Lisa Johnston


There are so many reasons why I run. The process of running, meeting new people and making best friends, inspiring my girls, and staying healthy and happy are all reasons why I run. But what is the real reason why I run?

There are few events in life that can take a horribly insecure young person and turn them into a confident young person. In eighth grade, my friend asked me to run track with her. My first thoughts were, “No way, I hate running.” (I really, really hated running the mile when we had to do it in school.) I was slow. But I agreed and signed up.

I instantly loved track. I was obsessed with making myself better. It is hard to not love a sport you can always be better at. That was the beginning of the new me. At that time, I never thought I would be a good runner, but always dreamed that I would be. I never thought I would run a marathon, but always dreamed that I would. I never thought that running would be something I would do forever.


“I have more confidence in everything I do because of running.”


Nineteen years later, I can say that it is the one factor in my life that has truly changed me. I found confidence in myself that I never thought possible. Running has defined my life and who I am. I have more confidence in everything I do because of running.

Go Big. Go Boston. ProForm: The Official Boston Marathon® Treadmill

In high school, I ran track for five seasons, cross country for three. It took me until my senior year, but I made it to the state meet in the 800-meter run and placed 10th. I went to college and ran cross country for another four years at a small Division II school in West Virginia. I ran 5k times I never actually thought I could run, but always dreamed I could run.

When college was over I finished seven marathons over a span of three years. At that time, I had a dream of qualifying for Boston, but never thought I would.

I had babies after that and got right back into running a couple of years ago. Since that time, I have done things I never imagined that I could do. I’ve set personal records in every distance that I have raced. I got back into running marathons and accomplished something that still shocks me to this day (was that really me?)!

In early 2013, my best running friend convinced me to sign up for a 50k. When I got back into running in 2012, I had decided to “never run a marathon again” so this was a long shot, but I accepted the challenge. A few weeks later, I decided that running a marathon would be a good “training” run for my 50k, so I signed up for the Potomac River Run Marathon.

On April 15, 2013, I watched the events of the Boston Marathon unfold while at work. A feeling of pure horror overcame me. It quickly turned to anger and disgust. I felt what every runner felt. I wanted to show that I was not scared to come to Boston and run the marathon and that the putrid acts that occurred that day did not destroy my spirit. I had to prove to myself that I could qualify for Boston. My goals of just finishing the marathon I was training for had changed.

Boston Qualifier Certificate

I asked multiple people for advice about pacing for my marathon the week before. Be safe, they said. It had been years and I had never attempted to run so far so fast. Go out around 8-8:15 pace, they said. I thought, ok. But I can run faster than that. I knew in my heart I could run faster than that. I set my watch for 7:30 pace. Dangerous idea. Sometimes that is all a runner needs. A little challenge.

I finished the marathon in 3:18:04. I fought through a wall that nearly brought me to my knees at mile 24. I finished. A 44-minute PR. But more important, I did it. I qualified for Boston by over 15 minutes! I had accomplished a goal that was just a dream for me at one time.


“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk, then crawl. but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”


Lisa_5Fast forward to November 2013. I had struggled through pain and another marathon, and finally received the diagnosis of “labral tear in left hip, bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, hip synovitis, and edema of the pubis.” I had already signed up for Boston. I saw my dream of actually running Boston nearly get flushed down the toilet. I stood up for myself, for what I believe. I avoided the surgery that most receive for the labral tear, and I have started training again. All my days are not pain free. Some are, some are not. This is minimal compared to what happened to hundreds of people at the finish line of Boston last year. They stay in my mind. Finishing stays in my mind. As the great Martin Luther King once stated, “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run then, walk then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” This is my motto for Boston 2014. I will finish, there isn’t anything that can stop me.

You see, this is why I run—the “dreams of my past” can always become reality with this sport, and there is no greater feeling than accomplishing something that you never thought you could. Even when you are down, broken, and miserable, you can rise back up. You can be whatever you want to be as a runner, and that’s why I do it.

Feel free to stop by and say hi and check out updates on accomplishing Boston (if I do) and other goals:
Lisa’s Twitter


Lisa Johnston


Sandra LaflammeLisa Johnston lives in Reston, Virginia, which happens to be a runner’s paradise! She is an environmental scientist for Applied Environmental, a small environmental consulting company in northern Virginia. When she is not working, Lisa spends time training for races and is a member of the Potomac River Running Racing Team. She is currently training for the Boston Marathon in April. She is also a busy mom of two little girls ages 6 and 2 who are always supporting her at races. If you want to follow Lisa’s running adventures you can read more on her blog,


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