You know that person who drives you to run faster, farther and harder… that is our female Runner of the Month. Marie Berry is that no excuses kind of runner. She can dish out serious, gauntlet-laying smack talk, and somehow, you don’t want to sock her for it. From her years in the Navy to her experiences facing down threats to the active lifestyle she’s come to enjoy, she doesn’t just talk the talk – she walks (and swims, and bikes, and runs) the walk!
Marie grew up in Hendersonville, TN the third child of four. She joined the Navy and served eight years. She was stationed at VP-17, Barbers Point, Hawaii for four years and was deployed to 10 different countries. While stationed in San Diego, she had a LT who “forced” her to choose between improving her enlistment status, applying for Officer Training or going to college! Well, college won, setting her on the road to becoming the amazingly social, computer geek she is today.
As a runner and triathlete, she draws a lot from her Navy experience. She explained, “My military family kept me strong and helped shape my mental fortitude that I use today to train and push my body past what my immediate limitations present. We can always do more than what we think, we just need to believe and have the courage to step forward.”
Marie’s fitness experience amounted to youth basketball and Navy PRT (fitness tests which for her included a pre and post cigarette) until a major surgery got her thinking about her health. She reluctantly signed up for her first 5K, the 2006 Octoberfest which ended up being an unseasonably, cold morning. “I thought I am going to cough up a lung,” she laughed. But she got a free beer after, so she was hooked!
Since then, Marie has made a lot of healthy changes. Signing up for her first full marathon, she thought she was going to have a nervous breakdown, but her friend and seasoned runner, Glen Dodson, kept nagging her to commit, so she did. She’ll never forget their first 20 miler.
“It tried to take us down,” she joked. “It was HOT, HUMID, we didn’t have enough water, and I was still learning how GROSS some GUs can taste. One went in and came right back up—so I choked and choked and all Glen said was “YOU GOOD?” I knew right then we were going to be good training partners!”
Marie has been a long-time supporter of Fleet Feet Brentwood. It was at a Speed Sessions that I first experienced Marie’s inescapable motivation and she became a fast friend. I mentioned NRC and although Marie is mainly an early morning runner, she makes it out whenever she can.
She’s an original member of the NRC Ragnar Team – Blood, Sweat, and Beers. Ragnar TN 2011 was the origin of some awesome one-liners including, “Cut their heads off, Marie!” and a video recap set to LMFAO that (thanks to many awesome NRC voters) won a free team entry!
Marie enjoys a challenge, which is good, because she’s had her share. In the past three years, she has had five surgeries and has come back stronger every time earning her the nickname, “Bionic Woman.” The biggest was back surgery to address an injury that had plagued her since childhood. After surgery, Marie couldn’t walk without the assistance of a walker in the hospital, but she never lost her competitiveness. One time, she passed another lady on a walker in the hallway and of course, she marked a “Kill” down on the white board in her room when she got back!
It took months of PT and activity to build her strength back. There were mentally and physically miserable days. She couldn’t stand seeing other people run but, she knew one day she would be back. Her support system of friends were invaluable and in low times, Marie leaned on some key inspirations: her Big Goal (Ironman); her small goals (showering without assistance and wearing shoes that tie); and several mantras, like “I ‘GET 2’ exercise” also etched on her RoadID!
Stronger and maybe even a little taller, Marie went on to complete her first Ironman in October 2016 in Maryland under some heinous conditions. Rain and wind wrecked havoc on the course and made it too dangerous to swim.
“I got blisters on both feet around mile 7 of the marathon. So that meant a lot of walking!” She admitted, “I thought a lot about the last 3 years of PT and how this was nothing compared to that. I thought about my doctors and PTs and how they helped me continue to move forward. I thought about what I really wanted from IRONMAN and mostly I thought about all of the LOVE… family and friends went out of their way for weeks to help me succeed and a special video from friends helped motivate me through the finish.”
Crossing that IRONMAN finish line, Marie was elated, but it was bittersweet. She couldn’t help her disappointment about the swim cancellation and dreaded comments about it, but anyone who’s smart knows IRONMAN is more than one race day. It’s a road less traveled of commitment and sacrifice. She’s already signed up for Puerto Rico 70.3 followed by a 2.5-mile channel swim from St. Kitts the next weekend, and she is narrowing down her pick for an IRONMAN in 2017!
A big reason Marie has been able to overcome so much is the support of her partner, Kat. The two have been together for over 23 years. From kayaking with Marie’s Nashville Aquatic Center crew on cold lake swims at sunrise to leaving helpful notes when training has them both on different schedules, Marie said, “Kat is a motivational activist. Her support is second to no one!”
Marie Berry is a running, biking, swimming beast! She’s been through a lot, but has made a lot of great friendships and memories along the way. We’re glad she is a part of NRC and wish her all the best in her future goals!
