Kendra Phillips wears a lot of labels: police recruit, Boston Marathon finisher, mom, cancer survivor, Californian, lover of scones (especially chocolate chip), and parkrunner, to name just a few. There’s one label that she had to retire when she first moved to Durham, North Carolina: solo runner.
“I never used to run with other people. I always found it awkward,” she noted while we lingered over coffee and scone crumbs at Foster’s Market after last week’s run. “But parkrun changed that for me. I love running with friends now. I do it at least once a week if I can!”
Kendra’s running started long before she relocated to Durham from California. It was while she was there that several of her other labels collided. Two months before her first Boston Marathon, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two days after crossing the finish line, she had a lumpectomy. “I used running as therapy to get past it. Because I had something to focus on, I was less worried about how much cancer – because I had no idea when I was training and running Boston – and it helped keep my focus on my health.”
Running, she says, also helped her find the breast cancer herself. It wasn’t detected from a mammogram, but rather being fit and knowing her body that allowed her to find it early and seek treatment. “It was a small lump, very simple surgery. I had a pretty quick recovery and didn’t have to have chemotherapy, which was huge.” She counts herself lucky and sees others who have had to go through chemo, radiation, and multiple surgeries as the real warriors in the fight against cancer.
Four Boston Marathons – and a fifth BQ for this year’s race – later, Kendra is on the cusp of her first 50 parkruns. She decided to give the group running thing a try when she arrived in Durham in 2014. “I looked parkrun up online. I was brand new to North Carolina and had always lived on the opposite side of the country and didn’t know anybody. It was a way to get to know people. I could go and do something I love and meet people with a common interest.
“In general, I think that runners are really fun, nice people and very social. I knew I would meet some fun people by going to parkrun. I had no idea that Durham had a parkrun when I first moved here. I felt so lucky to find it.”
And it’s not just the pretty days that make her feel fortunate to have found parkrun. We get our fair share of bad weather (with all due respect to Livonia and Mansfield), and even then or after a late Friday night, she says that she never regrets making herself go since it’s always fun.
“Even if I don’t go to breakfast, it starts my weekend out great because I already feel like I’ve got my workout in, and I’ve got some socializing in.” PRs don’t matter, she says, because that’s not the point for her. She comes out to be around people. “It’s fun if you run it hard or faster than you have before. But it’s definitely not so important for me.” While she loves Foster’s, she says that it’s the socializing that she does there, when she gets to know her fellow runners as people, that’s “the real treat.”
Add all of that together with her gratitude for the volunteers, and she claims that she’d still come even if we charged her. (Don’t worry; we wouldn’t dream of it.) In her words, “It’s one of the best parts about living in Durham. I’ve got this great parkrun every week. Free! Timed! Run! More people should do it.” We couldn’t put it better ourselves.
Congratulations to Kendra on her upcoming milestone!
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