How to Run for Life

My inner athlete propelled me to level up.

Little did I know that it would take the world to shut down with a global pandemic to help me find my happiness and lead me to honoring my true self, while discovering a whole new side of me—as I unleashed my inner athlete. It took 365 days to turn my life around and have one of the most transformational years of my life. I gained an entirely new, fresh perspective and way of life after losing a parent, going through a divorce, and turning into an All-American sprinter, law school student, finding my coach, Richard Rucker, UCLA’s head coach in club track and field and Beverly Hills High head track and field Coach, and living my healthiest and most energetic life. Coach’s nickname for me was the “female Forrest Gump,” as he had to train me to run with the right technique. Through blood, sweat, and tears at 6 a.m. training every day, I lost 30 pounds from running 1,000 miles, but my change was even more transformative than that.

When my feet hit the track, I immediately felt positive energy charging through my body and knew I was on the right “track” to turning my life around as well.

My focus turned inward. I felt myself grow physically, intellectually, mentally, and spiritually with each step and mile bringing me closer to knowing my true self and purpose as I tapped into the power from within that led me to my authentic truth. It’s never too late to learn and sometimes it requires a life challenge that shakes you to your core and gives you a hurdle you must overcome to catapult yourself in a whole new direction. But it requires you to dig deep from within in discomfort and fear and darkness before seeing the light and finding your balance and getting into your healthy rhythm and routine. “Run for life” became my mantra, and what I realized is that I needed to honor and love myself with consistency and nurture my soul day in and day out. I had to just keep going. During the pandemic, I turned to self-care with my exercise, establishing a consistent routine to take steps forward each day. That led me closer to finding my purpose and calling along with my love for running.  I realized I was running for life, clarity, and joy from within. I wanted to feel the life force, strength, vitality, and energy come alive from within after going through a very challenging time in my life as I faced a parent’s death and a difficult divorce. It took the COVID pandemic for me to unleash my athletic superpowers as an All-American sprinter (achieving an All-American time in just the third race I ever competed in as an athlete) as well as my return to being a student and going to law school. It turned out to be the perfect time to invest in myself.  I returned from a monthlong trip after losing a parent with words that haunted me until I figured out what they meant. They were the last words my stepfather said to me: “Will you move on with your life already?” 

photo by Jordan Andrade

I knew one thing was for certain. Something needed to change as I was at an all-time low in energy and about to go through a divorce. The gas was empty, and I had nothing left to give—to myself or anyone else. But I didn’t know where to begin.  Before I could love anyone else, I had to love myself. Only time could help heal and I had to be gentle and compassionate with myself and allow time to process. I realized one thing: Energetically, I needed to tap into my life force. I wanted to feel alive like I’ve never felt before and wanted to feel again, even if it meant feelings that made me fearful and uncertain about my path ahead. There were clearly lots of emotions and questions to process.  “Will you move on with your life already?” These words haunted me until I did the inner work to process and dig deep to understand the underlying meaning of what he was trying to say to me.  I had to sit and live those words, processing their true meaning, and reflect on this so-called journey and what I wanted my life to look like across all aspects: personally, professionally, and physically. I needed to recalibrate and set a new plan in place and find my happiness. All I wanted was to have a moment to take a breather, but the world wasn’t about to stop to help me find my way. I worked straight through my bereavement, working on a deal that closed the morning of my stepfather’s funeral. I realized that work wasn’t going to stop, and I had to learn to set my own personal boundaries.  Work was 24/7 and there was no easy return to the grind and hustle with clients and managers putting pressure to close more business as you’re only as good as your last deal. Ten days later the world shut down in panic. Within days, we were all required to be cooped up for an uncertain and unknown amount of time and to figure out what this new way of life and working from home was going to look like. This drastic life shift hit us all in different ways, as life was never going to be the same. After a grocery run stocking up on everything I could for the weeks to come, my close friend helped me carry the loads in. As he was about to leave, I said, “Please take a picture of me—if I look like this a year from now, please help me.” I was exhausted and feeling heavy across the board—mentally, physically, and emotionally. I knew I had to take matters in my own hands and make a significant change. Little did I know that that photo and the commitment I made in the doorway while saying goodbye to my friend with an apple in one hand would be the impetus and catalyst that would ignite the fire in me to find myself and my happiness amid the darkness. At that moment, I realized the words I shared with him were the commitment I made to myself and that marks the day I was honest with myself and took a step forward.

