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Tessa Becomes A Marathoner

Becoming a marathoner starts with a decision to try. The desire to run, the courage to register, and then making the commitment to train for months and months. We know this decision can be daunting, but we see new CARA runners conquer marathons all the time – r

unners like Tessa.

Tessa Murphy Burke became a marathoner on October 7, 2018. But we should start from the beginning.

Tessa was active as a child and throughout her school years, but after entering into the business world as an adult she realized her lifestyle was very sedentary. She wanted to find a type of exercise that she could do any time of day and any time of year, so she started to run.

She fell in love with the sport. She kept showing up day after day and running races here or there, but she still did not think she should label herself a “runner.” At get-togethers with friends or during conversations with coworkers she still found herself saying “I’m not a real runner.” While we would have already called her a 'runner', it was CARA training that helped changed her mindset.

Finishing a marathon was not something Tessa thought she could do. Even after running many half marathons, she did not feel confident in her ability to run 26.2 miles. However in 2017, she connected with the race director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He shared his story about losing his son and Tessa shared her story about losing her brother. They connected. So, when it came time for the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon charity bibs to become available, the AFSP race director reached out to Tessa. She knew this meant it was the right time to start training for her first marathon. Fears aside, Tessa signed up.

The journey to the finish line was not easy. Conquering longer distances than ever before in brutal summer heat will never be called easy, but Tessa was tough. She had only recently moved out of the city and missed running on the Lakefront Trail, so she signed up for CARA training and woke up at 4:30 a.m. for 18 weeks straight, and made the drive to the city every Sunday. She relied on the power of the group through CARA training to prepare her mentally and physically for anything coming her way. When asked about her group training experience Tessa said, “The best thing about running the marathon is that I found my CARA running family. I have a supportive, knowledgeable community of runners to lean on and encourage me during our long runs. The people in my pace group aren't just my running partners, they are my friends.”

When race day arrived, Tessa was calm. She knew she was adequately prepared and she wanted to enjoy the pay off of all her hard work. There was never a moment during the race where she thought to herself that she would not finish.

We asked Tessa her favorite moment of the marathon and without hesitation she said, “At mile 22 my parents were cheering me on with my two children (Liam, 8 and Emelia, 6). I spotted them from a block away and it was the only time I shed a tear that day. I couldn't help but start sprinting towards them with open arms and I hugged them so tightly that my daughters feet lifted from the ground. I am a single mom who works full time so finding time to train for a marathon was by no means easy. It was so special to have my kids part of the marathon and I hope to set the example for them that with hard work and discipline you can accomplish great goals.”

Tessa is an incredible example of hard work, perseverance and strength. It is about more than that first marathon finish line, but the journey to reach it.

If you are thinking about registering for your first marathon, let Tessa’s story inspire you. It is okay to be afraid to take the leap and wonder if you will be strong enough to get to that finish line. Tessa took hers. And she now calls that marathon finish line her biggest running triumph.

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The Chicago Area Runners Association, CARA, is a non-profit organization committed to serving and advocating for the local running community. We are Chicagoland’s running club, providing accessible opportunities for all runners to train, race, learn, be social and volunteer. 

CARA, with over 10,000 members, is the nation’s third-largest running club, serving as the voice of local runners, as well as providing over 1,300 dates of programming and events per year.

 

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