Pushing Beyond Your Limitations
There are moments in life when our stress can be too much to handle. To combat it we might lean on something or someone to help us cope. For Mercy Hero Alice Henry, running provides a way to declutter her mind and a keep her body healthy.
“When I’m feeling anxious and stressed out, I find that getting dressed in bright, happy colors and lacing up my running shoes makes me feel better.”
Years ago, when Alice attended the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, her friend suggested that she take up the activity, but it never sparked her interest.
Still, Alice was committed to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Once Alice graduated college and moved out to the northwest suburbs for work, she was eager to join a gym.
There, she got involved with aerobics and step classes. While these classes were a joyful experience, she decided to mix up her routine, so she incorporated the treadmill.
“I really got pumped up when I started running on the treadmill, so I kept running and then I was having fun, I would lose a little bit of weight.”
But as much as she enjoyed her time on the treadmill, it was just the start of her running journey. Eventually, she craved the fresh air that only outdoor runs could provide.
“After a while, I found more joy when I would run freely outside. So, I just kind of kept at it for the past 30 years or so.”
By 2002, Alice needed another challenge. Challenging herself to take on something difficult was ingrained in her.
“I feel like I can accomplish anything,” she said. “Sometimes [when I’m running], I just stop and look at the sky and the trees, and I feel really blessed.”
One day, when she was 35, Alice thought about tackling a marathon. She wanted to test her limits and do something good for herself and felt like a marathon was the perfect answer. So, in 2002, she ran and completed the Chicago Marathon in 2002.
“I trained by myself, and I used an online training system, and I did my first marathon,” she said. “I was proud of myself for doing that… so that was the start of my obsession of running.”
While Alice continued to enjoy running, she would not take on another marathon until she learned about the Mercy Home Heroes.
In 2017, she met Jim Harding, a former Mercy Home Heroes Coordinator at a church service in Barrington, IL.
Jim shared with Alice his and his wife’s experiences running a marathon and about Mercy Home’s mission. With Alice’s 50th birthday coming up, she thought of marking it with another Marathon, only this time, for Mercy Home. It would be the icing on the cake.
“I had a really big birthday coming up and I said this could be really big,” she said. “I had never run for a charity before. I felt like if I could, that would really add another layer of meaning to it.
Thanks to Jim, Alice joined a Mercy Home Heroes group that trained for the event.
Becoming a Mercy Home Hero and giving back to our young people by doing something that she enjoyed and that contributed enormously to her wellbeing inspired her toward her goal.
“The best feeling in the world is when you can run for yourself, and simultaneously raise awareness for a worthy cause like Mercy Home for Boys & Girls,” she said. “It adds another layer of gratification to help someone else and improve their life in such a huge way.”
Still, it was difficult for her to adjust to the intense training regime. She had not run a marathon in more than 15 years and was not sure how her body would react to such a challenging task again.
“I just felt a little inadequate at first. I couldn’t run and talk at the same time,” she said. “I just kind of felt that I was slowing down the people who were training with me.”
With the support of other Mercy Home Heroes, she gained the confidence to push past her limitations.
“People would stop and help me out when they saw that I needed just a little more time to get my training together to be able to breathe, and I was able to pick it up.”
Alice kept being persistent with her training, never letting doubt abolish her marathon aspirations.
So, when race day arrived, she was fueled with adrenaline.
“That experience was unlike any other in my whole life, it was magical because I didn’t know what to expect.”
This magical day got even better. After the heroes returned from the race the post-event celebration downtown, they received a huge applause from a crowd of Mercy Home youth.
“The kids were there. They were thanking us and hugging us,” she said. “It was just truly a wonderful day.”
Now a seasoned marathoner, Alice has some advice for people to take care of their mental and physical health.
“I would recommend taking care of your body by eating healthy and drinking lots of water,“ she said. “And I would highly suggest feeding your soul with good music and good friends by meditating and praying daily, and by thanking God every single day.”
Alice will chase that magical experience again as she prepares to run the 2022 Chicago Bank of America Marathon. Although she is already hyped to be running it with Mercy Home for her sixth year in a row, Alice will be fueling herself with her faith in God and by listening to her favorite artist Drake, and his famous hit “The Motto” before the start of the race.”