I was a pack a day smoker in high school and all through college; I grew up in Richmond and smoking was just something we did. Once I graduated I quit smoking, cold turkey, and had my first foray into fitness- aerobics. Remember the whole leotard thing?
Then it felt like one day I suddenly woke-up and I was 29 years old with three kids under the age of 6. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, but I needed something that was my own. For me running was my way to get out of the house. I ran for me, I ran to be alone, and I felt better when I ran, it was all mine. There were people who called me selfish for taking time away from my family; they were bringing their negative energy down on me. Luckily, I knew I needed running and I stuck with it and did’t listen to those voices. At the time I didn’t have the science behind it, behind why running made me feel better, but I’m sure running saved me from a lifestyle of consumerism and unhappiness.
Fast forward to 9/11, the sniper attacks, anthrax, who knew what was going on? All of those events spurred me to do my 1st marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. I walked into my local Pacers [Pacers Alexandria] and asked the first person I saw if they could help me train for a marathon. That person was Chris Farley, the owner, and he said yes. For three years he trained me, wrote individualized training plans, and even stood on the track year round while I ran. I am not sure who had it worse, him shivering in the winter or me running 800 repeats.
In 2004, I ran up the hill to Iwo Jima at the end of my first marathon and realized that I had a lot of gas left in the tank. After that race I learned I was a really good runner. It was ironic, the better I got, the less I cared about the results. I was running for the wrong reasons; I was chasing faster times, training hard, and yet felt empty.
Around this same time I was in my car, dropping off one of my kids at soccer, in a neighborhood that was still sketchy. My eyes locked with another mom and I could feel the weight of the world in that woman’s eyes. In that moment I knew I could help, I did not know what help looked like at that point but I knew I wanted to do something to change the community around me. Running was my vehicle to make change.
In 2009, I founded RunningBrooke with the idea to inspire others to give back to the community we live in. So far RunningBrooke has raised and donated nearly one million dollars to build playgrounds in underserved Alexandria neighborhoods and fund local programs that get kids moving, sparking their learning and fighting obesity.
Since 2009 I have also run a marathon on every continent, in each of the 50 states, at least one marathon every month and all of the Marathon Majors , except Tokyo. Tokyo is a new addition to the majors and I am going to get that done in February 2017.
This fall I will run my 100th marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in October. This marathon is when everything changes. We shift the focus from how many marathons I have run, through there’s no way I’m stopping, to a story of community inclusiveness. We are looking to make this movement even bigger, we have 100 bibs for the Marine Corps Marathon and I invite you to come run with us.