Wendy Phaff:
My Running-Mom Hero

Wendy Phaff is my personal hero because when she is down and out, she will shed her share of tears, but then she will put a big smile on her face and try again and again and again.

Wendy Phaff

That's Wendy Phaff, running through the streets of Nashville in 2007. "A million degrees out there, sun blaring down from above...a word of advice to you: don't run a half marathon in the blaring heat with a BLACK FELT COWBOY HAT."

She is not an elite runner, she is a runner like you and me who goes out there on good days, bad days, has overcome many injuries, and in spite of a lack of energy, sleep deprived, endless exams, starting a new career, raising two kids who are entering their teen years, shoe heals falling off and everything else in life, she keeps on running.

Wendy Phaff has the most amazing spirit of anyone I have ever known. She's one of those people you can't look at and say oh she's just really lucky or she''s just really talented or anything. Nope, her special secret lies in her special ability to keep going no matter what.

She has run two full marathons, several half marathons and she is an avid fundraiser for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Team in Training. Six of the events she has completed have been with TNT, raising a minimum of $2000 for each one, she has raised over $20,000, $10,000 of it in her first year.

"Everyone wants to give the first time around," she says, "then after that they realize you're going to keep coming back." But that doesn't keep her down, her fund raising endeavors are as valiant as her running. "I don't mind panhandling for charity," she says. She's raised money standing in front of super markets, and makes all kind of creative gifts. So far I've received a hand-made beaded bracelet, a blessing stone and a t-shirt stating in TNT's famous purple and green, "No matter what the clock says, you'll have a great time."

And have a great time she does. The difference between Wendy Phaff and the person next to her who is ready to quit, Wendy describes her first marathon experience, "I have this theory that you can't feel pain when you smile, so no matter how bad or lousy I felt, I kept smiling."

Not that she hasn't endured her share of injuries, in fact her first marathon, she ran in San Diego against doctor's orders after suffering 2 stress fractures, and and a hip injury. As a result she was forced to take a shortcut at the 18-mile-mark and head straight for the finish line. But did that stop Wendy Phaff? Nope, she was back the next year for more.

Her most memorable part of her first marathon is running into another struggling runner named Nancy. Nancy, running side by side with her, wouldn't stop complaining because she had a bad experience training and told Wendy if anyone had told her what it would be like at this point, she wouldn't have done it.

Wendy's response, "Nancy, you're at mile 25 of a marathon. What are you complaining for!?" Then she proceeded to spend the next mile trying to cheer up Nancy and as a result completely forgot about her own pain and discomfort.

And having run two marathons myself, I can now agree that the difference is all in the attitude. I got pretty grumpy myself at the end of the San Francisco marathon, not that I wasn't having a great time, and not that I don't now remember it nostalgically, but somewhere around mile 25 I remember feeling like the finish line was never going to come. The next year I resolved to keep my spirits up the entire time as well as the spirits of those I was running with and it made all the difference.

Wendy Phaff is the one who got me to turn my marathon dreams into a reality. After reading her account of running the San Fransico half marathon, I was like I have no excuses left, I've got to do this! And she is the one who inspires me to keep going. When I'm feeling sore, or the weather is cold, or I can't get anything done because my baby's driving me crazy, I look at Wendy overcoming every obstacle with a smile on her face and I realize I have nothing to complain about...yeah and she's the one who's taught me no one will listen if I complain anyway...lol.

We were going to run the NYC marathon together in 2007 but I dropped out since I would be five months pregnant and she kept on going until she sprained her ankle a month before the marathon, during her 18 mile trail run...and then had no choice but to walk back the 4 1/2 miles to her car with a sprained ankle.

Meanwhile I just assumed she was taking a break until life slowed down a little for her, since she was already getting up at 4am to study from her finals before her children awoke, then going to school and then to work. But nope, in September of 2008, I got an email for her that she was fund raising again, this time she was running the Hampton's half marathon.

Her ultimate goal, she says "I won't stop running 'till I get a good finishing picture."

Since Wendy Phaff's account of running her first San Francisco half marathon was so inspirational to me, I have asked her to share it with you. You can check it out here.

Check out my interview with Wendy here.

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