February 21 2018
Karen Lyons started running to escape hardship–and couldn’t stop.
I grew up one of four children raised by a single mother in Chicago. We were a low-income family, and it was often a struggle to make ends meet.
When I started running, I never thought it would change my life. But after joining the track team in high school, I tapped into a newfound talent. I was the first person in my family to graduate—and the first to consider going to college. The experience of getting scouted by recruiters opened up a whole new world.
I accepted a scholarship opportunity for Valdosta State University and moved to Georgia to attend school. When I first arrived, I felt completely out of my league. It was humbling and hard. The other girls were so fast, and the pace of multiple practices, weight training and classes was crazy. But I knew quitting was not an option. Running was the only way to for me to finish college. In four years, I learned a lot about mental toughness and time management skills.
These lessons made an incredible impact on my life: I went on to attend post-graduate programs and to work my way up as a specialist for IBM. I’m not sure I ever would have attained this success had it not been for running.
The drive I developed as a sprinter now allows me to train for longer races. I ran my first marathon after gaining nearly 80 pounds during a long period of bed rest when I was pregnant with my daughter. Through training, I was able to lose all the weight. I hope that my running continues to be a lesson for my child: You never have to settle for your current situation—if you push yourself, you can live the life you want.
MY BEST ADVICE: JUST GET THROUGH
Running, along with a lot of things in life, rests on staying tough. My personal mantra is, “Just get through.” I used to say this to myself during difficult times in track and school, and it still helps me remember that tough times will pass.