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Celebrating Women’s History Month: Advice from Our Amazing Impi Ambassadors - Part 2

 

In part 2 of our blog series highlighting our amazing women Impi Ambassadors in honor of Women's History Month, we share the stories, role models and advice to younger women from Pilar Arthur-Snead, Nellie Putur, Kelly McLay, Lisa Miyake, Amanda LaVergne, Denise Sauriol and Heather Moreau-Kralj. We hope you feel inspired by the messages from these amazing women.

Pilar Arthur-Snead

Why I’m Awesome

I started running at the age of 43. I have asthma and at the time, in 2015, I was finding myself struggling just to get up a flight of stairs without becoming winded. So, I thought it was time for a change. Myself (and my husband) hired a coach and began training for my first 5k. At one point during the training process, before I could even make it around a track, my coach said to me “soon, you’ll be running half marathons and marathons!” I couldn’t believe that it would be possible! But a year after my first 5k, and experiencing such joy doing it, I completed my first half marathon, and shortly after that, my first marathon. Running quickly became a transformative factor in my life. In 2018, I became a certified coach because I want other women, and women of color in particular, to know that at any age, they can start a movement practice. To share this message, I also became a podcast host! Now, my days are filled with talking about and sharing the joy of running and movement! Who knew?! I sure didn’t!

Women Who Inspire Me

I was wholly inspired by Mary Keitany when she ran the 2016 NYC Marathon and won! Seeing her run inspired me to run NYC as my first marathon in 2017. I am also inspired by Des Linden. She always puts in the work, no matter the result. I try to put that philosophy into practice as well. And finally, the many female athletes and women who are making things happen, whatever that may be, despite obstacles and challenges. I have a friend who recently found out she had breast cancer, and she went through the whole process of finding out she had cancer to treatment to cure very publicly. She’s a mom, wife and marathoner. She went through the whole process so vulnerably and courageously. She just inspired me so much.

My Message For Other Women

As a young person, I wish I had someone who believed in me fiercely and in all that I could and would accomplish. This often left me afraid to try things in a bold way. To young women and girls, I want to say, be bold! Try new things, try scary (positive) things, things that will allow you to see how awesome you are now and how awesome you can be!

 

Nellie Putur

Why I’m Awesome

I am a total go-getter! I pride myself in being someone who chases all her dreams and ideas in life. I am currently working on a years-long goal of running a half marathon in all 50 US states - and it has been incredible so far! I'm 15 states in after two and a half years of chasing the dream. I love the rush of crossing the finish line of a half marathon and being able to check off another state. The pandemic has slowed my progress down, but I can't wait to start travelling and racing again as it becomes more safe, responsible and possible! Running a half marathon in every state has taken me to some amazing places, such as Glacier National Park (Montana), Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park (Maine), the Adirondacks (New York) and the city of Portland (Oregon), to name just a few. Outside of running, other cool things I've done are driving across the United States solo (Vermont to California), completing my Master of Arts in Teaching degree, obtaining two different state teaching licenses (Washington State and Vermont - grades 5-12 English/Language Arts for both), and gaining experience in three different grocery departments during the pandemic (night crew, front end and produce).

Women Who Inspire Me

My mom will always be my biggest inspiration, both within the world of running and outside of it! She has been a runner all her life and encourages my dream of running a half marathon in all 50 U.S. states by running some states with me! She joined me in Washington State, Idaho and Montana, and we have plans to do plenty more together. She is my favorite person in the entire world to run with. She also inspires me outside of running by demonstrating the best work ethic, moral values, and attitude towards adventure and exploration of any person I know. She has worked so hard her entire life and has been able to say YES to so many opportunities earned because of that hard work - she inspires me to work hard and say YES when I can, too.

My Message For Other Women

Find your passions in life, and then be passionate loudly. Don't let a single person in your life silence your passion. Be bold, make waves, and say YES to the opportunities you seek. You deserve to have the experiences you want to have.

 

Kelly McLay

Why I’m Awesome

After going through a devastating diagnosis of menopause in my early 20's, I needed a huge goal and focused on running and running far. That life "change" led me to my passion for running the world - I am now one of 49 women globally to have finished seven marathons on seven continents in seven days. It also fueled my profession and helped to launch FIT - Fitness International Travel where we bring runners around the world to run marathons. I love watching people strive for the impossible as I am always chasing it. Through a challenging IVF journey and multiple losses, I have two beautiful children and keep on running. Next stop: first attempt at Ironman.

Women Who Inspire Me

My mom who always gives so much of herself to others, my friend Brett who continues to run alongside me as we navigate corporate mommy hood, my college friend Sarah Hardy who is changing the conversation on feeding and formula for the good of our children and just busting the glass ceiling for Mommy CEO - and heroes in the running world like Kara Goucher who refuses to not have a voice, Des Linden who is so resilient and Sara Hall who just keeps running!

My Message For Other Women

Believe in yourself and just keep going. All it takes is one “yes” and one step each day. Chase the impossible - it's scary but it's so absolutely rewarding.  And even if others are not kind, lead with kindness and you will be rewarded in the future.

