December 12 2017
Meet Rhonda-Marie and Steven Parke, two ultrarunners who discovered their love for each other through running.
CLUE CREW MEMBER FOR JEOPARDY!
LOS ANGELES, CA
I’ve always been a competitive girl. (Thanks, Dad!) I started playing soccer at age 6 and picked up softball soon after. I often ran for conditioning, and I have good memories of jogging with my father as he sang old Army songs to keep us going.
During high school, my soccer career came to a standstill when I tore ligaments in my knee. My injuries healed for a short time only to tear again. By the time I was in college, I was left with just 30 percent of my meniscus and a non-functioning ACL. My doctor told me I would no longer be able to play contact sports or run ever again.
But a decade later, a friend talked me into training for an Olympic-distance triathlon to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I decided to give it a shot. The first time I tried to run a mile, I was completely out of breath—but amazingly my knee didn’t hurt.
After five months of training, I could run eight miles and my knee felt great. That year, I raised almost $9,000 for charity and completed my first two triathlons in Maui and in San Diego.
A few months later, a funny thing happened. I went to cheer on a few of my friends who were running the Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. At the last minute, there were two extra bibs available so my friend Aashna and I decided to walk the course for fun. Then at the starting line, we got caught up in the excitement and started running.
When we reached mile 4, Aashna told me that she had never run more than 6.2 miles at one time. We reached mile 7, and I said, “You know I have never run more than 8 miles at one time.” We decided to see if we could outdo my farthest distance. As we reached mile 9, we were both feeling pretty good. We wanted to finish!
During the last mile, we passed one of our friends who was struggling, so the three of us finished the race together, hand in hand. I realized that if I just finished a half marathon without preparing for it, I could likely do so much more. Endurance athletes say that racing is addictive. It’s true. This was pretty much the beginning of the end for me.
I used to swear I had no desire to ever run long distances or complete a half (let alone a full) Ironman triathlon. But somehow last July, I completed my first Ironman 70.3 triathlon. In August 2011, I found myself backstage on the set of Jeopardy, where I work, logging into our cameraman’s laptop precisely at noon when registration opened for Ironman Canada 2012. I’m now proud to call myself a runner and an Ironman triathlete!