This week is #IBDAwarenessWeek, which means I’ve been reflecting on my own struggles and comeback with ulcerative colitis more than usual. It brought me back to a darker time, when walking to the end of the street and back was a lung buster. My mind wandered and started reaching for performances, victories, comebacks and the like from other women runners in the sport that had inspired and continue to inspire me to own this marathon—and 2014 was a great year for stellar-ness in the running world. Anyone have a favorite moment of 2014? Here are five of mine:
- Shalane Flanagan at the Boston Marathon. I mean, who didn’t love watching her command the race with such bravery up front? Flanagan showed us and the whole world what it means to be born and raised Boston Strong. I credit that day and her run with why I’m starting my own 26.2-miler in less than two months(!). She’s not afraid to celebrate her successes and be disappointed in her failures—and she always gets back in her shoes to try again tomorrow.
- …And then again in Berlin. She didn’t get the American Record in the marathon, but she nab the 25K AR during her quest, which is nothing to sneeze at. I had the pleasure of interviewing here a few times leading up to and following her marathon in Berlin earlier this year. She’s more honest and real with her performances and herself than I often am. A lesson to all runners: Be open with your goals and open-minded about the potential outcome.
- Kim Conley at the track and field outdoor championships. Olympic potential aside, Conley is a face I’ve seen on the track since I was a wee 15-year-old doing laps on Cal’s ginormous stadium. Spending two years of high school racing at the top tier of D5 in the Bay Area, I often watched in awe as she dominated the track for Montgomery High School, an infamous red uniform that always meant something fast was about to happen in heats I couldn’t keep up with. To see a small-town girl from Santa Rosa, just 20 minutes from where I grew up in Petaluma, Calif., take a national title in the 10,000M (well, really in the last 100M against speedy Jordan Hasay) for the first time—well, that was just equally surreal and joyous.
- Deena Kastor at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly Half Marathon. She ran away with the world master’s record in the half marathon in front of a roaring crowd down the homestretch, and the photos at the finish pretty much capture all the emotion in that moment. Kastor is a classy, consistent and confident runner that does it before she loves the sport—and she’s pretty damn good at it. Philly was just a warm-up before the 41-year-old stepped up to the line at the NYC Marathon, where she finished 11th against hard winds and challenging field.
- Jenny Simpson being named USATF Jackie Joyner Kersee Athlete of the Year. Talk about a long-distance sweep! For the first time in 12 years, two long-distance runners—Meb and Simpson—won both awards. After her big win in the 1500 meters by .01 seconds and a dive past her nearest competitor, Simpson is a difficult one to overlook. She won the Diamond League, a prestigious point-system series of track and field events, and she’s, like, the third-fastest 1,500M runner on the track this year. If you watch her compete, she works hard and loves every second of it. I want to run like her.
Of course, there were plenty of other great, inspiring moments over the last year. Kara Goucher courageously finished the NYC Marathon in tears and vowed to return to the trials in 2016. On Dec. 14, the Foot Locker National High School Cross Country Championship will decide which young runner is the best in the U.S., with plenty of underclassmen in contention for the crown. Molly Huddle did some solid work on the track and roads this year and is definitely an athlete I have my eye and ear on for 2015. Stories like Harriette Thompson’s are incredible and move me to tears every time. But enough about me—I need to get a run in.