 

 

Lisa Miyake

Why I’m Awesome

I grew up sedentary and overweight, and eventually took up running and hiking to start my weight-loss journey (40 pounds!) and facilitate a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to see how far I could go with hiking, and I soon took up backpacking, mountaineering, and technical climbing. I quickly fell in love with these sports and wanted to share my passion with others.

For the past decade, I’ve been a volunteer instructor with Sierra Club’s Wilderness Travel Course, a 10-week program that provides instruction on wilderness skills (including hiking, backpacking, navigation and basic snow travel) to thousands of students over the past 30 years. After the course, I provide climbing and snow mountaineering instruction to our students who want to expand their technical skill sets, and I lead outings for them as well.

In the summer prior to COVID-19, I led a team to the summit of Mt. Dade at 13,600’ on a snow climb that required the use of ice axes and crampons. For one participant, it was his second time ever putting on crampons and his first time at that altitude. It was just wonderful to see the look of amazement on his face as we ascended. A few months later, I taught basic belaying, climbing and rappelling skills to a group of women who had never climbed before. It’s really exciting to see other women experience a technical sport for the first time, and even more amazing to see them really get into it and make it a significant part of their lives. 

Women Who Inspire Me

Arlene Blum broke barriers for women in mountaineering. She successfully led the first American (and all-female) ascent of Annapurna I, which is one of the most dangerous and difficult mountains in the world. The team raised money for the trip by selling t-shirts with the slogan “A woman's place is on top.”

My Message For Other Women

Dream big and aim high. You’ll hit some bumps along the way but remember that the journey is the joy.

 

Amanda LaVergne

Why I’m Awesome

I am a Broadway actor who fell in love with running when I first moved to NYC and couldn't afford a gym. I have since completed over 15 marathons and seven consecutive Boston Marathons. I joined the Alzheimer's Association as a volunteer years ago and now am lucky enough to coach their marathon team! I am an avid vintage clothing wearer and collector and found a way to combine my love of singing and vintage with a group that is very reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters. We sing all over the country keeping their legacy alive by singing music from the late 1800s to the 60s. I am also an avid reader and wander luster. I have visited 40 of the 50 states, backpacked through Europe, worked in Russia and performed concerts in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia!

Women Who Inspire Me

The woman that inspired me the most would be my grandmother. She was the first woman Rotarian, who also judged Miss America and taught Etiquette School. She never doubted that I would make my way from my tiny hometown in Texas to Broadway.

Some career women I admire are Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball and Dolly Parton. They have all shifted things for women in show business and opened opportunities for so many after them.

My Message For Other Women

Be brave, even when you are scared. The comfort zone is exactly that, comfortable. But there is a limited amount of growth in the comfort zone. Be kind and brave and take those leaps - that is where the magic is!

 

Denise Sauriol

Why I’m Awesome

I not only inspire and coach my athletes to do things that they are SCITED (Scared + Excited) about but also practice what I preach. When we tell fear to ride shotgun instead of drive, we get to find out what else is possible in our life. From my own experience, when I do things that I am afraid of doing, I feel most alive and present. I am deathly afraid of heights, yet I have skydived, and bungee jumped. I am still deathly afraid of open water, yet I have completed two Ironman triathlons. The scariest thing that I have ever done, and I am most proud of is leaving my 26-year career in accounting behind to be a full-time running coach. Helping runners and future runners see what else is possible in running fulfills me so much. In 2018, I published my first book to help people do their first marathon. I also co-founded the Chicago chapter of Girls on the Run.

Women Who Inspire Me

Bobbi Gibb. She was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. In 1966, she had applied to run the Boston Marathon but was denied. At the time, women were only allowed to race in a distance no further than a mile and half.  She knew women could run a marathon. Heck, she had run 40 miles the prior year in the Green Mountain Horse Association 100 Mile ride. At the young age of 23, she had the courage to do something that had never been done before that others told her she couldn't do. She went on to run the Boston Marathon again in 1967 and 1968. I also am inspired by Bethany Hamilton. At age 13, she survived a shark attack while surfing. A month later she was back surfing.  She is beyond fearless.  Lastly, I am inspired by any woman or girl that asks for help. We don't always have to be independent.  It takes a lot of courage to ask for help.

My Message For Other Women

Your voice should be heard. Don't let anyone quiet you. Not even you yourself!

 

 

Heather Moreau-Kralj

Why I’m Awesome

I am a single mom of two school-aged children. I had a successful career in corporate America and left it to raise my children, both of whom have special learning needs. During that time, I started running, and have since completed all of the World Major Marathons (most multiple times), have run the Boston Marathon eight times and counting, and completed several ultramarathons - my favorite being Comrades in South Africa for my 40th birthday. At this point, I believe I’m over 40 marathons and too many shorter distance races to count. This is special to me because I never was an athlete before, and I “discovered” running in my thirties. I’m so thankful for it because it has truly changed not only my life, but also given my children a way to see their mom as strong and goal-focused even if I don’t always hit my intended goals.

Women Who Inspire Me

Shalane Flannagen, Michelle Obama, my friend and local Fleet Feet owner, Christy Beth Adams.

My Message For Other Women

Never allow yourself to be put into a box of what you think you have to do or what you are being told you should do. Keep growing and exploring and don’t settle for anything less than something that fills your soul. That being said, understand the difference between sacrifice and compromise, because compromise can bring growth.