December 12 2017
Meet Rhonda-Marie and Steven Parke, two ultrarunners who discovered their love for each other through running.
LOS ANGELES, CALIF.
I grew up in a running family. My parents, aunts and uncles were all marathon runners. But as a child, I preferred to stay indoors—practicing classical piano, starring in local plays and fantasizing about acting in movies one day.
After I graduated from the University of Iowa, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of becoming a professional actress. At the same time, my friend from Iowa and I decided to virtually train together for the Chicago Marathon as a way to stay connected while living far apart.
Los Angeles was a tougher city than I anticipated. When I went on auditions, casting directors would tell me that I couldn’t get certain parts unless I changed my look. They had no problem pointing out my physical flaws and recommending I get cosmetic surgery to “fix” them.
I could have broken under the scrutiny—but I didn’t, in part because of running. Going out for long runs helped me clear my head and bring me back to reality. When my friend and I crossed the finish line in Chicago that September, all of the criticisms and nasty things people had said to me suddenly disappeared from my mind. Running 26.2 miles without stopping was proof that I have beautiful qualities: I am tenacious, I am dedicated and I never give up.
The marathon also taught me that if I hustle, I can reach my goals. Over the following years, television, movie and stage roles started to come my way. I even won an award for best actress at the Fargo Film Festival.
I’ve also completed four marathons. Recently, at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half, I ran a 1:39, good enough to place 328 out of 8,103 runners. Needless to say, I was proud of myself! My next goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Today, I believe in myself, no matter what people say.