Faith Nelson gets up before 5am to drive a school bus for special needs high school students. She’s also the single mom of three kids of her own. “I’m a deeply curious person,” she says, “attempting to live my life in a way that leaves no room for regret.”
That sort of courage didn’t always apply to physical feats. “I was as far from athletic as you could get as a kid. I had asthma and it made me nervous about running around too much.” It wasn’t until she was twenty-one and pregnant with her second child that Faith started learning the value of exercise. She’d decided on a natural childbirth, and all the books she read stressed the importance of being fit and flexible. Out came the yoga videos, and long, fast-paced walks.
“Childbirth this time was so different. I felt incredibly strong when it was over. Something inside of me clicked and I realized that I was physically capable of so much more than I’d thought.” She took up running.
Fast-forward a dozen years to last October, when Faith ran her first half marathon. Although a foot injury has her sidelined, she plans to start training for a full marathon soon. Her usual regimen is to run three times a week (two to five miles), plus two or three days of yoga, and two of strength training. That’s a lot for many of us, but how does she pull it off?
“It can be very hard,” Faith says. “Taking advantage of lunch breaks can be a great way to get in a workout. But sometimes it’s just a matter of running out the door before I have a chance to think about it too much.” She also makes exercise a family affair: “A lot of the time I can drag one or two of them down to the beach. They’ll roller-skate or ride their scooter while I run.” Walking is always a plus: “Moving is so important and there are opportunities all throughout the day to do that.”
None of which would work without the right attitude. “I used to think I was supposed to have a strict schedule, but one thing I’ve learned as a single mother is that real life just doesn’t work that way. When it matters, you find a way. And on the flip side, when life gets ahead of you and you miss a week, you shrug it off and start over again.”
And the result? “I’ve learned to appreciate the journey as opposed to ‘results.’ Running has changed me in such fundamental ways. It has taught me the beauty of the process.” Still, some results are undeniable. “It feels good to think about how I went from a kid who couldn’t even run a mile to a thirty-three-year-old, single, working mother of three who has run thirteen. I’m the strongest and healthiest I’ve ever been, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
Home: Long Beach, CA
Occupation: School Bus Driver
Education: Some college, Psychology Major
Children: Three, ages 16, 12, and 8
Sports, past and present: Running, swimming.
Athletic accomplishments: Half marathon.
Little known fact about you: I can stand on my hands and do backbends pretty well.
Environmentally incorrect preference: I take too long in the shower.
Guilty pleasure: Coffee overload on the weekends.
Most embarrassing moment: Never.
Greatest triumph: Every day that I can be true to myself and love the people in my life with everything I’ve got is a triumph.
Favorite thing to do when not working or working out: Relaxing with my family and friends.
Moment of Inspiration: Warming up at the starting line with thousands of people at my first half marathon. I felt so connected to them. I saw our diversity, and I realized we’re all on our own personal journey. It was beautiful.
Favorite Quote: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” —Anais Nin
Before my injury: Two or three, three-mile runs during the week, and a longer five-mile run on the weekend. Two or three days of yoga. Two days of strength training. Whenever I could fit it in.