photo by Jordan Andrade

One of the first things I did was think about my self-care game plan. I knew that I needed to work with someone to help hold me accountable. I signed up to work with a trainer that a friend worked with as I was impressed by the transformation I saw in her to get her on her wellness journey. He told me that if he was going to take me on that journey I had to commit and go all in, both with training and diet. I was ready and signed up for private sessions that were way above my financial means. But I knew that, if I signed up, I would dive right in and commit. We started the process and Jerry Housey from Stronghouse Fitness kicked my ass on the weight machines. With the heavy reps, I was sore and could barely walk the next day after training. I was pushing through during the 6 a.m workouts and we were getting into a routine—then the pandemic shut it all down and the gym closed. I didn’t want to stop, as I was just getting into a healthy rhythm and routine. With the new stay-at-home/work-from-home orders, I decided that I would take the commute time each day, with an hour in the morning and evening, and focus on my wellness and fitness. I used this time to reflect and focus on how I was going to tackle each day.  It started each day with those steps for an hour in the morning and in the evening, which totaled around six to eight miles a day of walking. Holmby Park, the closest park to where I lived, became a place I looked forward to going to each day for my workout and meditation on the benches. Many of those walks at the time were uneasy as there was lots of uncertainty in my life. I created many Spotify playlists that I looked forward to each day to listen and reflect, as well as listening to my stepfather’s playlist from his memorial, which I would listen to and pray for strength, clarity, and a better day. I did this every day for two weeks with my 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. walks. Every day I got stronger and was ready for something else.  My trainer then invited me to a virtual 50-mile challenge, which introduced me to the Nike Run App—which soon became my COVID best friend that I turned to every day and couldn’t live without. My competitive edge came out and, after a week, I won the challenge and was ready for something more. I took those daily walks and started running. Running woke me up excited each morning—which was the first in some time. I felt alive when I ran. I felt empowered and strong. My daily runs were my everything and what I looked forward to each day. After 21 days, I decided to take it onto the track and see what I could do. I had to mix things up as I was at the peak of one of the more difficult times in my life. It was my birthday on a Sunday and that Friday I was starting my divorce mediation. It was a sad and difficult time as divorce was something I never wanted to happen to me. May was one of the darkest months as I was processing the end of my marriage and I felt as if I failed—failed my partner and failed myself. What I knew was that if it wasn’t working I didn’t want to live in sadness for the rest of my life and one thing for certain was that I wanted a family, which was a priority. I trusted that going on our own paths was the right thing to do.  It’s never easy, and COVID made it even harder. During the pandemic, you don’t leave your home. That month I was packing up my life, box by box, and piling the boxes from floor to ceiling in my bedroom—praying for the nights to pass by so I could wake up and go to the UCLA track. My life was boxed up ready for the next chapter by the end of the month, but I didn’t have an apartment to move into or know what my next move would be. I took my passion for running and applied it to the track to see what could happen. I envisioned what it would feel like to come alive and feel like an athlete as I never did sports competitively, but was trained as a concert pianist. I took the same discipline, focus, and training I used to apply when practicing piano five hours a day and decided to apply it to track and see what happened. I had just applied to UCLA law school and wanted to run the track to manifest what it would feel like to be a student again after 17 years. When my feet hit the track, I immediately felt positive energy charging through my body and knew I was on the right “track” to turning my life around as well.

