How to make your marathon resolution a reality

As a new runner in early 2016, my resolution was to run one race per month for accountability. By Christmas, I found myself ready to take on a bigger challenge: the marathon. My preparation in selecting a race, training plan and gear was rather haphazard at first, but this was all about to change. Ten weeks into training for my first marathon, I was brutally attacked in a park bathroom and fought back using skills I had recently learned in a self-defense class.

My battle cry of “Not Today, Motherf***er!” made global headlines and thrust me into the media spotlight. Fortunately, the running community not only embraced me but also offered immense support, which ultimately helped me get to the starting line of the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Overcoming the attack was the greatest feat of my life, but becoming a marathoner was a close second.

Once you commit to joining the small percentage of people who choose to take on the marathon distance, you will discover the most badass parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed. You may not even recognize the discipline and mental fortitude that you’ll find living inside of you. While at first these traits may be surprising, I think you’ll find that they’re requisite to you doing whatever it takes to get you to that starting line and on to the finish. Not just in running, but in life.

Here’s my best advice on how to make your own resolution to become a marathoner a reality in 2019.


Find your why

Many people run their first marathon to overcome a difficult event in their life: trauma, alcoholism, a break-up, some kind of loss they’re grieving and transcending. I actually fell into several of these categories. Initially, my “why” was simple: I was dead set on finishing what I’d started — completing a marathon no matter what to prove to the world that the attack didn’t and wouldn’t take anything away from me.

I had to step back and get clear on my own reasons for why it was important. Reasons that had nothing to do with proving anything to anyone other than myself.  

Your “why” is the intrinsic force that will keep you accountable from day one until the moment you cross the finish line. Your “why” may also change along the way, as will you! Let it happen.

Find your race

One of the key pieces of advice I give about self-defense and survival is this: “The body cannot go where the mind has not been.” The same logic applies to being a marathoner; you will mentally run the race a thousand times before you ever toe the line. So pick a race that’s meaningful to you.  

I chose Chicago for my first because it is a city that’s very special to me, and it was motivating to know there would be people cheering all along the course. I also decided to run on behalf of Girls on the Run because of the confidence and empowerment that this organization inspires in young women.

Find a race that not only offers the support you’ll need, but one that inspires you.


Find your plan

There are so many training plans out there. Don’t do what I initially did and choose a plan just because it has an app! Do your research and talk to a coach or a seasoned marathoner before deciding. I may be old school, but printing out the plan and putting it on my fridge not only became a daily reminder of my goal and what I had to do but also gave me great satisfaction in crossing each run off the list once it was completed.

Commit to executing the plan to the best of your ability and accept that it won’t always go perfectly. Be prepared to adapt and improvise.

Find your gear

Get the right shoes. Go to your nearest running store and get fitted by a professional. Try on at least three pairs, run while wearing them and give them a bounce test. Don’t shop by price or color — shop by fit. Good running shoes are an investment that will protect your body as you put it through what will probably be the most grueling process you have ever endured, so it pays to do due diligence in this area. I rotate between the HOKA Clifton and Bondi during training, as I believe our running shoes need rest days just like we do. I ran both of my marathons in the Clifton.

P.S. to the ladies: this advice also applies to getting a good sports bra. It’s an absolute necessity.

Once you become a marathoner, no one can ever take that from you. In all, it took me ten months from the day I decided to run a marathon until I crossed that finish line.


Finishing my first marathon helped me make peace with tribulations of my past. I stopped looking back at the trauma I had experienced and started looking forward to how I could use my newfound strength to create the life that I wanted and knew I deserved.

Being a marathoner continues to give me strength I draw upon daily. Since that hot Chicago day, there have been several situations when I’ve faced fear or doubt and said to myself, “I’ve run a marathon, so I can do this.”

So I’ll leave you with this question: would you rather find out what you’re made of or be in the exact same place next year, wondering what might have happened if you’d tried?


Check out Kelly‘s favorite marathon shoes, the Clifton 5 and Bondi 6.






