This story is part seven of a ten-part series leading up to the 2019 Sioux Falls Skedaddle. For more information about the race and how to join us on April 28, visit the website here.
To those who have the pleasure of encountering Chelsea Wolf, there are an abundance of words that come to mind. Bubbly. Infectious. Energetic. Positive. Hopeful. You might think of the tender way she speaks of her children, or the loving praise that spills from her lips as she mentions her husband. His support of her as she takes up racing again only months after delivering their beautiful daughter.
A decade ago, Chelsea didn’t think any of these things about herself.
“I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t living. I guess I was just coping, any way that I could. I wasn’t disciplined and I was disorganized. Being disorganized kind of made me feel hopeless, but I also had no motivation to get organized. I’d had my son at 19, and then I hadn’t really done anything to get to a better place after that. I kind of felt like maybe this was it, and I didn’t like it.”
For so many people, it takes a moment of rock bottom, of loss or regret for them to make a decision to turn their lives around. For Chelsea, it was a bit more subtle, yet just as profound. Not a desperate low, but a runner’s high.
“My sister ran a half marathon, and I wanted to be supportive of this thing she was so excited for and proud of, but I had to actually google how long a half marathon was. When I saw it was 13.1 miles I was just kind of blown away. I was so proud of her and I just asked her… how did you do that?”
Of all of the things a person who is proud of their accomplishments could say; It was easy, or it was so much hard work and nearly impossible, but I did it! Her sister chose encouragement over bragging rights.
“She just smiled and said ‘You know, you could absolutely do it, too!’ and then she talked to me about training and building the endurance.”
“Even though what she had said made sense, I thought I was ready to just kind of jump in, so I went out without really coming up with a plan. What’s to plan? You’re going to run until you can’t run anymore… but I only got about 2 and a half blocks and I had to stop and catch my breath.”
In a make or break moment of truth, Chelsea made a choice that would change her life.
“I had to decide if I was going to keep giving up and just be done with this, or if I was going to kind of… give up giving up and really just try.”
She gave herself the time and the space to grow in her running practice, and found a patience she had previously denied herself. She started with a mile, then a 5k. After a year, she ran the same half marathon that had started it all.
“I tell people all the time, becoming a runner saved my life. It was something I had to choose over destructive habits, it taught me discipline and follow through. In the beginning, I thought maybe I’d do a few races and lose a little weight. It definitely started that way… but then the weight was gone and I didn’t have anything to do it for but myself. But then this miserable thing I had to do to ‘fix’ my body really clicked, and it turned into something that made me confident. The fact that I was choosing to do it. That’s when it really became a passion.”
It never stopped being difficult, but that’s because Chelsea continued choosing to keep it difficult.
“Once you get into this community and you meet these people, these amazing, inspiring people, everything you do feels small.”
At Pink Gorilla, when we hear the stories our runners tell us, the things they have overcome to get to race day, everything we do feels small, too. We understand how inspired Chelsea feels by her fellow runners. What Chelsea may not understand is how inspired we are by her.
“I understand why not everyone gets it. I didn’t get it, either. And if my sister hadn’t been so sure I could do it, I would have stayed in that ‘I don’t get it’ place myself. And maybe running isn’t the thing for everyone, but until they find their pace, their place, their reason, it never will be.”
We’re incredibly proud that Chelsea found the power to be her own reason, and to create a life that is filled with challenges, successes, and love.