We’ve often said that one of the best things about running has been the people we meet along the way. We rarely go on a trip without meeting someone new or getting to know someone we already know even better. Sometimes it’s just a brief encounter – a short exchange of views or sharing a particular moment in or after a race. Other times there is a connection and we become friends for life.

The runners we meet all have their own story – their reasons for running, their favourite events and their running goals. They come with a wide range of abilities: some enjoy running, for others it’s a bit of a trial, but they have all found something in running that fulfils a need.

We’ve met some amazing runners over the years and we always find their stories interesting. We’d like to introduce you to some of these people, and we’ve asked then to tell you a bit abut themselves in their own words. Today’s Friday Friend is Mary Anne Marciante

Mary Anne

Mary Anne is 63 years old and an American originally from New York. We met her in August 2018 after running the Tunnel Vision Marathon – a friendly, low-key event in a small town outside of Seattle. She had travelled there with Lisa, a friend and fellow member of her running club in their home town in Tennessee. We only spent a few hours with Mary Anne and Lisa but something clicked and we’ve kept in touch. 

Mary Anne presented as a lively and attractive woman, full of life and thrilled that she had just qualified to run the Boston Marathon after having had some time out from running. We had all travelled a long way to this particular race but we could never have guessed the story behind this strong and charismatic woman and the difficult but courageous journey she had taken to get there.

We often hear people saying how important running is for their mental health and well being but for Mary Anne running almost certainly saved her life.

Let’s hear from Mary Anne about her story.

When did you start running?

I started running in high school to get conditioned for my gymnastics season. I ran my first race, a 10k, in August 1978, in Saville, NY. 

A fun fact about running back then: no sports bras, no women’s anything. We ran in cut-offs and cotton tee shirts they gave you when you registered. In 1978 in New York, the community was starting to promote women’s running with 5ks and 10ks popping up all over (Bonnie Bell Women’s races, and L’eggs Pantyhose as well as Corporate Challenges). 

I was shopping at my favorite shop in town and saw an advertisement for a 10k the following week with a the winner receiving a $300 shopping spree. I loved this store and thought, “Why not”? Up to this date, I would usually run 2 miles after work on the local high school track. This was a Saturday and the race was the following week so this was what I thought was a brilliant plan: run 2.5 miles on Sunday, 3 on Monday, 3.5 Tuesday, 4.5 on Wednesday, and 5.5 on Friday. Crazy right? Remember I was 21 at the time. I woke up to a hazy hot and humid morning on that August day in New York. I had on a bra, race cotton tee shirt, cut-offs, and big hunky Nike sneakers! 

I started running and by Mile 4 was dying! Just at this time a girl with red, frizzy hair came up along side me and said, “You are keeping a good pace, would you mind pacing me”? I had no idea what that meant but was too exhausted to even say yes, so I just nodded my head. 

I didn’t win the race but finished with just under an 8 minute pace. Turns out she belonged to a newly-formed running group that her brother started. He was featured in a runner magazine that month because he was fast and was running the NYC marathon in 3 months. At the end of the race, she introduced me to him and I joined the club and that started my running/racing career.

Why do you run/What do you get out of running?

At the time, I was working and all my friends were going to college. My Mom thought college was a waste of money. “Just work, save your money, find a good Catholic man, have babies and live happily ever after”! That seemed like such a death sentence and though I didn’t know it at the the time, I was very depressed! Nobody in 1978 understood depression but I realized after I ran that race that I was happy all day!

So why do I run? I think that running is a passion of the spirit. And explaining the spirit is never easy. Running is the expressway to self-confidence, self-awareness, self-discipline and self-reliance. You learn that personal responsibility–commitment–sacrifice–determination–and persistence are the only means of improvement. Running, you come to understand, is a profound, far-reaching and never ending contest with yourself.

Running also gave me the stamina to get my college degree at night while working full time. I then went on to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Accountant as you say in your neck of the woods.

And Running got me through raising two stepdaughters and an ugly divorce!

I am attaching a finishing photo at the Tunnel Marathon 2018–the marathon that I met you wonderful ladies. If you remember, that was my breakout marathon after recovering  from 2.5 years of a complete emotional breakdown!

I attempted to end my life on my 60th birthday and ironically running marathons saved me. As I was about to swallow a bunch of pills, a thought flashed through my mind. What if this feeling was like Mile 16 when you think you can’t go one step further, but you don’t walk off the course. You take it one step at the time and then you realize at Mile 17 that you have your second wind and you wouldn’t have known that at Mile 16 if you walked off the course. So I thought, “what if I wake up feeling better tomorrow but I won’t know because I am dead?”. I spit out all the pills and never thought of killing myself again.  Shortly after that a dear friend got me out of bed and said I was going to run races again. Ten months later, I ran my 43rd marathon and qualified for Boston and met you wonderful ladies. Truly a miracle!

During the Tunnel marathon, I decided to dedicate each mile to one person who helped me during the 2.5 years of my recovery.

What is your best running achievement?

I am proud to have run 47 marathons, tons of halfs, relays, 10ks and 5ks.

Running bucket list?

I am currently signed-up for the Abbott Six Marathon World Tour and planning on running Berlin next September. I have already completed Boston, New York and Chicago. I still have London, Berlin and Tokyo to do. I also would like to run the 7 continents. To date, I have run in Europe, Asia and North America. 

Favourite race, one you would recommend to others?

A race to recommend to others? That’s easy – New York City Marathon. I am from New York and New Yorkers love marathoners. You will be cheered for the full 26.2 miles. Plus, NY knows how to pull off a marathon.

I was planning on running again this November but had to defer because I had an emergency hysterectomy for a giant fibroid! Once again running saved my life. It was discovered while running. I kept getting an uncomfortable feeling when training (around Mile 15). The fibroid was pressing on my pelvic bone. It was suspected that I had a pelvic stress fracture, but after a sonogram it was shown to be a fibroid. I had it removed, it healed really fast and I feel amazing now!

It’s been a long journey but at 63 I am now leading my best life!

When we discussed doing this series of interviews, we knew we’d have no problem finding people with amazing stories. But Mary Anne’s journey is a wonderful confirmation of how running can help people overcome all kinds of adversity. Good luck completing your future challenges, Mary Anne. We hope to run with you again one day.

Post-marathon with Mary Anne and Lisa (Northbend WA, August 2018). A fortuitous meeting!