Naperville : Jefferson Ave

Mary Ellen Schoenjohn

Years ago, after a long run, a friend confronted me with, “Why do you run so much? Are you running from something?” I have pondered this question over and over through the years, typically while running.

As a runner who has been committed to the sport for over 30 years, I can answer that I am not running from but running to. Some of the greatest gifts have come to me through running. Beyond the physical, spiritual, and social rewards, running has offered a world of experiences.

After I graduated college, I ran to connect with friends, stay in shape, and compete. I worked as a college advisor, teacher, and enrollment manager. Once during a run, I met some people from Colorado Outward Bound School. Running brought me an opportunity to complete a 91 day course backpacking, climbing, and kayaking.

My fitness journey continued as I moved across the country to ski, climb, and run. Though I continued to work in education, I traveled, worked out with weights, took lots of yoga, and rode my bike up big mountains. I learned more about healthy eating and cooking and saw how these affected my performance. Through it all, I always came back to running. Like an old friend, it would guide me to the next journey.

Once while training for The Boston Marathon, I attended an out of town seminar. I was working for a local college as an academic advisor. Before the first meeting one morning, I wanted to get in a good run. Several feet of snow covered the ground and the temperature was below zero. The college’s athletic director happened to be watching out the window and was surprised to see me looping through the lot in spite of the frigid, snowy morning. The next day, I was recruited as the college’s assistant women’s cross country coach.

What I lacked in coaching experience, I made up for in enthusiasm. My runners taught me so much about life, love, and spirit. I held them responsible for what they ate and challenged them to improve their total wellness and see the benefits in their running. Eventually, I was promoted to the Head Coach of the Men and Women’s team, leading them to a National Championship.

After I had my first child eight years ago, I decided to leave my career position to be a “stay-home” mom. Running became my lifesaver, setting out early each and every day to have an hour alone out on the road. I connected with other neighborhood runners.

One of these runners was the owner of The Dailey Method in Naperville, Illinois. The studio had recently opened and I was hooked after my first workout. I felt stronger and healthier than I had in my 20’s and 30’s. My running benefitted from the stretching, weights, and core exercises. I was offered an opportunity to train to be a Dailey Method instructor. For nearly 4 years, I taught this amazing practice. I met some of my dearest friends, connected to the community, and learned as much from my students as they did from me.

This past spring, I co-founded The Kitchen Remix . Once again, running had her influence. A friend, Stephanie Ours, and I had been training together for a few months and shared our strong ideas about healthy living. Over many miles, The Kitchen Remix was founded. Stephanie and I started out the project as a blog that would become a resource for friends and neighbors. Within weeks, we received requests for consultations. The Kitchen Remix has evolved into a health coaching and consulting service for our community. We are working with a variety of clients, helping them clean up their diets, ramp up their cooking skills, and gain overall wellness.

Though this is a new venture, we have had tremendous support and are seeing great improvements in the lives of others. People in our community are searching for answers and are ready to take charge of their own health. They want positive, healthier choices for themselves and their children. We are sponsoring health talks, working in schools, and “popping-up” with smoothie bars to help inspire ideas and motivate people seeking practical, realistic, lifestyle changes.

Recently, I left my position with The Dailey Method to dedicate more time to The Kitchen Remix. I am also working on my goal of becoming a yoga instructor and plan to be certified by late spring of 2013.

My biography is not complete without sharing that the core of my being, my daily practice, and my inspiration for healthy living come from my three children. The most important position I have is being mom to an 8, 6, and 3 year old. They keep me running, help me in the kitchen, and challenge me to be a better person.

Yes, this is what I have been running to.