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Women Who Move: Michelle Schwartz

As a mom with three children all under the age of four, fitness was the farthest thing from my mind. But when a friend of mine mentioned that she was walk-running a half marathon, I was intrigued. I decided I could use some time to myself, so I started running.

I bought a dollar store watch and began training, alternating running and walking. I ran more, walked less, and eventually, I lost the walk altogether. Because my kids were so young, it was tough to find time for my workouts, so I would meet with a group of women at 5:30 every morning before my family awoke.

I started racing with a few 5ks. Eventually, I decided it was time to tackle a half marathon, which had been a goal of mine for so long. In 2006, I finished my first 13.1-mile race in just over two hours. The shocking part of the experience was that I didn’t feel right ending my journey with a half. I wanted to be a marathon runner.

I chose to run the Chicago Marathon that same year. I loved the race and set a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I ran a number of marathons, but each time, I fell just shy of the standard. In 2010, I ran the Disney Marathon and finally did it. I qualified for Boston by 30 seconds.

Last year, I ran the Boston Marathon. I’m convinced there is no other race in the world like it. I had my music turned off for all 26.2 miles. I didn’t want to miss a thing. Where I live is very flat, and the course’s hills felt like mountains to me. I kept telling myself that I had to reach the top of Heartbreak Hill. Somehow, I pushed through and made it to the finish line. This experience continues to stay with me today.

In just a few years, I’ve gone from a busy mom who could barely run a mile to a Boston Marathon finisher. My journey has changed me as a person. Running is now a part of my identity. Many friends ask me how to begin training for a marathon. I tell them, “If you’re ready to prioritize, then you can do it just like I did!”