Guest Post by ENELL Ambassador Allison Elliott-Shannon:
“Allison sucks! Allison sucks!”
That was pretty much the soundtrack to gym class for me, grades 1-8. In first and second grades I hid from the teacher because I thought jumping jacks were boring. Third grade was the high point of my P.E. career, as we learned the Virginia Reel year and I played on a competitive tee ball team; but I quit tee ball the next year when I found myself the only girl on the team, and was subject to much spitting and stomping of my hands by my teammates. That was the beginning of the downhill slide, and by fourth grade I was living in fear of being picked last for kickball /dodgeball/basketball/softball teams (which happened often).
Having a sadistic gym teacher, who encouraged kids to bully one another to toughen up the weaklings, didn’t help. By middle school, I would do practically anything to get out of running laps or having to serve in volleyball.
I had a brief flirtation with badminton, but otherwise I was solidly Not Athletic. My peers thought so, my gym teachers thought so, and I agreed. Add to my general dislike of sports that I was on the short side, with stubby legs and zero upper body strength, and it’s small surprise that my high school varsity letter was from the Academic Team.
With that background, it’s surprising that at the age of 35 I put hundreds of miles a year on my running shoes. I started running at 33, when my then-fiancé encouraged me to join him on the road. He told me he wanted a running partner, and perhaps I was swayed out of my right mind by love and our upcoming nuptials; I agreed to start training.
It was slow going at first. I would run to the end of the block then come to a halt, gasping for air. Slowly that block became two blocks, then a quarter of a mile, and so on until I reached a mile, then two miles, then 3.1. Over time, 3.1 stretched out into five, at which point I decided to start working on speed rather than distance. I can now do a heart-pounding 5k in a time that probably beats anything I could do as a thin-but-out-of-shape 20 year old. I ‘m not super fast for a runner, but I’m fast for me.
Running has been a physical challenge, yes, but even more of a mental one. I have learned things about myself: that I’m more motivated by positive rewards than by punishment, that I can go longer if I don’t know how far I’m really going, and that feeling mentally defeated is worse for me than any fatigue of the body. I have also learned, by talking to more experienced runners (including my fellow ENELL Ambassadors) that every runner has a voice in their head constantly telling them to quit; the secret of running is to say “I will do it” to your brain in an authoritative tone.
Finally, I’ve learned that running is about working with what you have in terms of your body. I don’t have long legs, my feet underpronate, and my bosom requires industrial-strength support. I look like nobody’s idea of a runner. But through running, I’ve found a new confidence in my body. I’ve learned that the road is a judgment-free zone, where it’s just me and my heart rate (and often my husband, who slows down his speedy pace to stay with me). On the road there are no taunting peers, no cruel gym teachers, and no boys trying to spit on me. I’ve learned to take pride in my muscled legs. When the pedicurist looks at my broken-off toenails and asks “What happened?” I’m proud to say “I’m a runner.” My body is imperfect, but I’m making it stronger through using it to meet my goals.
When friends who see my ceaseless flow of social media posts about my latest distances say they are impressed by my running and wish they could do the same, I say with all sincerity “If I can do it, anyone can.” Because it’s true: if the girl who literally ran and hid from gym class can become the women who laces up her shoes and hits the road regularly, there is hope for us all. As the quote popularly attributed to George Eliot says, “It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”
Allison Elliott-Shannon became a runner for the first time in her early 30s. Starting with a short run to the end of the block, she built on small successes over the course of about a year, until she completed her first competitive 5k. Now working on moving into the 10k range and improving her speed, she has been a fan of Enell since being introduced to the Enell Sport early on in her running program.
Allison is a marketing director, writer, and history nerd, and a native of the Kentucky Appalachian Knobs. She now lives in Lexington, Ky., with her husband and stepdaughter. She spends her workdays thinking of ways to help students and faculty engage with a large academic library system. Event planning is part of her day job, and also figures into her volunteer service for the Junior League of Lexington and the historic Bodley-Bullock House in downtown Lexington.
When she isn’t rambling about the Bluegrass state, Allison enjoys travel further afield. Recent trips have taken her to Charleston, S.C., Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City. She and her family are big fans of Disney Parks, and she managed to set foot in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland last year. Her current goal is to get back to Europe, to revisit the places she saw while living in London as a college student. She never met a historical marker she didn’t like, and seeks out historical tours of every city she visits.
Other minor life obsessions for Allison include: retro advertising, vintage jewelry, and the collected works of Jane Austen. Her favorite American novel is All the King’s Men, and she would love to own a vintage Ford Mustang. When procrastinating, she turns to Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and the IKEA catalog for pleasant distraction. She also makes one heck of a pan of brownies.
Allison runs for her health, to spend time with her husband, and to challenge herself. Someday she will compete during the Disney Princess Half Marathon event.