White Bear Lake/Shoreview Moms on the Run member Amy Bell says, “If you want to restore your faith in humanity, run a marathon.” Such a sweet mantra coming from someone who thought she’d never run more than 20 minutes around the neighborhood. Today, she has run three Ragnar races, nine half marathons, countless shorter races and, last month, she finished her third Twin Cities marathon — and the one of which she's most proud. “Amy’s positivity and ‘one-foot-in-front-of-the-other’ attitude is an amazing example for so many who think that they aren’t cut out to run,” raves fellow coach Jennifer Fink, who nominated Amy. “She is absolutely an energizer bunny.” And for that, Amy is our Most Inspiring Member for November.
Amy started her running journey when she joined Moms on the Run in 2012. Home with a two-year-old and newborn after complicated pregnancies, she wanted to do something to get active again. “I love the MOTR LTR [learn-to-run] program,” Amy shares. “It gave me confidence, but also made it ok to take walk breaks. ‘What, I can be called a runner and walk too?’ Yes, indeed.”
The Shawn Silvera 5K, which topped off her inaugural running season, was her first-ever race — and the one she says changed it all. From there, she realized she enjoyed running longer and longer distances. Her first half marathon was at Women Rock 2013. In 2014, she became a volunteer coach for White Bear Lake MOTR and, that same year, ran Ragnar Great River Relay. “The stinky van, the sleep deprivation and the team spirit made that one of the most magical running experiences I have had,” recalls Amy.
Fast forward to this summer, when Amy set her sights on running her third Twin Cities Marathon in October. Her goal was to attempt a 12-minute/mile pace, finishing around 5:15:00, (her first two marathons she finished around 5:25:00), but her training wasn’t on pace. Juggling a new career after being a stay-at-home mom, plus other life commitments and slower training in the heat and humidity, Amy knew from experience she would be pushing the six-hour cut-off. (Since the TCM route runs from Minneapolis to St. Paul on major thoroughfares, TCM has a strict policy to open the roads back up after six hours, affecting those runners near the 13:00:00 mile pace.) “This was mentally challenging my the last few weeks of training, especially when I did not finish my 20-miler because of the heat and humidity.” With a slew of encouragement from her MOTR family, Amy powered on. Her last week of training, she looked down at her Garmin and knew she could finish 26.2, but didn’t know if that would be at 5:45:00, 5:59:59 or 6:15:00. As a person who loves her numbers and stats, Amy decided to ditch her Garmin the day of the race and take whatever the day brought.
And what a day it was. Amy spouts off a list of reasons why this marathon is the one of which she’s most proud: leaving the watch – and the pressure behind — made it “a wonderful race day;” the camaraderie between the volunteers, the spectators and other runners; starting with an old MOTR friend, Ranell, and her friend Margaret; the signs, the cheers, the music; the offers of mimosas at mile 4; being met at mile 25 by fellow MOTR coach Jennifer Fink, (whom she calls one of her biggest cheerleaders), who ran the 10-miler hours earlier and was back out on the course to help her finish; offering mantras to runners she passed those last few miles along Summit Ave, only to have one of those runners see her in the parking lot after the race and say, ‘Run the mile you are in. Yes. You were right!’; meeting up with Margaret, whom she had only met that morning, and had not seen again until well after the mile 25 marker; seeing her personal cheer squad and crew of husband, David, and kids along the route and meeting her at the finish line 5:50:58 later — nine minutes and two seconds ahead of the cut-off.
“Running has become a huge part of my identity,” confirms Amy, “but I still have trouble saying ‘I am a runner’ out loud. As time goes by, the words are less important to me, and I just go out and do it. I just want to keep moving forward, get out the door, and experience new challenges.”
Her latest challenge this month? Completing a 5K every day for 30 days. Yes, we're certain she can call herself a runner.
Congratulations on being named our inspiring member of the month, Amy!
Amy lives in White Bear Township with her husband, David, and two kids, Andrew and Katherine.