ROTM SPEED ROUND:
Favorite holiday guilty-pleasure: Mom’s Homemade Turtles
Running in place at stoplight: NO WAY
Hobbies outside of running: Travel, reading how-to articles and listening to TED talks.
Standing over 6 ft. tall with one foot in college and the other taking steps to start his career in Tennessee, our male Runner of the Month quickly made a name for himself when he joined NRC. I’m not sure if it was his obvious youth, his boyish humor or his bold summer runs (sans shirt) that earned this twenty-something the moniker, “Young Ryan”, but clearly Ryan Dickson doesn’t seem to mind.
Born in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights, Michigan, Ryan admits growing up he was more of a mathlete than an athlete. His knack for math led him to the University of Michigan, from which he graduated with a degree in Actuarial Mathematics, and while he loves him some Michigan he decided to settle in middle Tennessee where he worked summers for his uncle.
Because he grew up tall and thin, people just assumed he was in shape, but that was not the case. In fact, he had to resort to taking a shortcut during the mile fitness test in 9th grade. But, that all changed after his first 5K. He wrote a short piece about his transformative 5K experience, which won him scholarship funds, and he has also shared it with NRC Couch to 5K trainees as inspiration for their journeys:
Going into 10th grade, my mom insisted that I join the cross-country team. She said, “It will look good on your college applications.” I wasn’t a fan of the idea, but gave it a shot. The first ‘practice’ I was able to attend, however, was the first race of the season, which I was made aware of when I arrived. I had gone out jogging on my own a few times in the week or so leading up to this, but I knew immediately that I was screwed.
The gun went off and adrenaline kicked in; at that moment I was determined to not fail. Unfortunately, I had no comprehension of how far five kilometers is, and adrenaline only got me to about the two mile mark. At that point, I could do nothing but walk along the course (a dirt trail through the woods) gasping for air while guys who were better prepared flew past me.
When I finally jogged across the finish line, I was in 89th place out of 89 with a time of 29:40, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was hooked. Following that race, I practiced regularly and was able to drop five minutes off of that time in two weeks, and eight and a half minutes over the three month season.
More importantly than my time, however, is that the 5K changed the course of my life for the better. Not only has it led to me becoming a healthier and happier person, but I also met some of the best friends that I have that day. We still meet up regularly despite living in various parts of the country and have now done the Detroit Turkey Trot 10K together for 12 straight years.
Ryan admits he can get a little competitive. His 5K PR, a 20:02 set in November 2005, still eats at him, but not just for obvious reasons. He had trained months to get a sub 20 in preparation for the fastest cross-country course on the schedule. He kept pace with his main training partner, also named Ryan, during the race and knew it was going to be close. Although, they both failed to meet their goal, his friend edged him out by one second and a year later, got his sub 20. Sadly, his teammate passed away in a tragic car accident during his first year in college.
Now, when Ryan reflects on that PR, he is reminded about what’s important. “Every time I think about that race and how frustrated I was to miss the mark,” said Ryan, “I realize how little those few seconds of time mean in the grand scheme of things.”
Ryan has accomplished much since joing NRC. In training for the 2013 Carmel Half, he got into the best running form he had ever been in and he attributes that to his fellow NRCers keeping him accountable and motivating him to run faster.
“I had a chance to run the Tom King Half the month before Carmel,” Ryan recalled. “Andrea Klint, who these days I would be lucky to keep up with for more than half a mile, was running her first half marathon and I decided that trying to stay with her and Zack would be a good training run for my Carmel attempt. As we got closer to the finish, it was clear that Andrea was going to far surpass her goal, and that I would also have a new PR (to be broken the next month at Carmel)! That is one of my favorite NRC race memories, and probably the best I have ever felt while crossing a finish line.”
As you might expect, this millennial is also big in the NRC social scene! From lawn chair lounging post-Miles for Amelia to paddling NexGen NCRers in the right direction at the NRC Canoe Trip to sunset selfies at NRC Arrington potlucks, Ryan enjoys the fun, community-conscious feel of NRC.
Ryan met his girlfriend, Brianne, while still in college at Michigan, but they didn’t begin dating until a year after they graduated. Now, Ryan and Brianne both run with NRC. When they aren’t running or participating in duathlons, they enjoy visiting new breweries, wineries, or distilleries or just lounging catching up on TV shows during which Brianne inevitably falls asleep – (Those crazy kids!).
Currently, Ryan is training for three Spring 13.1s – Oak Barrel, Country Music Half, and Downhill at Dawn. He also plans to do one or more triathlons in 2017, with the goal to complete a Half Ironman!
Ryan has been keeping NRC young since the summer of 2012, but we have been blessed to watch him grow as a runner and a friend! Here’s to many future milestones with our crew!
ROTM SPEED ROUND:
Favorite holiday guilty-pleasure: Procrastinating work
Running in place at stoplight: Not a chance
Hobbies, outside of running: been trying to read more and eat healthier