Pay it forward. A small action can have a lasting effect.

Family Bridges

Pay it forward. A small action can have a lasting effect.

Contributed by
Ashley Reed

I loved running in high school. Every afternoon when the school alarm went off, I would rush into the locker room to get changed. I didn’t mind the perpetual heat and sticky humidity of South Florida. During cross country season, my team would run from the school to the nearby beach boardwalk, sweating through our miles with the Atlantic Ocean stretching out on our east side.
Running became a spiritual experience for me – one where I could sort through my thoughts and burn through any troubling teenage angst.

When I was in my Junior Year of high school, my cross country coach introduced a new “volunteer coach.” Her name was Elaine, and she was an elementary school teacher who ran marathons and coached other runners. I immediately looked up to her as someone I wanted to be in the future – tan, fit, confident, and churning out races in the middle of having a career and family.

One day, I shared with Elaine my goal to run a half marathon – I was 17 years old, and didn’t know where to start. She showed excitement for my goal, and helped me pick a race. Once I signed up for the Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon (after begging my parents to pay the registration fee as my Birthday present), Elaine put together a training plan that I could incorporate with my track pre-season schedule.

Having never run longer than 8 miles, I dreamed what it would be like to cross the finish line of a half marathon. After attending my first race expo, I almost burst from excitement; I had never known how big the running community was, and how many products were out there to clothe, comfort, and strengthen runners. As the only member of my family who pursued running, and having seen very few others pounding the sizzling sidewalks of my neighborhood, discovering a whole community of runners was like stumbling upon a new world.

Race day finally came, and I beat my goal to complete the race in 2 hours by crossing the finish line in 1 hour, 55 minutes. I was exhausted, but also felt incredibly accomplished. The next time I saw Elaine, she had brought me a gift basket with a 13.1 tumbler, running stickers, and a card congratulating me on my finish.

Elaine was one of the adults during my teenage years who cemented my love of running, and inspired me to check out the world of running beyond high school cross country and track meets. As of right now, I am currently signed up for my first ever marathon this fall. Elaine’s small action of taking an interest in my goal definitely has had a lasting effect in my life. So Elaine, if you are out there, THANK YOU!

Can you think of a time when someone made a small action or investment in your life that had a positive impact? Share in the comments below!

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