Imagine moving across the world to a foreign country, where you are not fluent in the language nor know many people. Jacksonville (FL) Moms on the Run member Mariko DeMeyer did just that 15 years ago, when she moved from Japan to the United States. She says people had a hard time understanding her English and she often felt embarrassed, so she isolated herself, never considering the idea of joining any American groups or clubs — until she saw a Moms on the Run ad on Facebook. What happened next surprised even her. Read more of Mariko's story and learn why she's our inspiring member of the month.
Q: Why did you move to the U.S.?
A: My husband was a U.S. service member and served for 19 years in Japan. It was a hard decision but, when he retired, we decided to move to America. Everything was very challenging for me. I still miss my country Japan so much!
Q: When did you join Moms on the Run?
A: I joined Moms on the Run in February of 2020. The “Moms” in “Moms On The Run ” got my attention. I could identify and relate to a group of mothers that were getting together and running. I decided to sign up without any hesitation. I surprised myself.
Nine years ago, March 11, 2011, my hometown in Japan had a big earthquake and tsunami. Many people died and lost their homes. The 2012 “Gate River Run” in Jacksonville was on the one-year anniversary of that date, so my family and friends decided to run the 5K together. We even designed group T-shirts for the occasion.
I hadn’t run since that race. When I signed up for Moms on the Run, I couldn’t even run a mile. I was so nervous the first day that I asked my husband to come with me. But everybody was so friendly and welcoming that I didn’t need him. I was a little confused at first; I had never heard of run/walk. What is 30/30? What does 60/30 mean? I had so many questions in my head. I remembered I started run/walk 15/30 with Coach Amy.
Q: What are a few of your favorite moments with Moms on the Run?
A: After getting comfortable running, I tried the Sunday morning long run. I remembered it was a cold day and I had to pee so bad. I left the group to go find a bathroom. Jenn dropped out and followed me and then continued to run with me. Neither one of us had watches on that day but she was able to estimate the time intervals and pointed out markers where we would transition. I have a very bad sense of direction so I am so glad she ran with me. l will never forget that day. Thank you, Jenn! Another great memory was the run in the rain. I seriously thought it would be canceled but we did it and I enjoyed running with Sarah! These are just a couple of my good memories, there are many more....
Q: We heard you made a 5K PR? Can you tell us about that?
A: In the beginning, I didn't realize the importance of stretching and rolling before and after a run even though Coach Amy told me. As a result I injured myself back in July. I couldn’t run for almost four months. I went to physical therapy and did their recommended exercises at home. I continued attending the MOTR classes and even though I could only walk, there were members that walked with me. I slowly improved and in December signed up for a 5K race / Jacksonville Moms on the Run's end-of-season run. My goal was about 36 minutes, but l finished in 31 minutes — a PR! I couldn’t believe it!
The longest run of my life was a few weeks ago: 10 miles. While driving to the run site Sunday morning, my gas light came on. I stopped to get gas and realized how cold and windy it was and then it started to rain. I seriously considered canceling and going back home. But, I showed up and did my best. My running partners were awesome. They changed the mood and made the time and miles fly by.
Q: Any future goals?
A: Now I can run more than 3 miles at a time and feel that a half marathon is a possibility for me. It has been my dream since I was single. I will be running the "Gate River Run" 15K on March 20th in Jacksonville. That day will be the last day in my 50s; my birthday is the next day!
Q: What would you tell people who are new to running or thinking of joining Moms on the Run?
A: This is a great group of ladies and you WILL have fun! They accept runners with any experience level and you will be divided into various goal-oriented groups. The coach is a well-trained and experienced instructor. Follow her guidance and you will succeed.
Many thanks to Coach Amy and ladies [of Jacksonville Moms on the Run] for your encouragement and positive energy.
Q: Can you share a little about yourself regarding family, work, hobbies, etc.?
A: I have been a hairstylist for 30 years. I currently operate my own salon suite. l love to cook and take care of plants. My husband is an Engineering Technician working for the military. He doesn’t play sports but he is my biggest supporter. We’ve been happily married for 26 years. My daughter is a Registered Behavior Technician working at a facility with autistic children. My son is a mechanic working at a car dealership. March just happens to be my birth month and I will be turning 60! This is an early birthday gift for me. Thank you so much for this honor.