Finding confidence: discovering your runner’s high in unexpected places

“The more I ran, the more confident I became. Running races once felt nearly impossible for me, but with every finish, it felt like I could do anything if I really set my mind to it. That feeling spilled into every aspect of my life.”

Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

Annya Santana is a New York native and creator of gender-fluid wellness brand, Menos Mas. She has a vision to bring natural wellness products to people of all backgrounds based on the idea that “less is more,” which is the loose translation of her brand’s name. Annya exudes confidence — she is a smart businesswoman with a disruptive vision, a committed athlete and an intuitive creative with the natural drive it takes to make it in a big city. However, Annya struggled with self-doubt before her career and running goals felt attainable.

Annya was born and raised in the Bronx. She says coming from New York is essential to who she is. “There’s a fearlessness when you grow up in NYC that lets you dream the impossible. Growing up in this city prepares you for life. This city has shaped the way I dream, the way I work and the way I execute,” she says.

Annya’s city-bred grit led to her follow her dreams to a new city. She loved the hustle of New York but yearned for the French way of life. Yet, moving to Paris wasn’t her only bold goal.

“The summer I decided to move to Paris was also the same moment I decided I would turn my skincare and wellness life into a business. In retrospect, moving to a foreign country and launching a business from there wasn’t exactly the easiest positioning, but I was extremely motivated and determined to make it work,” she says.

Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

Only in her mid-twenties, Annya realized the difficulties of moving to a foreign country when she arrived. “I didn’t have a place to live and I didn’t speak French,” she says, “I didn’t even know anyone.”

For Annya, fear and loneliness were incredibly painful to overcome. “It was in those very painfully challenging moments that I discovered myself,” she says, “I faced myself, my fears and my insecurities. I discovered my tenacity for this life and what it means to never quit.“

Through this unique journey, Annya realized the value of embracing discomfort as an opportunity for growth. Even as an athlete, running was something Annya always struggled with. “Running is the hardest sport on the planet. At least to me it is,” she says, “You can’t pass the ball, sit it out or get subbed in. There’s no teammate to pick up your shortcomings. It’s just you. When I say you, I mean all of you — mind, body and spirit.”

While living in New York, Annya gave running a shot. She even ran her first marathon but still considered quitting. “I was constantly putting myself down about making progress. It took everything I had, and I didn’t feel good enough to keep at it,” she says.

Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

It wasn’t until Annya changed her perspective on running that she was able to love it.

“Living in Paris would be nearly impossible without my running community. Running culture literally  saved me in a foreign place and has given me friendships, a home and community like I have never experienced,” she says.

Annya used her newfound love of running and took a leap to join the Speed Project, a 344-mile relay race from Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV.  

“At one point, some of the girls on my team were feeling really defeated about their performance. I felt this strong urge to speak up. I took the reigns and just let everyone know that whether you finish first or last, we all get the same prize — the reward of finishing this grueling race. Trying to uplift others kind of made me lift myself up as well. In that moment, I finally realized I am a runner,” she says.

For Annya, it’s no coincidence that her achievements in her career aligned with her new identity as a runner. Pushing her physical limits taught her to overcome the challenges that came with starting a business.

“Running has allowed me to tackle life. It’s hard, but it’s equally rewarding. I was out there fighting every negative thought and mental barrier. I felt defeated by the elements, but instead of quitting, I pushed past the pain, held on a little longer and finished,” she says, “I felt unstoppable. I fought against all those obstacles in my mind screaming for me to stop, and I accomplished what felt never-ending. Breaking those mental roadblocks changed me.”

Photo credit: Cesarin Mateo

Now living between New York and Paris, Annya continues to focus on her running and her business. She has big goals for the growth of her business and now has the confidence to do what it takes to succeed.

“I have the power of believing in myself, speaking things into existence and working hard so that when the opportunities present themselves, I am prepared. I am creating a life I feel good about. It feels like it’s all coming full circle even though I am nowhere near where I want to be,” she says, “I feel gratitude every single day because sometimes I still can’t believe that I am doing exactly what I dreamed of.”

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