January 17 2018
Renee DeMarsh thrives on extreme physical challenges. She'll soon participate in the 2018 World Marathon Challenge.
SAINT PAUL, MINN.
I have struggled with epilepsy throughout my life, and growing up, I was never very active. When I was in my late 20s, I decided I wanted to get my health under control, so I started running. I thought that my family wouldn’t understand my goal of becoming a runner, so I hid my plan from my husband and daughter by running around our kitchen when they were out. I was afraid that they would laugh at me if they saw me running on the streets, but I’m sure I looked 100 times more ridiculous jogging around our table!
I worked up to a solid hour in the kitchen before I took my runs outdoors. Since I didn’t have running shoes, I ran barefoot. When winter started rolling in, I knew I needed to buy shoes, and that meant it was time to explain my new hobby to my family. When I told my husband, he didn’t laugh at all—although I think it wasn’t until he witnessed me racing that the information really sank in.
For my first race ever, I ran the Get in Gear 10k. I’d always run alone, never with other people. The gratifying experience of running with dozens of racers filled me with so much enthusiasm, I spent all 6.2 miles waving and smiling. After that, I wanted to do races all the time!
I still often run alone on the trails by my house, but now I love sharing my passion for running with others. Soon after the 10k, I became involved with the Minnesota Running Wild Club. Training as part of a group has encouraged me to push myself in ways I never imagined. I have also been able to share my hobby with my daughter. Last Thanksgiving, we did our own turkey trot together. There weren’t any scheduled races around our house, so we marked off six miles in our area to run.
Over the past five years, running has changed my life in so many ways. I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin, and I’ve been able to alleviate the side effects of my epilepsy. I now miss less work and recover more quickly than ever. Furthermore, the drugs I use to treat my disease can cause osteoporosis, and running strengthens my bones. In the next year, I would like to race a duathlon or a triathlon, since I recently started swimming. I look forward to raising the bar for myself and trying new things.