photo by Jordan Andrade

The next goal Coach and I set forth was to achieve All-American status. Early November, the one day off from work and school on election day, I asked Coach to take me to see the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Everything about the Olympics inspired me as it would be a dream to work there and to see the track, let alone dream of one day racing on the track. As we approach LA28—which will be one of the most impactful cultural events of the decade—I wanted to see what the training center was like to understand the athlete experience and mindset to help inspire me and strengthen my manifesting process. The center was closed that day due to the pandemic, but Coach and I trained by the lake for hours and knew that we would be back again soon. On the drive down, Coach suggested we set our next goal to achieve and qualify for All-American. I looked up what it would take for both the 60 and 100 meters, and that Christmas, I created custom ornaments with the times engraved and painted on them to manifest our plans. Our training was off to a strong start and Coach said he found our next race in February. It was the week of the one-year anniversary of my stepfather’s passing, and that weekend was the race in Long Beach. I couldn’t believe the timing of it all, and I told Coach, “Let’s run in his honor for my third race ever and achieve the goal we set forth.” With the “Mamba Mentality,” we pushed our training to the next level and in less than 10 days of hard prep work, I was ready for my race. Coach and I spent hours watching videos of athletes racing to teach me about form and style. The day before, Coach came to my home to walk me through the pep talk. I wrote down “why I run” and filled two pages. The next day it was race time, and I was prepared with my brand new Nike Zoom Victorys that Coach got me for Christmas. I broke them out for the first time to race. All the hard work and strategy set forth manifested and a milestone was made in my athlete journey as I achieved All-American status. The goal for my age bracket was 9.70 for 35–39 and I made 9.60. Weeks later, Coach said he found my next race, the first weekend in April at the Olympic Training Center. My dream of one day racing on the Olympic track became a reality as our goal was to go for our second All-American time. I had the opportunity to race twice on the track that day with other like-minded athletes. It was such an honor and a profound experience as I watched and learned from other amazing athletes from Team Brazil and other Olympians and Paralympians who put all their heart and soul into the race.  Training on track has allowed me to overcome many of life’s challenges and hurdles. What was key in all this was to “just keep going.” Sometimes I don’t know where it is all going to lead but I got closer each day to tap into my true power and purpose. Someone recently asked me a word I turned to during hard days when I couldn’t lift my head up: That word was “breathe.” It was the word on a bracelet my stepfather’s daughter gave me days before his passing that I always turn to and is what I wear every time I race. This all required focus, resilience, commitment, dedication, and a promise I made to myself to live my happiest and healthiest life and pursue my passion with purpose personally and professionally—and push boundaries and break out of the discomfort. I always challenge and grow as a student, and my training as an athlete has trained me for life by unleashing my inner strength through blood, sweat, and tears. This requires sacrifices, along with never giving up and doing whatever it takes to be my best, and get the job done. You never lose, you either win or learn, as Coach says. Now as the world opens up, I’m back on track training with Coach three times a week on the UCLA track for my next race, spending the rest of the days here on the beach, running on the sand. I am looking to set new goals and reach beyond my potential on the next stage of my journey as I evolve too into a new career and newfound purpose in the world, fusing my passion for sports with entertainment. My happiness is not an accident. I practiced it every day through running. My learnings from my training helped me get my life back on track and catapulted me into a new hemisphere. Coach always says, “It’s not the age, it’s the stage,” and this goes to show that it’s never too late to pick up a new skill set and try something new that could change your life forever. I now take my training into my everyday work and the business world and it makes me better with all that I do as I lead by example. The road ahead is open to you as well. Take a chance and try something you’ve never done before as you never know where it can lead you. If you are open and willing to take a chance the possibilities are limitless.  As an executive in the entertainment business, over the last 10 Michelle Edgar has helped artists build out their brands and accelerate their reach having worked across all facets of the business as an agent at ICM Partners to record executive at Warner Bros. Records, Epic Records, and Redlight Management. Ten years ago she founded The XX Project to empower women in business, help them source business opportunities build a network and advance in their personal and professional journeys. Interested in more opinion and strategy pieces? Read our full coverage here