What We Can Learn about Running from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges lists being a “Non-fast marathoner” as one of two things in her twitter bio. The other, being the mayor of Minneapolis. Whenever I see public figures identify as marathoners, I want to know their story. I tweeted back, asking what “non-fast” really meant.
It’s true! I got beat by a guy who ran the whole race backwards!
After some more back and forth, I asked if she would be willing to share her running story here on the blog. We talked last week and I had the opportunity to hear that she is in fact, a proud “non-fast marathoner.”
It was one of three things I learned from her that I think are universal running axioms we should all live by.
First, her story.
How Mayor Betsy Hodges Began Running
Image by Tony Weber
20 years ago, Mayor Hodges was 80 pounds heavier and smoked a pack a day. Somehow, she also played ultimate frisbee in a local league. Since ultimate frisbee is a sprinting sport, she realized, “I don’t want to humiliate myself… I might need some conditioning.”
She began by getting on a treadmill at 3 miles an hour, but could only go 5 minutes. She then started walking around her block, then the neighborhood and eventually, she could run… slowly. She said, “I started getting regular exercise through running, but it never occurred to me that I could be a runner.”
In 1999, she ran her first 10k. This is when she was beaten by the guy running backward. “I told you, I’m not fast!” she reiterated with a laugh.
She next set her sights on a 10 miler. She recalls in that race, “I was so slow they were literally putting the clock on the truck as I finished.” Running became more and more a part of her life, and she set a goal to complete a 10 miler in under 100 minutes.
She did that in 2007, finishing in 98 minutes and 40 seconds… victory!
Winning her First Marathon
In 2009, an election year, she kept doing longer and longer long runs, adding 10% each week. She said, “I thought maybe I could do a marathon…no, there’s no time to train in an election year… but it was the best way to relieve stress, so I kept running.”
She said by August, she thought, “I really could do a marathon!” Unfortunately, all of the local marathons were full, and she didn’t want to travel. She was bummed until she realized there’s nothing stopping you from running your own 26.2 miles.
So that’s what she did… and won!
At age 40, she ran a 1 woman marathon. Her husband rode alongside on a bike, carrying water, and friends came and ran different parts with her. She said “I wasn’t fast… I walked some… and accidentally ended up running 27.4 miles… I didn’t fully think out the course….”
“Marathons are hard!” she said. “There’s a reason it’s a thing people aspire to.“
In 2010, wanting the full experience, she ran the Minneapolis Marathon. She didn’t win that one but enjoyed the experience. Now, she thinks she’ll stick to half marathons.
You can cheer on Mayor Hodges at the Minneapolis Half Marathon, June 1.
After hearing her story, three things jumped out at me as universal running truths we can all live by. I think they are even more powerful coming from a self-proclaimed “non-fast marathoner” and someone who truly wants to inspire others to get active and improve their quality of life through running.
1. Being Slow is Ok
She kept stressing that being slow is ok. “It can be off-putting if people think they have to be above average, they might not start.” It doesn’t matter your pace, or where you finish, but the fact that you’re out there, running, keeping yourself healthy is what’s critical.
The larger lesson is to not compare yourself to others but to create a discipline that will help you challenge yourself and lead a healthier life.
2. Find your Reason
For Mayor Hodges, she wanted to get in shape for another sport. She liked the way running made her feel and created a healthy habit that has improved her all-around well-being. Running keeps her sane. Even this past year, when she was in full swing of the Minneapolis mayoral race, she found time to run 5 or 6 times a week. Maybe not far or long, but enough time to clear her head.
Find your reasons, and never loose sight of what it is that keeps you motivated to lead a healthy, active life.
3. Keep Pushing Yourself
Mayor Hodges went from barely being able to run for 5 minutes, to completing two full marathons (and lots of other distance in between). At each new distance, the next distance seemed impossible.
As you think about pushing yourself, what is it that you think is impossible? What goals do you have right now that seem out of reach? If you continue pushing yourself into those things, you might just surprise yourself at what you’re able to accomplish.
Leading by Example
There is tremendous power and good in the policies that Minneapolis has to become more bike/walk/run friendly. From the citywide wellness program to the bike and pedestrian master plans. It has helped the region become the fittest in the nation.
I also believe the personal actions of our leaders are important. Before we hung up, Mayor Hodges reiterated that “I know if I can do this… increase my well-being and mental health… I know where I was and I can do it, anybody can.”
May that inspire you to complete your own “marathon” be that 1 mile or 27.4.