HUMANS OF BELLAIRE – Kelli Tomlinson
“Having played sports all my life, I needed something to stay in shape during my freshman year of college. Austin is a very active city, and two of my friends said, ‘We’re going to do the Austin Half Marathon. It’s in February, and you should do it with us,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I signed up, and it turns out they did not sign up, but I already paid the $90 fee, so I was like, ‘Well, I guess I’d better start training for this.’ I didn’t do a great job of training, but I went out there on the day, ran the whole thing, and I was surprised that I loved it. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to see how good I can be. What’s cool about running is you’re trying to be better than you were yesterday.
It was my second year of teaching, I was 23 years old [when I ran my first full marathon]. [My first thought was] ‘26.2 miles is a long way to drive, so why am I running this distance,’ but it was the Houston Marathon in 2016, and it was amazing. It was amazing to see how many people were out there running, supporting and cheering me on. I had the best first marathon experience.
Houston is flat unlike Boston, which is known to be a tough course because there is a lot of uphill and downhill, so the first time I ran the Boston Marathon I struggled because I just focused on the uphill. I went to Huntsville to run because they have more hills than [Houston] and Terry Hershey Park. What hurt me was that I didn’t focus much on running downhill. If you don’t prepare for those then your quads are totally trashed. The second time [preparing for the Boston Marathon] I worked on more downhill. Since we have our parking garage now, I’d start at the very bottom level and I’d run up and run up and run up to the top, then I’d run hard back down. I did that 10 times. It was pretty tough, but it certainly helped so I could take it downhill; I didn’t go out so hard.
[The second Boston Marathon] was this past April. I was hoping to [beat my time], but about halfway through, my knee started hurting, so 14 miles in I stopped at a medical tent, and they wrapped my knee. It’s fine now, but I don’t know what really happened at the moment. It was a tough 12 miles to finish, but I had to dig deep. It was the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, which made me want to run that marathon and get first place. I couldn’t believe someone would do that. People have trained so hard for this race, they have to qualify and it’s a big thing. And with my knee I was thinking, ‘I’m hurting right now, but think about how many people didn’t get to finish the race in 2013. So whatever it takes, finish this race.’
I listen to music, but the cool thing about Boston is there are spectators lining every mile of the course so it’s fun to interact with them and high-five the little kids.
The biggest thing I started doing is, at the start line, I have a moment of gratitude. Being grateful that my body is healthy enough to do this, healthy enough to train and people in Houston care enough to wish me luck in Boston and see how I’m doing. I know it’s going to get hard, and it’s going to hurt, but I signed up for this, and I get to learn about myself in the process.
My soccer team is super supportive about [my] running, and I share the mental side of things about running to my team for advice. For running, you have to prepare, you have to train, but there’s such a mental side to things. When you do start hurting, you’re like ‘Ugh, I’m at mile 17, I still have a long way to go,’ but then it’s ‘yeah, you’ve done that so many times and you can do it,’ so I try to relay the mental stuff. I didn’t love running high school, but I love it now, so I try to give some of that to them.
[For anyone preparing to run a marathon], just trust the process and enjoy it. There are going to be bumps in the road, and that’s okay. You’re about to do something that not many people in this country or world have done, so enjoy the tired legs, the chafing, the hunger — embrace that and have some fun.”