again were picking up the cones but they were right behind me. I wanted to cry and scream! I actually did scream but in my head, “Do not look back, keep looking forward!” I need to finish to get over one more bridge and then I will be in the neighborhood. Why? If I made it to the neighborhood, I will not be in traffic and will get close to finishing my race.
I was on my way getting to the second bridge, I saw runners, dog walkers and walkers on the path and they were cheering me on! Then I saw a scooter passing me and cheering me on. Not sure who that person was but I saw him on the scooter at the 5K (Clearwater 5K on Saturday). Then he came back and told me that the cops are leaving and will not be able to direct traffic so I need to stay on the path but he will tell me where to turn after the bridge into the neighborhood. Also, there was another marathon runner behind me. After he told me that, I felt better because I am not completely alone. At the end of the race, I found out the man on the scooter is John, the race director!
After the bridge, John directed me into the neighborhood, but I got lost. I am terrible with directions! I get lost with a GPS! However, I wanted to finish this race so I pulled up the race course map. I studied that map before the race, and I knew I kept a picture of it on my phone. I am so thankful that it had turn-by-turn direction and the name of the road on the map. It took me a few minutes but I got back on the course. I did feel discouraged, but whatever! I know I came halfway with Sarah and I did not want to let down her, Amy, my BRFS that I ran with, and most of all, me!
Once I got back on the course, I saw that there were some cones still up in the neighborhood. That is great! I don’t need my map or to think but just run the race! However, around 18 miles, I was walking more than running, but I did text Sarah let her know that I did not give up. Then around 20 miles, I was just walking. I told myself that even if I have to walk, I can. Also, I still have my map on my phone so it did not matter if they picked up the cones because they can not pick me up! I will run/walk on the sidewalks to the finish line. The best thing, I knew my BRFs will be there for me at the end.
Well, before I got into the end, Sarah texted me to make sure that I was okay and asked where I was. I told her around 21 miles. All I could think was, oh my gosh! They are picking me up, not the people that put on the race but my BRFs. I did not want that! I wanted to get over the third bridge then have them run me in but they had other plans for me. When I saw Amy’s car and saw Amy and Sarah coming out, I was so excited, sad, disappointed and just relieved. I know with them I can finish it because Amy is going to have a plan for me and Sarah will be running and talking with me. Also, after the third bridge, around 23 miles, we met up with Ginny and Jennifer (my BRF I trained with for Hilton Head) to help run me in.
Running the last three miles or so was even more emotional than my previous miles. I cried, screamed, cussed and told them that I hate them but love them more! Then there were people screaming and honking at the final stretch cheering me on! I kept running and Sarah told me that once I hit the park there is a small turn and I am done! I think I told her to promise me that is all there is to the finish line and she said she would not lie to me.
I saw my turn! Amy, Sarah, Ginny and Jennifer cheered me on to the finish line! When I crossed, there were all my BRFS! The emotions that I felt when finishing my first marathon was something that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. The accomplishment, all that training and planning, all the times I had to wake up was all worth it for that moment!
While running my marathon, I mentally and emotionally accepted my past decisions that I made and stopped overthinking my decisions. I made peace with myself about my past. I realized and accepted the truth in why I continue to run and will continue to run as long as I get to run. Especially with my BRFs. Will I do this again? Yes! Why? Why not? Running a long distance, it not awful and it is not fun but it is you. You that need to push yourself, you that need to give yourself a pep talk, you that need to encourage yourself, you that need to find your own happiness. Running to me is finding me.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who has a big running goal?
A: The advice that I would tell someone who wants to do a long distance: Just go out and run. Try running a mile than run two miles than run three miles. The more you run the more you understand what running is. Yes, it is hard to start but once you are running and when you are done, the feeling of accomplishment is the best because again you did this for you!
Q: At Moms on the Run, we talk about being #MOTRstrong. What does that term mean to you?
A: #MOTRstrong = Never leave a woman behind! No matter if it is during weekday class, Sunday Long Run or during our races, you will have someone running or walking with you to encourage you and just be there with you!