This is the time of year when a lot of us shove the running shoes to the back of the closet. This group might make you keep them out, or buy them for the first time - and put more miles on them than you ever thought possible.
The members greet each other like old friends, but most of them have only known each other for a few months. Their ages, jobs and hobbies run the gamut but they have one thing in common. They HATE running. So you’re probably wondering … why are they?!?!?
The credit, or some might say the blame, goes to personal trainer and coach, Loran Storts. “In my profession I meet a lot of people who say, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that’,” he says. So he started a free program called, “I Can”. “I just said, ‘how do you know you can’t until you try?’ And then if you go from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’ it’s amazing what life transformations happen.”
Nate Haggard had already started transforming his life when he applied. “My right arm is pretty limited in what I can do, my right arm and leg, my whole right side is weaker than my left side,” he explains, “but running is something you can do no matter what, if you have two legs, you can go.”
And that’s just what Nate did after losing more than one hundred pounds several years ago, but he could never get past that 5K mark - until now. “It feels really, really good! The first day I went four miles I took a picture of my watch and put it on Facebook because I was so excited!”
But “I Can” isn’t about running four miles. Allison Butler found that out the hard way. “So I sign up and then he says part of the program is a full marathon and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh!’”
Allison’s always been a sprinter. Her dad, a former track star at Iowa State, was the distance runner. “He was like, ‘We’re going to run Dam to Dam.’ I was like, ‘Dad, I can’t… you’ll have to peel me off the sidewalk!’”
The plan was to train for the 2013 race, but in September of last year Allison’s dad died after having a massive heart attack. It was a huge loss. Allison’s dad had raised her on his own from the time she was seven, when her mom died of breast cancer. “I cried,” she says, “I pitied myself. I asked, why me? I’m 23 and I don’t have parents, this is so unfair.”
That attitude started to change when she met with coach Loran. He said he would train Allison so she could run the event for her dad, and in June she did. “I started crying and I sprinted the last mile because I could feel him next to me, pushing me,” she remembers. “so I did Dam to Dam with my dad, just not the way I originally thought I would.”
That half marathon is a major milestone, the halfway point and no one gets there without the “I Can” mentors. “We were all in the same boat in that none of us were runners, none of us were good at this and yet we pushed each other and were constantly challenging each other,” says Danielle Fengel. She was a member of last year’s team. An injury stopped her from crossing the finish line, but it didn’t stop her from changing her life. “Just thinking about things differently, that it’s ok to put myself out there and say, this is totally outside of my comfort zone but it’s ok, I’m going to do it.”
The “it” for the “I Can” team is the 26.2 miles of the Des Moines Marathon. It’s farther than any of them dreamed they could go. It’s something they thought they’d never even attempt. It’s the thing they now have in common.
Getting hurt means Allison has gone from being a runner to a cheerleader, helping her team mates push through pain, fatigue and doubt. It means the world to Nate. “I couldn’t have done it without these guys,” he says at the finish line, “it’s a group effort. It’s my two legs but it’s everyone else behind me that got me through.”
They once had “I can’t” in common. Now, it’s “I can”.
“It’s just one foot in front of the other, one more mile,” Allison says, “you learn that you really can do anything and nothing is impossible.”
Even though some couldn’t complete the race, because of injury or because they left this earth too soon, this team crossed the finish line together.
“I think about my dad, him next to me, pushing me. I will finish this marathon one day, just not today.”
Coach Loran will be accepting applications for the “I Can” program in January. For more information visit coachloran.com.