Lovie Twine wasn’t always a runner. In fact, in high school, she hated running. She played basketball, and the coach was forever using it as punishment. Missed a free throw? Go run your laps. Messed up a play? Go run your laps.
“Now, I love it,” she said.
But this change didn’t happen overnight. It was born from grief and a spiral of destructive behavior.
By the time she was in her mid-30s, she’d had two sisters and her mother pass away. She had kids of her own, adopted her niece, and was working full time.
“So, I now have four kids and now I’m working as an accountant and now I’m overworked.” She said. “Life becomes overwhelming for you when you’re in your 30s with that much responsibility.”
She started drinking to relax. She gained weight. She was generally unhealthy.
When her mother passed away at 62 with pulmonary disease, it was the beginning of a wake-up call. Twine wanted to do something to honor her, so she did the half climb of the Hustle up the Hancock.
She ended up needing an oxygen treatment at the end.
Someone recommended that she start running to help with her breathing. So, she did.
As it turned out, running helped more than her breathing. It changed everything.
“We have some bad choices we make in life,” she said. “A lot of people, when they get overwhelmed, do self-destructive things.”
Twine said that was the path she was traveling: overwhelmed and self-destructive.
“A lot of people know my struggles, but they also know I have since discovered a healthy outlet,” she said.
When her niece was in a coma and she was flying back and forth to Missouri to help her and her kids, she ran through it.
“I was just running, running, running, and it was a great distraction,” she said, “because it was devastating to see my niece in that way.”
When her niece passed away and she adopted two more kids, she continued to run.
“When I connected with CARA, I connected with some great people,” she said. “You’re running all these miles, and they’re supporting you. It made me feel like anything was possible."
She started with a 5K, then a 10K as she worked her way up to a marathon – and that’s when she found the Chicago Area Runner’s Association.
“They trained me how to run properly, how to fuel properly, how to rest properly,” she said.
But more importantly, CARA introduced her to the “The Group.”
“When I connected with CARA, I connected with some great people,” she said. “You’re running all these miles, and they’re supporting you. It made me feel like anything was possible. Why wouldn’t I continue this?”
Twine did her first marathon at 42, and now at 50 (and 6 marathons later), she says she’s in the best shape of her life.
And a lot of that has to do with the fact that she’s traded drinking for running.
She said now when she’s stressed or sad, all she has to do is call someone in her group and say: Let’s go for a run.
“I’ve never been told no,” Twine said.
While she used to associate running with punishment, she now calls it a reward.
“It naturally lowers your blood pressure,” Twine said. “Your stress level goes down. I can’t think about bills or what my kids did or didn’t do while I’m running. All I’m focusing on is my cadence and making sure I’m breathing right. It’s a healthy distraction.”
She said running gave her a new and better outlet for escaping.
“I chose to run more and drink less,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I think this is God’s gift to me on how to have a break, have an escape, have a healthy escape.”
And now she’s looking to pay it forward.
She said there just aren’t a lot of black women who run, and she’s made it a bit of a mission to be a role model for young black women – like her granddaughter.
“My granddaughter is going to run,” Twine said. “She runs now. She has no choice but to run because if she wants to hang out with me on a Saturday morning, she’s got to run. And that is going to be good for her. My niece, who was morbidly obese, did not have that role model. If she had what I’ve got now, or what I’m giving to her daughter, things could have been different.”
“Something I always wanted to see is more people who looked like me running,”
“People want to feel included when they come to a race,” Twine said. “But that hasn’t always happened.”
And a lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s so few black runners. And when black runners do show up to a sport that is predominantly white, they often don’t feel like anyone is engaging with them.
“Something I always wanted to see is more people who looked like me running,” Twine said.
So, she’s especially excited about CARA’s 'Go Run and Run Crew initiatives in the underserved west- and south-side neighborhoods of Chicago.
“To be out there in the neighborhood, and people are seeing the young ladies run,” She said. “These are people that we know; we’re going by our neighbors’ homes, and they’re seeing us.”
Which she hopes translates into more people running in these neighborhoods.
“I win. They win. CARA wins. The community wins."
Twine has been following CARA’s DEI initiatives and is especially excited to see the work Program Manager Dominique Sabbs is doing in places like Austin and Marquette Park.
“A lot of organizations say they support black runners, but what are they really doing?” Twine asked. “It’s one thing to talk about inclusion, to put out a statement. That’s easy. But it’s not easy to hire someone. I see a lot of other running organizations out there, and there is no one that is doing what CARA’s doing right now. So, kudos to CARA for taking the lead on this.”
CARA’s efforts to make running accessible for all is ongoing, and Twine points to 'Go Runs as a great way to get new people engaged and involved – in their own communities.
“I win. They win. CARA wins. The community wins. So that’s a good thing,” she said