Who Inspires You to Run? Let's Hear About 21 Running-Heroes

In an attempt to keep you motivated to run (especially in midst of training for fall races), we asked our running community to share the name of the one person who has influenced their running the most. We received some amazing, motivating, and tear-jerking answers.

Need some guidance on how to start running? Check out our 4 Part Guide to Running.

1. Significant Others

Research has suggested that being involved in a committed relationship, or having a 'significant other,' improves individuals' physical and psychological health and decreases mortatilty. So clearly, if you are living in a partnership type situation, it's also essential that your partner is supportive of your endeavors. And if you are a runner, 'supportive' means not just cheering for you race day or lending an ear during your training cycle, but also coming to an agreement on figuring out childcare and other committments so that you can go on your runs.

Yet, if we have supportive partners it is easy to sometimes take them for granted. Here are some individuals who mentioned their partners being their running heros, even if they may not be runners themselves.

Stephanie French, marathoner

My running inspiration is my husband. Though not a runner himself, he is my support system and biggest cheerleader. When I got back into running in my late 30s, he jumped on board and researched along with me. He buys all the shoes, socks, running gear, etc that goes along with running, and even bikes along my long routes, anticipating my needs, and bringing anything I could need or want. He maps routes for me, brings our 4 children to help cheer me on, and always celebrates my victories, big and small. I don't think I'd have been able to go from a brand new overweight runner, who could barely run 30 seconds at a time, to a marathoner in less than 2 years without his constant love, support, and admiration.

Shannon Parrish, Runner

I always wanted to be a runner, one day at 232 lbs, I decided I was going to run and I started the couch to 5k challenge. With the encouragement of my husband I started running, lost 100 lbs and I now love to run. My husband has supported me through thick and thin, literally, and gave me the courage to chase my dream of being a runner.

Angie Miller, Runner

When my husband and I started dating he was concerned I wasn't into running/fitness as running was a big part of his life. We broke up about a year in and I decided to start C25k mostly out of spite. By the time I ran my first race we were back together. Fast forward 5 years and we got married and are now trying to run a race in every state. He has been integral in keeping me motivated and running support when I'm still on our training courses long after the support has been pulled up.

2. Children

Our children are another set of heros that don't even have to walk, run, or even talk to make us want to be a better person.

Nicole Biretz, Running Enthusiast

I want to be a good example for my children. I’m not fast, or what some might call “a natural” at it. Running doesn’t come easy to me. For two years my children have watched me dedicate myself to something that is difficult and that I have to work for. They have seen me succeed and improve and they have seen me hit slumps and regress. They are just as proud of me when I’m not running at my best as they are when I am. I want them to remember being proud of me for sticking with it, no matter what, even when it was really hard, so when they face the innumerable challenges life will throw at them throughout their lives they will know that they can do it, whatever it is - even if it doesn’t come easy, even it’s really hard - they can do it!

Charlie Smith, Proud Father & Runner/Marathoner/Future Ultra-Runner

My running inspiration is my 5 year old daughter, Noelle. She is highly active (soccer, dance, gymnastics, swimming, etc.) and I found myself struggling to keep up with her at the beginning of this year. This motivated me to register for and train for a trail race. I completed my first trail marathon in May and have since registered for a trail ultra-marathon in September. It is important for me to show her that the path to success is not always an easy route. I want her to see the importance of setting goals and working hard to achieve those goals even if it means waking up at 4:00 AM to run 6-8 miles before work. I can only hope that in the years to come she recognizes the significance of setting goals, working hard, and enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

Jentry Doster, Runner

I run so i could loose weight to carry my rainbow baby ran for a year lost 100 pounds now i am 35 weeks pregnant with my rainbow baby!!! Very blessed to be able to carry this Angel!!

In our podcast episode 41 we did an interview with ultrarunner Sally McRae, who is the winner of the most recent Badwater 135 race. The coolest thing that happened during my interview with Sally was that she, first and foremost, identifies as a mother, and shares some of her amazing parenting with our listeners. Check out the episode here.

3. Friends, Family Members, Other Athletes

t's family members whom we trust but also friends and even strangers whom we allow to influence us. We are receptive of this influence by people who lead with stories, lead with examples, who are kind, positive, and relatable, and often think "if X can do something this big, then I can at least do Y." For example, in one of our episodes we interviewed Robert 'Raven' Kraft, a man living in Miami with a 47 year running streak. Let that sink in, or even better, listen to his episode here.

