While I knew Laura Council for several years (she's that friendly face at QFC after all) I did not get to know her until she started coming out to our training groups. She was always on the sidelines of her very busy running family, cheering them on, helping to volunteer, and being "the mom." Turns out Laura didn't really know herself all that well either. It was a delight for both of us (and everyone in our training group) to get to know Laura Council better. This woman is so funny, smart, kind, beautiful, intelligent, creative, and oh so tough! Read on to learn how she transformed into being not just a runner, but a woman with a very strong identity who ran up 4500 feet to the top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island.
By Laura Council
After my dad passed away my sophomore year, we moved to a small town in North Dakota. When volleyball season rolled around, I was asked by the coach to come play. There were no tryouts. They just needed girls. My coach was very sweet and a great coach. After two years of playing JV, I made varsity my senior year and started every game. I was voted "most improved."
My family today has always been into sports, starting with my husband Cordell. I used to get mad going to his races. With my small babies in tow, I'd sit around and wait for him to finish. Of course, once he finished I was always very proud of him. I guess I was mad because I never took or made time for myself. I was always spending my time trying to be the best mom and wife I could be. As my kids got into sports, I made it a priority to support them in whatever way I could. I gave them the support I wished I'd had for myself growing up.
I got the running bug the year our whole family worked the Seattle Rock N Roll expo. Everyone was so excited about the race and there was tons of information about other races you could run. The one that caught my eye was called "The Princess Challenge." I LOVE Disneyland! Cordell said to me and my daughters, "If you take up running, I will send you there." We were like, "Run 13 miles? Not us!" The following year, when I watched Cordell and three out of four of our kids cross the finish line of the Rock N Roll half marathon, I started to think a lot harder about running. That spring, Cordell ran his very first Boston Marathon. It's hard to describe just what it was like to be there and be a part of this event. The cheers and tears of all the people really got to me. When Cordell finished, we both cried. I grabbed him in a hug and said, "You just ran Frickin' Boston!"
Then one day Cordell saw a posting on Facebook for a 5K/Weight Loss class. When he told me about the class, I took it personally. Truth be told, I signed up for the class only to prove to Cordell that I would fail. I went into Route 16 Running & Walking, where the class was being offered, and told my new coach "this has to be about me, not him." I was so nervous! My coach settled me down, and we headed out on our first run. I was scared to death to fail in front of all these other runners. But like my sweet volleyball coach, my running coach actually coached me and I started to relax.
The following night, inspired to see if I could improve my time, I parked at Route 16 and went out to run the same route that we'd run the night before at running class. The next thing I know, here comes Cordell with about five very fit and skinny girls from his own running group. As they passed me and sped away, I started to cry. I thought to myself, "He comes to running club to be seen with thin people."
I kept feeling sad until the day my running coach gave me a very challenging hill workout on the trails. I loved every bit of this run, and felt great... well, until I fell. But somehow I got back up and that night a fellow Dirty Girl told me I was ready and able to run a 5K. So I did run a 5K, and that "most improved" feeling I got from Volleyball came back to me in a huge way. Then I realized, "This is why my husband runs. It's not because of the skinny girls. He runs for the feeling that running gives you." It was a huge awakening.
I was starting to love the whole running group thing, and now there was talk about a race called "Orcas" or something like that. I kept hearing other runners moaning about how hard it was. At the same time they were all signing up for this race! My coach told me I should think about signing up too. I was like, "yeah, right," but then I realized the day of this race was the same day of my birthday. This didn't seem like a coincidence. I was sold.
Running he Orcas Island 25K on my birthday was pretty much like giving birth. You train for it for months. You wait. The day arrives and every emotion goes through your mind. You are worried, excited, scared, and hoping that you are ready. Well ready or not here you go. At first it's not too bad. A hill here, another hill there. Then the hills just keep on coming like contractions. Pretty soon the hills become an actual mountain. Now you're breathing really hard, swearing, sweating, and crying. Your IT Band is killing you. You want drugs! Then, the summit of Mount Constitution. You're on top of the world. Literally. The feeling you get is like being pumped through with happy drugs. Now you know it's all downhill. But it's a long downhill on a throbbing knee... an exponential ouch! But then you see it, that beautiful finish line, and there are all these beautiful people waiting for you, singing happy Happy Birthday as you run towards them.
Orcas on my birthday. Birth. Rebirth. All the time I was out there on this challenging mountain course, I kept thinking how beautiful my surroundings were, and how beautiful it was that I was a part of it all. I would do this race again in a heartbeat, and I would challenge anyone who might be thinking about attempting it to "Just do it!" I had a ton of support from my daughter Ariel who ran it with me, and kept me laughing. She had no idea what she was getting into when she signed up to be my companion during this race. She had to run up that darn mountain too. My husband finished the race before us, and then came to find us to run us in. That meant a lot. Now that it's over there are some people who still say snide things like, "You're too old to run... that's why you got hurt at Orcas." I just smile because they will never know the elation of being on the top of Mount Constitution. I didn't just climb a mountain. I ran a mountain.
These days I am grateful for the hills and mountains. I am running towards my fears, instead of running away from them. I know now that I don't have to be "skinny" to be fit and strong. Even though I don't run crazy fast like my husband, I'm a very happy runner. Running gives Cordell and I another bond. We have started running races as a family, and we try to make our running events fun-filled days with the kids. What's next for me? Getting even stronger. I want to try some of the same races I've run this past year of running, just to see how I have grown. But I'm not going to be hard on myself. I know better now. I also hope to complete a couple more of the Rainshadow Running Races (the group that puts on the Orcas Island 25K), and of course Disney!
With my girls grown up and out of my house, and my sons in high school (crazy fast guys like Cordell), I need my Dirty Girls. I don't know if this essay will inspire anyone to run, but if you have any interest and are nervous about it, come be a part of this running community. You and your fears will be in great hands. Every one one of us has wrestled with fear. After your first class it will go away. I promise you.