May Spotlight: Erica Gass - Mom & Runner!

Hi there! My name is Erica Gass. In celebration of Mother's Day, my friends at Potomac River Running asked if I would like to share my running journey with you all so here goes...

I am a full-time working mother and runner, residing in the Shenandoah area. My running saga started later in life when I became a new mom, struggling with severe postpartum depression, searching for a new hobby or past time to help me focus on taking care of myself.

Spoiler Alert: Running isn't just your average hobby. It's a way of life.

Eleven years ago, my wild ride started with a borrowed pair of my mom's ASICS Noosas, when I toed the starting line at the Run or Dye 5k out of RFK Stadium. I jumped in with both feet, wondering if I'd find the magic for which I'd been searching.

I had to try something. I'll be honest with you, I was that kid who suffered in school, running the dreaded mile in gym class year after year. When I decided to try running as an adult, I truly had no idea what I was doing. Looking back, the feeling of elation from completing that 5k truly exceeded my expectations. I realized soon after that it was more than a feeling (thanks, Boston). I'd been bitten by the running bug, and the subsequent infection was escalating quickly. After completing the Rock N' Roll Half Marathon the following spring, the obvious next step was the big one...THE MARATHON... the 26.2 miles that Pheidippides ran to deliver the news of victory at the battle of Marathon in Athens. You know...THAT one?

As a new mom, I initially struggled to balance out the amount of time and effort it took to train for a marathon. I had no idea how it worked, what to do, how to do it, or how to make everything happen. Instead, I just did the best I could. I was fiercely driven not only for myself, but also for my son, as I wanted to show him what it takes to tackle a daunting challenge. The moment I crossed the finish line at my first Marine Corps Marathon in 2014, I realized that running 26.2 miles is a difficult feat, but not impossible. And when the going gets rough during the later miles, the feeling of being  they'll tell you all about it.

What people don't tell you about running is that it's truly a roller coaster of emotions and life lessons. The adrenaline and anticipation at the starting line, the tears of joy and accomplishment at the finish line, the nagging doubts before a daunting workout, and the feeling of failure on those inevitable days when you just don't have the energy to show up. However, if you do show up on a regular basis, you'll reap the returns on your investment, which pay off in other aspects of your life.

Today, I can say that I'm a better person for taking a chance on something new and scary. I can show my son that it's possible to accomplish difficult tasks every single day. I can help him realize that with success also comes failure, but it's the steps we take in those moments of failure that make us stronger. We are our children's superheroes.

What began for me years ago as a simple exercise in self-care has quickly become a way of life. I embraced this activity to better my life and have been fortunate enough to learn a lot of life's lessons by just lacing up a pair of borrowed shoes. I wanted to share my story with you all to encourage you to pick up a pair of shoes from your favorite local running store (cough cough, Potomac River Running, cough cough) and sign up for one of their races. Be a hero to yourself and to your little ones. I have been running for 11 years and counting. It still thrills me and scares me at the same time but I know when I cross that finish line his first words to me are always "Great Job Mommy. Can I see your medal?".

Thank you, mom, for letting me borrow your shoes that one time. I'm a better person for my son because of you. Happy Mother's Day.