Angela Hatcher, Runner, Roller Skater, Teacher

My mom, Denise Hatcher, has inspired me to maintain my health and fitness with running and other fun physical activities. She qualified for the Boston marathon twice, and getting to go with her was an amazing experience. She ran my whole childhood, and I am so amazed by her persistence. Even now as an adult, when I come to visit, we know that we will be going on family runs together! Whether it's a 5k or a marathon, my mom reminds me that running is a fun way to stay healthy, enjoy the outdoors, and bond with your loved ones.

Candace Soddu Quinn, Runner

Seven years ago I was looking to find my "thing" again after starting my life over in recovery from drugs and alcohol.

My dad was running about 50 miles a week at that time. He inspired me to train. I figured if he could go out and run 10 miles at 55 years old, I could do it at 35 years old. We celebrated small milestones together, and I kept increasing my distance. I've completed two half marathons. Running helped me feel whole again and gave me something to work towards.

Jeannine, Lifelong Runner

The man who inspired me to start my running journey is my brother in law, David Peterson. A marathoner, he married my sister when I was 16. I have poor hand-eye coordination and based on school phy Ed classes, always thought I was terrible at sports. He introduced me to running and encouraged me to join the newly formed track team at my high school. I discovered that I can run and truly fell in love with it. I’ve been running ever since. While some years I run more than others, I always come back to it. Running contribute to my physical, mental and spiritual health. After nearly 40 years of running, it’s a part of who I am.

Bijal Bhagwan, Runner

Sue Duke - Sue is a previous colleague that I've kept in touch with via Facebook. When I started running Sue introduced me to women-only Facebook groups. These have been a massive support and provided a wealth of information.

Marci Braithwaite, "The Fat Athlete", RRCA/USATF Certified Running Coach

A few years ago, I first saw Mirna Valerio in an REI spot, discussing her experience at an ultra race. When I saw someone in a body that looked like mine, doing something as incredible as running a multi-hour endurance race, I realized that amazing things are possible in the body I have now. I am now a marathoner and running coach because of Mirna's influence, and I'm training for my first ultra. Representation matters!

Danny Enzo, Obstacle Course Racer (OCR Junkie)

So I mainly get my running inspiration from the people I see out running when I can’t. It’s not so much inspiration as it is a sort of jealousy. We all feel it I think, usually when we are driving to/from work and you see that person in their stride, that person regardless of age, fitness level or body type will always have my admiration! Runners know that feeling and we can see that feeling in other people and we want it again and again like some kind of runner junkie just chasing the next big kick! Haha I’m not afraid to say I’m addicted!

Two people whom we got to interview for our podcast who lead by example are Gene Dykes and Jeannie Rice. Both in their 70s, they hold world records for the marathon distance and are far from being done. Click here to check out Jeannie Rice, and Gene Dykes (which was one of our first episodes, so excuse the audio).

4. People Fighting Battles and Overcoming Challenges

People engaged in their own health battles, or who are overcoming challenges in life are undoubtedly walking inspirations to all of us. Without wanting to they teach us how fragile life can be, and that whatever "big problem" we are stuck on isn't really a big problem at all. People just keep going, such as Mark Macy, who is fighting Alzheimer and still participated in the "World's Toughest Race" alongside with his son Travis Macy.

Anthony Carnaggie, Runner

I am a cancer survivor and never ran before except during sports and was inspired by a quote I saw that said “cancer doesn’t like to go on long runs “ so now I go on long runs, Running has become one thing I can control when there is so much I can’t . I strongly believe running has helped me fight cancer physically and mentally.

Monika M., Ultrarunner

As I try to do, I wait after every event until the last runner comes in. On one of my last events, I see a man pacing, waiting, looking very nervous. I ask him “Are you waiting for someone.” He says “My wife.” I then ask him how she looks, hair color, clothes, what not. He says “Pink, and she kinda doesn’t have any hair. But what she has is really short. She is conquering cancer.” I cried so much. She is running ultras in between treatments of chemo. She is a goddess to me. Her name is Antonia C and when I want to feel crappy about my day, run, whatever, I think about her.

