Susi Irwin

“Athlete” has never been a word used to describe myself, let alone “Runner”. Ever. Growing up I was a tomboy – but really only in the “fashion” sense (and I use that word VERY loosely) of the word. I was not, and truly am still not, an outdoorsy person. I grew up in the very woodsy part of New Jersey on a lake. I loved swimming, bike riding and playing in my yard, but that was about as far as I took being outside. In 7th grade, dressed in grunge flannel, baggy jeans, Doc Martens and messy hair, I decided to start taking dance classes (to everyone’s shock, including my dance teacher). I was a secret dancer! I loved it. Eventually, I was in 8 classes a week. I danced through high school. Then college came and dance classes ended. And that was that.

Fast forward a bunch of years, and I end up in Boulder, Colorado, for graduate school. I had NEVER in my life seen a place with so many fit, active, and healthy people. I was way out of my element and my league. I was always in awe of the people who were just like, “I’m going for a 10 mile hike today” or, “I ran 20 miles on Saturday and feel like I really hit my stride!” What did that even mean?!?! I moved to the healthiest city ever, but I came for graduate school – not for health and nature. That was 2003.

A few times over the past 10ish years, I thought, “man, I should start running.” I even attempted a few “Couch to 5k” apps and programs, but they never stuck. I never attained that “runner’s high” I had heard so much about. Nothing clicked. I still hated it. Oh well. Move on, right? I got married in 2012. I had my first child in 2014. In 2017, I saw my body in the mirror and did NOT like the reflection. I was out of shape, overweight and depressed. I started in-home streaming workouts 6 days a week at 5am in the morning. After about 3 months of insane work, I was in shape and I felt awesome! But guess what? I was exhausted. And I wasn’t having fun. Working out was a job that needed to be done. Each morning I would wake up and think, “Ok, I have to do my workout now.” HAVE TO. It was a chore – a task to be completed. After 10 months or so, I got bored and slowly stopped doing the workouts. The weight started to come back and clothes got tighter again. My mood started slipping. I got pregnant with our second child in 2018, and she was born in 2019. I was at my heaviest weight again. I needed to do something. 

For years I had been a loyal customer and follower of Skirt Sports. I wore my skirts out and about – I was a Skirt Fashionista – but not a Skirt Athlete. I didn’t wear skirts for working out. I wore them because they made me feel a bit more feminine but still made my thighs stay away from each other! Being a loyal Skirt follower meant I saw the posts of the athletes who donned the skirts. I saw the women, in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, DOING the thing. Some ran. Some walked. Others hiked or biked. They were living their best life and having fun. I was jealous. I had seen the posts about Running Start. I didn’t think I qualified. I am a mom of 2. I am a wife. I have a full time job. My main struggles in my world are mental – I have bipolar 2 disorder, some wicked anxiety, and seriously low self-esteem. I am the barrier to my own success it seems. So how could I qualify for this amazing program? They wanted applicants who had some big barrier to fitness. My barrier was me – I just needed to get over myself. A friend who had been in the program finally convinced me to just submit the application. “BE BRAVE”, I told myself. This was 2020 – my year of bravery. I was going to do big things – mainly, get out of my own head. So I sucked it up, filled out the application and closed my eyes when I clicked “Submit”. There. Done. Out of my hands.

And there it was – my acceptance letter. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I was going to start a 12 week program with a stranger, DURING A PANDEMIC – online? Virtual? Isn’t that what I was doing 10 years ago with Couch to 5k apps? How was this going to be any different? I was still going to be training alone, right? WRONG. It was ALL different. 

This time, I had Jessica – my Personal Motivator. She and I started texting each other the night we met in our all-hands Zoom Meeting. We started texting, and I swear, we have not stopped! She checked in on my daily and encouraged me in ways I did not know I needed encouragement. This year has been insane. We are in a quarantine. A global Pandemic has ravaged our world. Ok wow, if that is not just enough, right? Add to that some personal stuff that has just beaten me down. My son finished Kindergarten – online. We missed all of our vacations. My baby girl has still not met her Grandfather in person. We wear face masks all of the time. I quit a job I had lost passion for and voluntarily became unemployed during said pandemic. I interviewed via Zoom calls and Facetime sessions. I also started training for a virtual 5k race. Put that all together and what do you get? You get a super anxious, overwhelmed Susi. And Jessica didn’t even flinch. “You got this.” Those 3 words – she must have told me that a million times. “You got this.” And you know what? Jessica was right. I got this! I landed a new job – a DREAM job. My son kicked Kindergarten’s booty! And I RAN my 5k. I ran the WHOLE 3.1 miles. I trained for 12 weeks. I never missed a session. I walked/ran 3 times a week for 11 weeks and I ran my last 3 sessions in week 12. I did it. I am a runner. I am an athlete. And now, I am training for a 10k. I run 3 days a week. I train. And against all odds and my own head, I am enjoying it. I don’t have to run; I GET to run. It is my treat – my reward. 

Since April 28th, the day I started my training – I have tracked over 120 miles. That number is growing each week. I would not be doing this if it weren’t for Jessica and Running Start. I would not have the confidence, the training, the passion, or the drive if it weren’t for my 2020 Running Start Cohort. I have made new friends. I have entered that world of Running that I did not think I would ever be welcomed into. And here I am. I run. I have a “runner’s wave” when I see other people out there running and walking and biking on the trail! My children see a Mom who is active and healthy and can keep up with them! They see a mom who sets a goal and not only attains it, she beats it and then sets a new one! My husband is proud of me. I am proud of me. Running Start has changed my life and I cannot wait to apply to be a 2021 Personal Motivator, so I can encourage the next cohort of athletes.

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