Happy to Run

by Karen McDaniel

Editor’s Note: Karen joined the Sneaker Store team in 2018, and since day one she has enthusiastically jumped in, not just into doing her job (awesomely!) but also going above and beyond taking on new challenges. One of her biggest strengths (and her passion) is helping new runners find their confidence. You can find her coaching the gentle run group at our Sneaker Store Group Runs! Her inspiring story shows us that speed doesn’t define a runner, and that no matter where you are in life, getting healthy starts with making the decision to do so.

A few years ago, after an early morning weekend run, the group I was training with went to a local coffee shop. We were sipping coffee and eating to re-fuel our bodies. A top local runner, Gary Burak, came into the coffee shop and greeted me as Karen Vanderwood.  A new acquaintance of mine then asked me if I knew Karen Vanderwood. I had to explain to him that I AM Karen Vanderwood.

But really, I am not Karen Vanderwood anymore. I have divorced (amicably) and remarried. I am now Karen McDaniel. I sometimes say in jest, that I used to be Karen Vanderwood.  She was a pretty good runner who once placed 10th overall female in the Utica Boilermaker. She has the following PRs (personal records):  Marathon-2:58; 15k-56:20, 10K-35:48 (my proudest!) and 5K 17:13. After turning 40, I returned to competitive running and did so at a national class level. Karen Vanderwood was quite the competitor. It was an awesome time in my life. But running defined me.

During the past 10 years I’ve suffered injuries including a neuroma which required surgery, a ruptured plantar fascia (ouch!) and a stress fracture. The periods of inactivity following each injury, plus making poor food choices resulted in a significant weight gain. I no longer looked or felt like a runner.  It could have been depressing, but I had a lot of distractions. My husband and I have a mixed family of 5 children who are now adults. They kept us very busy when they were teenagers. I discovered other passions, but I missed running.

 In April of 2018 I decided to get healthy. I discovered a program that helped me lose weight in a healthy and sustainable manner. I may never look or feel like the runner I once was, but it’s okay! I’ve learned that runners come in all shapes and sizes, and it doesn’t matter how fast you run. If you run, you are a RUNNER! These days I am happy to run the Utica Boilermaker at a 11 minute per mile pace. I am happy to run a 5K at a 9 minute per mile pace because running no longer defines me. I am a multi-dimensional person with a lot of interests and passions.

Yes, I used to be Karen Vanderwood. Life happens, and I’ve learned to roll with the punches. I don’t let my mind and ego get caught up in numbers, like race times, training paces, etc. I’ve contemplated getting back into the competitive game again, but for now, I’m happy to run.