On January 20, I lined up next to my husband, Tyler, at the start line of the Chevron Houston Marathon; it would be my first marathon and his 12th. At the start line minutes before the gun would go off, my nerves quickly settled as teammates and longtime running friends cut the tension with jokes about the chilly weather.
As the race carried through, I felt so much gratitude to those around me. The support and encouragement on the course from strangers and race volunteers was heartwarming. Occasionally I’d see a kiddo along the course cheering. I’d flash back to my student, who when I told I was not going to be in school on Friday, jumped out of their seats to smother me in hugs begging me to bring them. I’d see a police officer cheering from the road block and wonder if that was the same one who joked with me in the hotel lobby the day before and gave me his best wishes.
I saw my dad in the distance in the middle of the road taking pictures and laughing. I envisioned his aggressive driving to get to that spot. I had been with him many times cheering on my oldest brother, Josh Moen, in road races and know my dad can be a daredevil when the timing is right. I also saw my coach on the sidelines. Just before I could begin to anxiously look for feedback, I felt his calm confidence in me. At mile 20, I saw a friend native to Houston who had just dropped from pacing the lead women. To both of our surprises, he jumped back into the race for several miles to help me through a course so familiar to him.
My coach, family, friends and even those strangers cheering on the course gave me a boost of energy and refocus. As I’d run across the chip timers from 5K to 5K, I thought about my family and friends cheering from back home, who would be seeing those splits in anticipation. That gave me a warm reminder that they trusted I would know what to do when the race got tough, and that regardless of the result, they would be celebrating my first marathon experience. As I crossed the finish line, I ran into the arms of Tyler, who finished 20 minutes ahead of me. I knew he would have stood there as long as it took for me to finish, disregarding his own need for recovery.
Walking back through the hotel after the race, I was greeted by so many who would have celebrated with me whether I ran 2:33 or had walked across the line long after. It is this running community that gives purpose to my training and supports my athletic aspirations.
Tyler and I live and train in Twin Cities with Team USA Minnesota. Here, we have the support from our sponsors to live and train in a way that is conducive to Olympic development in elite distance running. As a team, we meet for practice on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
At any given practice, we warm up together or at least begin the first several miles together before we dive off into our own workouts and paces. It’s during these first few miles where we catch each other up on daily happenings. We talk about the workout, our jobs, the weather, a pesky blister or anticipated bathroom break. It’s during the workouts and on the cool downs where our community is strengthened. We open up in our vulnerable moments and push each other to do our best, learn from mistakes, takes risks and see the bigger picture.
The greatest thing about belonging to a team, I believe, is that individual successes are the successes of the group. When one has a great race or workout, I feel I also had a great race or workout (even if I had to sit at home with a short easy run). When I am able to view the team’s success as my success, it empowers my own performance and propels me forward in my daily training. In other words, success breeds success.
Plus, Team USA Minnesota intentionally allows each athlete to pursue his or her own passion outside of training and competing. This means I am a part-time teacher, part-time sale associate at a local running store and assistant high school coach. My husband is a full-time data scientist and graduate student.
Together, we also coach individuals in-person and online. Coaching began as a way to help others avoid the same pitfalls and mistakes we have made in our own careers. We help bridge the gap for individuals with the drive and perseverance but who lack the road map to achieve their goals. Coaching also creates a foundation for life after elite-level running but also provides community of support that propels us forward with our own goals.
We have observed that everything we give to our community comes back to us in an even more powerful way. Investing in helping others achieve their goals pushes our own success forward. It’s this running community that gives life meaning and makes training purposeful.