Emily Cooley – The Accidental Athlete

I’m an accidental athlete.

As a kid, I wasn’t interested in sports, let alone running. I was more interested in drama and choir. It wasn’t until college when I joined the rowing team (much to my family’s surprise), that I developed a love for pushing my body. After college, marriage and kids, I put my health on the back burner.

When my younger daughter was 2, I went in for my annual check up. My doctor pulled out a sheet that showed me that I was considered morbidly obese. The word morbid hung in the air and was ringing in my ears. I thought to myself, I can’t die, I have two girls who need me. I also wanted to actively participate in their lives and not watch from a distance.

About a week or so after my appointment, I saw a Facebook post for a weight loss study at University of Colorado; I applied and was accepted. As a part of the study I met weekly with a nutritionist and gradually added in excercise; I started at 20 minutes 3 times a week until I reached 60 minutes 6 times a week.

As I was beginning to exercise I signed up for a 5K race with a friend of mine. I couldn’t run more than a few steps. When I finished, I was overcome with emotion. I felt accomplished and proud. I definitely caught the running bug.

I kept signing up for more and more races. To offset some of the cost of the races, I also started volunteering for races (many offer a free entry per volunteer shift.) I slowly started meeting people in the running community. Before I started running, I thought “real runners” would look down on me because I was new and inexperienced. I remember getting emotional when someone would refer to me as an athlete. I was shocked to discover the warmth and encouragement the running community extended to me.

In 2017, I applied to be a Skirt Sports Ambassador and was accepted. I wasn’t expecting the amazing sisterhood of incredible women that would welcome me with open arms.

I’m currently training for my first full marathon. I’ll be running St George in October. I’ve completed two half marathons and a ton of 5K and 10K races. If you had told me five years ago I’d be running a marathon I would have thought you were crazy! I love my tribe and community that running has brought me. I love that it has shown my girls that it’s ok for mom to take time for herself, to make time for their health, and that fitness can be fun too.