Seven years ago, Alyssa Anderson found herself at her local track, but she was not there to run that day. Instead, she decided to walk a lap around the track, as she waited for her husband to finish up his run. She couldn’t have known it at the time, but as she strolled around the track, her life was about to veer into a whole new direction.
It all started with a chance meeting with a friend. “My friend, Stephanie saw me and tried to convince me to join an upcoming six mile obstacle course race, The Mudderella with her.” It had been many moons since she had laced up her running shoes. Alyssa, feeling out of shape, told her she wasn’t a runner, that those days were long in the past. But her friend was relentless and would not take no for an answer. Alyssa made a deal with Stephanie, that she’d try to run two miles the next day and if she could do that, she’d agree to train with her and run the race.
Alyssa grew up a shy kid in Oregon with her two sisters. “My family life wasn’t a happy one. There was a lot of abuse and neglect in our home but I found solace and peace outside playing. My days were spent outside with my sisters and neighborhood friends.” In sixth grade, she fell in love with cross-country running. “I was faster than all the girls and loved running with the boys and knew that this was something I was good at, but I did not continue with sports because my home life was so tumultuous.”
Her family moved to Florida when she was a teen. “I had been in foster care, group homes, detention centers, I had used a variety of drugs and alcohol and had no interest in school or goals or visions of a future.” When she turned 19, she enrolled in an apprenticeship program in dog grooming, which proved to be the turning point in her life. She also found her future career, and eventually opened up her own grooming business, which she continues to run today. After meeting her future husband, Tom, she moved north to New Hampshire to be with him and his two children.
Laying down roots.
A couple years into their marriage, Alyssa and Tom decided on foster care.. “I had always wanted to adopt through the foster care system.” Alyssa had formed bonds in the foster care system with other kids and had a strong pull in her heart to adopt. “We actually got our two boys who are brothers when they were 10 months old and 5 years old, eventually adopting them.” Alyssa is so proud of her incredible family.
As she thinks back to those first few years of training, she smiles. “I have so many great moments.” Her proudest was her first 5k. The sun was shining on that May day, “I was ecstatic and every person I’d run by I’d exclaim “This is my first 5k!” I just couldn’t believe it.” She beamed, all smiles as she ran all the way to the finish line.
She couldn’t get enough of her training runs with Stephanie. Her mind did not believe she could run further than four miles, but her body ran farther and faster, Stephanie guiding and teaching her how to pace herself. “I was going too fast but just craved those faster paces and longer distances and knowing I wanted to run forever.”
Two years ago, Alyssa’s running career exploded. After completing her first 10 mile race where she didn’t place in her age range, she reflects, “I needed to commit more and put in more work and hire a coach to get better.” She ran her first marathon virtually this past May due to covid restrictions. She crushed it, finishing in a time of 3:05. Her husband Tom rode beside her on his bike, and her coach, Josh, cheering loud as she zoomed by. She was so grateful for her running community that supported her in spirit along the way.
Chasing your dreams.
When I asked Alyssa what her 2021 goals are, she beams. “ I have a couple big ones, the Chicago Marathon will be my first major marathon. I just started running marathons in 2020 during the pandemic. I got into Chicago with the guaranteed entry into the American Development Program. That was a huge bucket list item. I’m also running the JFK 50 Miler this year.” Beyond that, Alyssa has her sights on another, bigger goal, the Olympic trials in 2024. Alyssa will be 48 at that time.
When we circle back to what she has gained or learned from running, she is thoughtful. “Running has taught me that nothing is impossible, that you’re capable of much more than you think, it’s never too late to try something new. That YOU have to be your biggest cheerleader and to trust the process in everything in life.”