The Woman Behind the Smile by Kelley McCarthy

granny race

Kelley McCarthy  is currently a Hall Director at Saint Mary’s College in NotreDame, IN. She started running  April, and since than has ran a few 5ks and two 10ks.  Some of her goals are to continue running a race a month, complete her first half in the spring, and to run on average 40-50 miles a month. During her free time she enjoys watching her favorite show, All My Children, blogging,  shopping at New York and Company, and spending time with her cat Freefall! You can follow her on Twitter @KMcCarthy8185



” I want to be remembered as the girl who always smiles even when she’s in pain, and the one that could always brighten up your day even if she couldn’t brighten up her own”

What a depressing quote to start off a blog post huh? Keep reading and the quote will explain itself.

A motivator, a cheerleader and an inspiration are words that others would use to describe me. While I am humbled and grateful that others see me in this manner, I often feel guilty.  Why, you ask? Behind the smile, the words of encouragement and the positive energy, lies a woman who has suffered from chronic pain.  Between my senior year of high school and first year in college I was involved in two car accidents which resulted in 120 months, 3,650 days and 87,600 hours of pain.  In simple terms: 10 VERY LONG years. Nothing worked. Not medications, not steroid shots, not physical therapy. Not even the doctors knew what was wrong.  I went through hours of testing, MRI’s, X-rays and met with many different specialists. Nothing worked. Some solutions were temporary or enough to dull the pain but any relief I could get was good enough for me. We often take the simple things in life for granted, such as sitting, walking, sleeping, being active, car rides, etc. All of these simple every day activities were painful for me.  Imagine not being able to escape from it.  Some days were better than others, but after a while you become numb, it becomes part of your life. You learn to deal with it and start to give up hope that you will never live a day without pain.  Some days I would get lucky and my pain would be on the low side of a 5; other times well over a 10, but that was only if I pushed myself too hard. I would find myself lying in the middle of my room crying because I was unable to move.

“When will this stop?” I would ask myself.  I never knew how long the pain was going to be unbearable, sometimes it was less than an hour (the lucky days) and sometimes it would last for days (not so lucky days). It didn’t matter; I still went through life like nothing was wrong.  I would manage to smile; it somehow got me through the bad times. Those moments are the ones no one knew about.  I hid my pain well. Only my family and a few close friends could tell when enough was enough and made me sit down to rest. I missed out on so many opportunities and sat on the sidelines. This was not how I wanted to live my life; I was tired mentally and physically of being in pain. I decided something needed to give. I wanted to play basketball and be able to run down the court for a layup, I wanted to pick up a softball and pitch, I wanted to be active, and I wanted to LIVE.  So I started working out focusing on my core, thinking if I built those muscles up I would be on the road to recovery. But that was not the case: most times after I left the gym in tears. Mostly tears of frustration, tiredness and of course, pain. I would come home in hopes that ice and a handful of ibuprofen would get me back to a dull sharp tolerable pain. Finally, I found an alternative: to be happier and stay involved in my friend’s lives and still hide my pain. I put on a happy face, encouraged others to accomplish their goals and cheered them on from the sidelines, something I was good at.  See where the above quote fits into all of this? I thrived off of encouraging others; it was my happy place.

Fast forward 10 years. I just completed my fifth 5k with my sixth quickly approaching, and completed two 10k’s.  I’ve only been running for seven months and have ran over 200 miles. I may not be fast, but I am able to run! I am a RUNNER. Something I never considered calling myself. It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago I had trouble walking around the mall and had to sit every half hour, and now my feet are hitting the pavement. Each run is an accomplishment of the new me, with the pain miles behind me. I am proud to announce I have also been pain free for a year. I found a great DO doctor in Florida who saved me from living a lifetime of pain and negativity.  I am able to sleep through the night, which is HUGE because now I have more energy, and most importantly I am happier.

Many have asked me where I find my motivation?  A few places, the #safit community, my three running partners, and, of course, quotes.  I will admit, for a person who spends lots of energy motivating others there are times when I can’t even motivate myself.  Sad, but true. Those are the moments I turn to the  #safit community for help, I read the blogs, talk to other runner’s, ask for advice, but most importantly, when I’m struggling I ask for help. What I love most about this community is that no one judges you. The community provides me with positive energy, words of encouragement, and strategies on how to refocus.  My goals for the New Year are to run a race a month, complete a few more 10ks, start training for a half-marathon in March, and run a total of 500 miles for the year.  My fourth grade teacher, whom I still keep in contact with, told me the other day that my high goals and determination are two of my greatest strengths.  I would have to agree with her.  Never give up, just keep going and you will be surprised on what you can accomplish.


One comment to The Woman Behind the Smile by Kelley McCarthy

  • Laurie Berry  says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. You remind me that when we put our minds to something, with work, it can be accomplished!

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