In their own words, these women share how running has changed the course of their lives.

Kelsie Clausen

24, Seattle, WA

Ever since I started running during my high school years, it’s been a positive and present factor in my life. I chose my college based on its proximity to trails. Because I spent so much time in nature, I was inspired to major in biology. I paid for school in part by working on the weekends at Running Warehouse. In my evolution class, I wrote my final paper on how humans were engineered for and evolved to become perfect for long-distance running. Today, I’m in medical school, studying to become a family medicine doctor.

Sometimes, on my runs, I go through flashcards: During an easy jog, I’ll go through a metabolic pathway in my mind for biochemistry, or I’ll run head-to-toe through a category of anatomy, identifying a structure—first the veins and arteries, then the bones. Anatomy was pretty easy, because with frequent injuries, I’d heavily research which muscles and ligaments were affected and how to strengthen and repair the entire structure.

Running has taught me the value of community. Many of my favorite teachers were runners, and that connection was so valuable. I have made my closest friends through this sport. I have met such interesting people I might not have otherwise connected with. It’s how I know I want to be a family medicine doctor—you never know who will walk into your clinic needing care, and I love that. I know that as a physician, I will be in a position to really inspire others toward pursuing active, healthy lives.

Rachel Pratt

54, Brooklyn, NY

I had run on and off throughout my life—a little track in high school and periodically during my 30s, but it didn’t really stick until I was 44 years old. At the time, I was CEO of the Adoption Exchange Association, a national nonprofit organization. I was also the mother of three children, aged 2 to 17. My life revolved around work and my kids, and I needed something more. I put on my shoes, stepped out the door and ran for 30 minutes. Within a year, I was training for a marathon.

Around that time, I started thinking about a career change. In child welfare, we focus on safety, permanency and well-being. I always felt like well-being had the lesser focus of the three, and I wanted to change that. In early 2015, I saw a job posting for the New York Road Runners. They were looking for someone to oversee their youth and community programming. I knew immediately that was my job.

One of my first tasks at NYRR was developing Rising New York Road Runners, the organization’s free, fun, research-based youth program designed to give kids fundamental movement skills, confidence in those skills and motivation to be physically active for life. Our goal is to propel hundreds of thousands of kids across the United States into a physically active life.

Every day I am so grateful that I have this job. Child welfare is incredible work, but at NYRR I am helping people discover something about themselves they didn’t know before—how strong they are and what they are capable of. It’s so moving to see people run and see the look in their eyes that I know so well because I, too, have gained so much through running.

Cory Benson

61, Newtown, CT

I never ran when I was younger. Most of that time was before Title IX, and I’m not sure my high school even had a girls’ track team. Not that I would have been on it anyway—I had zero athletic promise.

I started jogging in my 20s to “stay fit,” which is code for “weight control.” My children were young, and my husband and I worked full-time, so if I was lucky, I ran one weekend day and maybe a couple days during the week.

As my kids got older, I also grew in my job. I left my account management position to become a project director, then vice president at my company. As much as I loved my job, I was also missing the awards and recognition I had enjoyed as a salesperson. I was looking for something to fill that hole. Running, I thought, might do it. I started participating in races and following easy training plans.

I’ll never forget winning my first age-group award in a local 5K race. All I could think was, I get a prize?! Maybe this is something worth working harder at. So, in my late 50s, I gifted myself an online coach to see if I could improve.

Since then, I’ve won my age group in two marathons and been in the top 10 in my age group at the Boston Marathon for the last two years. At a time when a 61-year-old woman might be starting to fade into the background, the energy and strength my running provided shattered that stereotype for me.

Related:

Running At Every Age: Off To A Good Start

Running At Every Age: Your First Marathon

Sneak Peek: The May 2018 “Running At Every Age” Issue