Going the Distance

Going the Distance

February 20th, 2013  |  Published in Community  |  1 Comment

Nang Nonnarath Dunn, avid runner and founder of VillageRun, invites you to the VillageRun 3rd Annual 5K Charity Run+Walk on May 11th, 2013 at Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA. Walkers, joggers and runners are welcome to bring friends and family to this fun community event. Following the run is a Kids’ Dash where children of all ages can participate and compete for medals. It’s a great way to start your day and support a great cause. Light refreshments will be served. See you there!


By Nang Nonnarath Dunn

Friends and family often ask me: “Why do you run? Are you trying to lose weight? What are you running away from? Is it for health reasons? Don’t you have better things to do? What’s going through your mind when you run? Don’t you get bored?” These are all valid questions.

It was 7am in Union Square, at the heart of San Francisco, October 2010. Over 20,000 runners prepared to take to the streets. Whether to lose weight, check an item off a bucket list, run for a cause, run for sport or simply for pure enjoyment, we were all ready. Me? A newbie, naive enthusiast runner, very new to the sport. My incentive to run was to get the light blue Tiffany box handed to me by a handsome hunky firefighter at the finish line in Golden Gate Park!

I felt pumped to be among all the energized runners. I made my way to the bathroom one last time before the race started. The horn blew, followed by the noise of cheering runners and spectators. It was crazy-mad. The 26.2 mile foot race had now begun. Having already ran several 12K races, I told myself, “I’m ready for the real thing. Not the 15K, not the 1/2 marathon, but the FULL marathon!” Even though I started off slow the first few miles, I soon got loose from the pack. I felt like a superwoman flying up and down the hills of San Francisco. I looked up and glanced at the 5-mile marker. It felt awesome! I looked down at my watch and I was averaging about 7 minutes per mile. I was very surprised by my time and speed at this point. Never before in training had I gone this fast. I thought to myself that at the speed I was going I could be done in under 4 hours. Sweet! (I was very naive.)

Mile 14: The misty rain came down very lightly and felt so refreshing. A phone call came in. I reached into my fanny pack and took my phone out from the protective zip-lock bag. “Honey, are you almost done?” asked my husband Kirk, who was waiting at the finish line with our three children. He saw a couple of our friends finish their 1/2 marathon and thought I was in the same pack. Competing with the background noise, I yelled, “I have 12 more miles to go!” Urgg! The thought of having that much more to go and my family now anxiously waiting for me did not help my state of mind. Mentally I was exhausted, but I put my headphones back on and jammed to my favorite music to get my mind back in the game.

Mile 18: I received another call from my husband, I ignored it because now it was really raining – a downpour in fact. I was trying to save the battery life on my phone and trying not to get it wet. I “hit the wall” as I was going around Lake Merced at mile 20. I only heard and read about hitting the wall and now my body was experiencing it. I could NOT run anymore! My whole body was shutting down. I started walking. It was the worst pain I had ever felt under my feet. It was unbearable. It felt like I was stepping on pins and needles. I slowed my energy level down drastically, so my body was now starting to get very cold from the rain. I exerted forward with run and walk patterns until I got across the lake. With just 4.2 miles to go, the confidence that I had in the early miles left me altogether. I began to really question whether or not I was going to finish the race.

My strategy was to make it a little fun and exciting for myself at this exhausting stage. In my peripheral view I saw two runners passing me. I told myself that if I could keep up with their pace they could carry me through and I could sprint to the finish line. Looking ahead, I could see spectators lined up on both sides of the course cheering for their friends and family as they were coming down the path. I searched the crowds for Kirk and the kids.

1 mile before the finish line: I felt a knotted ball on both of my calves. The two runners I had been following now left me in the dust. There was no way I could catch up to them. I slowed down to ease off the knots. I soon saw the big FINISH banner in the distance. With every ounce of my energy, with the little strength left in me, I bit my teeth together like the time I got a vaccine at the doctor’s office (terrified of needles!). I then sprinted across the finish line. I paid very little attention the firemen nicely dressed in clean tuxedos, one of whom handed me a pretty little light-blue box as I ran pass. I grabbed it and raised both hands in the air: I did it!

I began searching for my family in the midst of the crowd. In the corner of my eye I finally saw Kirk and the kids. Fighting back the tears, I felt like a child again. It was the most beautiful sight to see my family, my biggest supporters, standing there with huge smiles and open arms, ready to give me a hug. Our youngest daughter, Akiera, was only 20 months old. She climbed down from the stroller to get to me. I broke down in tears. It was my most emotional run, ever! The 26.2 miles had broken down all the windows and doors of my being, both the interior and exterior of my spirit. I felt reborn as a new person, with a new perspective about myself and my abilities.

The run taught me a valuable life lesson. No matter how well I trained, this course shattered my confidence and truly humbled me. Life is full of ups and downs, like the hills and valleys of the San Francisco course. Things go very well, then the storm pours down, making the road seem treacherous and the finish line not possible to cross. But we all carry a unique strength about us. I needed this trial and reconstruction to find what I was missing in my life, in order to feel whole again. From this point forward, I would let my heart guide my path. The following year The VillageRun Foundation was born and I accompanied a friend on another marathon.

Why do I run? I feel I can now answer this question with true clarity. I do it to refocus my center, the core of what it is important in my life. I do it to help others find their own strength in whatever they set their hearts to do. I do it to bring awareness and promote fitness in our community, and to have the energy to play with my children. I do it to pay it forward. A long time ago, someone broke down the gender barrier to make it possible for me to run alongside my male counterparts. I want to help pave the same road for my daughters and to let them know there is nothing they cannot do – that if they are passionate about anything, they too can go after it.

What’s next for me? This November I will be one of three women running through Laos, from Champasak to Attapu, in the “RunLaos Challenge”. The purpose of this event is to advocate for gender equality and bring greater awareness to issues such as anti-human trafficking, anti-domestic violence against women and access to education for ALL girls. Following this monumental race I will return to the U.S. and get ready to face my next adventure: The North Face Challenge San Francisco, a 50 mile ultra-marathon run in December, 2013.

Nang’s Runner Profile:

Marathon (26.2 Miles)
2010 Women’s Nike Marathon, San Francisco, CA
2011 Two Cities Marathon, Fresno, CA
Best time 4:52:31

2008, 2009, 2010 Bay to Breakers, San Francisco, CA
Best time 1:06:13

2008 Wharf to Wharf, Santa Cruz-Capitola, CA
Time 1:10:00

13.1 miles
2011 Oakland Running Festival, Oakland, CA
Time 2:04:20

20 Obstacle Course / 12 miles
2012 Tough Mudder, Patterson, CA

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