Megon Steele, A-T Cure Team Runner

I run in honor of my brother Josh, who has the rare disease, Ataxia-Telangiectasia. Because of him, I will never take my legs for granted. I am honored to be a member of the Ataxia-Telangiectasia Children's Project Cure Team. We run for A-T kids who can't! When you run for a reason, it takes on a life of its own. After running many marathons for him, Josh is starting to have a tougher time with A-T, so I am upping the difficulty of my running this year, too. Our goal this year is for me to run a 40 mile trail ultra. It's going to be hard, but my inspiration is ultra-tough.

One of my guests whom I now call a friend has changed my life and thinking in so many aspects, without even knowing it, is Joel Stetler. Joel has a rare stage 4 sarcoma, but he lives his life to the fullest along with his amazing wife and three children. Joel is brilliantly smart, a teacher in real life, and he's well-read. During our conversation Joel shares his outlook on life, and how he came to have such an outlook. His episode is a must listen. Click here for our Joel's episode.

7. People Who Did NOT Believe In Us

Whether it is to spite or not doesn't really matter. Life's teachable moments don't always come from the kind, positive and fun experiences. Sometimes words can hurt like knives, and there can be some truth to the saying "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger".

Experiences like that can make us learn to rely on ourselves and realize how strong we really are!

Cassandra Smith, Runner/ Crossfit Athlete

My ex-husband was a runner until an unsuccessful surgery to fix an injury he obtained while deployed (non combat related). It was not a good marriage, and left many emotional and mental scars. After our divorce I decided it was finally time for me to live my life for me; I started running, because it was something he always made me feel I couldn’t do, and I needed to prove him wrong about every bad thing he ever made me believe about myself.

Along the lines, in our episode with guest Julie Weiss, runner and author of the book 'The Miles and Trials of a Marathon Goddess', we learn how failed relationships lead Julie to become stronger. Click here to lisen to her episode.

6. Those Who Passed Away

Losing a loved one can be a difficult thing to handle, whether you've lost a parent, grandparent or other adult in your life or a similar-aged friend or relative you cared about. When you can find a positive way to handle grief, this perspective can help you in the grieving process. You can examine the way your loved one lived her life, and see how this perspective may affect your own life in positive ways.

Emma Kennebeck, Runner

My running inspiration is my dad. Before he passed I was trying to get more serious about running. I was finally following a plan to do a faster 5k. My dad was getting more and more sick from the cancer attacking his blood. Sometimes I would get him to go on a half mile walk with me but it wasn’t often and he really struggled. The last time we went on a walk he stopped to catch his breath and said “Why did this have to happen to me? I worked hard in life.” I thought about it for a minute and said “ If it means anything to you, seeing you like this pushes me to be as healthy as I can be. As I get more in shape the rest of the family is also trying, because they see it is possible. I want to be running marathons when I’m your age.” He said “Well I know you’re going to be doing just that.” He always asked me about my runs and told me how great of a job I was doing. I signed up for my first marathon after he passed and will be running that 26.2 miles with him in my heart this October.

Rachel Fitzmorris, Runner

My running inspiration was losing my friend Megan to breast cancer, and my mom's long time partner Bryan to lung cancer. It was a realization that health and fitness are not guaranteed. I started running at 43 and did my first 5k, 10k, half marathon and trail race within a year!

Rachel Lofland (Standley), Marathoner/Triathlete

Uncle Paul encouraged and uplifted all those that he crossed paths with. His life was taken by cardiomyopathy at the age of 51, shortly after I ran my first marathon. The sudden loss made me realize life is short, don’t take it for granted. 17 years and 40 marathons later, the loss still encourages me to keep running and doing triathlons.

In conclusion, the influence that other runners have on us can be tremendous, from simply making us enjoy a new hobby to changing our every-day habits forever, potentially saving our lives. Don't forget to thank them! They may not even know about their impact on your life.

Food for thought

Now, here's some food for thought for you: Have you ever thought about the impact that you may make on another person's life, simply by sharing your story? That is pretty powerful, isn't it?

Did I miss anyone?

As always we so appreciate your continued input on this important topics because it helps to shape the future of the Marathon Running Podcast content, and we’d love to read your response to the question who had the biggest impact on your running journey! Please share in the comments.