As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.
This is Monique White's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.
I completed race #43 in Chile just days before the country closed its borders.
So close to my goal, yet so far away.
To quite literally run the world, starting with the #MoniqueRuns50 goal, which is to run half or full marathons in 50 countries by my 50th birthday. I was on track to complete this before the world went on lockdown, but all plans have changed and I've refused to allow it to discourage me. Instead, I've pivoted this goal and slightly altered due to all canceled and postponed races.
Now, I plan to meet my goal within my 50th year (before my 51st birthday).
I'm originally from Los Angeles, California, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Howard University's School of Law. Currently, I live in the Netherlands, where I've resided for 21 beautiful years.
I became an avid runner after watching the 1992 Summer Olympics one day. The sprinters had such beautiful bodies and I needed to get in shape. I started slow, trotting around my neighborhood, carefully finding my rhythm. But I wasn't seeing the results I was looking for. Unfortunately, my Olympic body never showed up that year, but it did fuel my passion for running.
It wasn't until nearly a year later that I ran my first distance race – 10km in Leiden, Netherlands – then a half marathon in Amsterdam and in 2010 my first full marathon, also in Amsterdam.
And just like that, I was in love.
Initially, I just wanted to just run various races around the Netherlands but after completing a few races in France and making a point to log miles in every country and city I traveled to, my vision expanded along with my territory, and I upgraded that goal to a quest to run the world.
To date, I have ran more than 45 full and half marathons in 43 countries, on 6 continents. I have several more on the calendar and I'm only 7 marathons away from fulfilling my purpose. Imagine that; fulfilling your purpose. What a feeling.
In 2013, I considered chasing a much larger goal in earnest. Morocco, Israel, Spain, Sweden, and Iceland were among the places that I ran that year. By now, I was aware that I'd not only completed races in several different countries but on 4 continents as well. However, I had no interest in running on all 7 continents, because all continents would include Antarctica, which means cold – hella cold, freezing even, and...nah.
I continued running the world, and then sometime in 2015 I took a good look at my race history, and with close to closing out 20 countries at that point, I decided to hone in on my quest and make a more defined goal. Additionally, I was going through a divorce, and approaching 50, which, as I noted in my journal: "Creeping up on 50…who am I kidding? There's no creeping. The speed at which that birthday is approaching is faster than any pace I've ever run."
I needed something to focus on, a distraction, something to run TOWARD. With races in nearly 20 countries to my credit and awareness of the trend of running races in all 50 states, I modeled my goal after that. And that is how #MoniqueRuns50 came to fruition.
Over time, I collected memories of some of the most beautiful routes, opportunities, countries, and spiritual pavement miles—my favorite being the Pyramids Half Marathon in Cairo, which I ran earlier this year. Running around the Pyramids was euphoric—the only appropriate way to describe the experience. I have ran lots of races in lots and lots of places, and I can honestly say that none are probably as amazingly scenic as a "race through history" in the Great Pyramid of Giza – the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – as a backdrop. The Florence Marathon was another favorite of mine, which despite – or probably because—running in the middle of a very contentious divorce, I made my very best finishing time—a much-needed personal victory.
Anyway, my journeys, destinations, and travels have always been constant themes in my life, so I held on to my running passion, amidst my adversities, including an injury a couple of years ago which stopped my running for more than 6 months and also put a stop to about 10 perspective races I had planned for that year.
Needless to say, as much as I love running, running in my purpose, hasn't been all cute running gear and awesome medals. There have been some bumps in the road and major setbacks.
Ladies, I share my story, because it's time for us to welcome worldly fitness and healthy habits into our lives, and it is so important that we find joy in it. I preach this to any and every black woman that I'm fortunate enough to come across.
Although I wouldn't necessarily say there are stigmas surrounding black women and running, I just don't always see as much representation as I'd like.
And with organizations such as Black Girls RUN! or the National Black Marathoners' Association, black runners are now heavily supported, something not many know about.
These organizations show that black women's running ability can expand far beyond the scope of what we see when it comes to the training and sprinting and going up and down a basketball court or football field. We can go the distance as well. And we are showing up and showing out in marathon century clubs, 50 state marathon clubs, and even the 7-continent marathon club (like the Black Icee Project).
As for how I'm combating the lack of representation, I just get out there and run. And mostly, I represent.
When I'm overwhelmed, I spend more time praying, reading my Bible, and journaling. Post-runs, I always go for a shower, chow down on something that includes protein, and practice active recovery, such as a brisk walk to help combat stiffness. OH, and a good ole glass of wine. I also look to my amazing daughters (18, 16), they ease any worries I have in my day.
Sisters, if you're interested in marathon running, go for it. Find a good training plan that's at least 6 months long. Build your stamina, go longer than you think you can. Training is essential. Consider starting with the run-walk method/Galloway plan. Remember to warm-up and cool down. And always incorporate rest days.
My 44th marathon will be here before you know it and I'll be hitting my 50th birthday this August (or as I like to say, sooner than I'd like to admit). I welcome you to join my journey and run with me, I welcome you to experience my view.
Because nothing is going to stop me from finishing.
Monique plans to complete her 44th marathon as soon as the pandemic weakens and she's able to continue her journey. Follow her travel or running pages, as well as her hashtag #MoniqueRuns50, on Instagram to keep up with her next marathon.
Featured image courtesy of Monique White