Ayanna Pearson Educator, Runner & Mentor

Educator, runner, mentor and I must say an inspiration. Just a few words to describe Ayanna Pearson. Ayanna has been steadily focused on her goals over the past few years and has shown lots of focus and determination while on her journey. Ayanna always has her mind set on larger goals this year. This month Ayanna gives us a peak into her journey and her goals and most of all her passion when it comes to running.

MSM: What was it that drew you into running and the run community?

Ayanna: I started running in 2013. I had just gotten out of a 2-year relationship and was focused on losing weight: literally and figuratively. Every day, I chose a cardio to focused on along with strength training. One evening, I decided to push myself on “treadmill day” and before I knew it, I had run a FULL hour at a 12-minute mile pace. I was too excited. That night when I got home, I signed up for Chicago’s Hot Chocolate 15K. In my mind, I said if I had just 5 miles, surely with training I could run 9.3 miles. Yo’ I was in for a surprise. The first evening when I decided to run outside to prepare/train for this 15, I QUICKLY saw that running on a treadmill was WAAAAAAAAAY DIFFERENT than running on the pavement. I was humbled. Nevertheless, I stuck with the training process and continued to train OUTSIDE. That November, I ran my FIRST 15k. Afterwards, that following year in 2014, I challenge myself to run a race EVERY MONTH and one of those races would be a HALF MARATHON. At the time, I was a dean of Discipline, and I needed an outlet to get out my job stresses. Running became my therapy. It legit is my prayer closest. I am able to zone out and just commune on Chicago’s Lakefront. It’s my happy place. When I met 2014’s goal (running a race EVERY MONTH- one being a half marathon), I said in 2015 I would run my FIRST MARATHON and I did just that. I had the support of my sorority sisters. One who was an avid distance runner, and she introduced me to Black Chicago Runners. 

MSM: We touched on what it was that drew you into the running community, but we also have that moment in our lives when we reach the crossroad in our fitness journey. What was that moment for you where you knew that you needed to pay closer attention to your health?

Ayanna: I’ve been told I have tunnel vision. I would have to say that that is MOST accurate. To explain further, when I set out to do something, I square my shoulders and I MAKE IT HAPPEN. When I saw the weight coming off, I fell in love MORE with the woman in the mirror- ME! Heart disease and high blood pressure and all the typical ailments that plagued the black community runs in my family. I’ve been blessed {Insert Baptist Praise Break} that I don’t suffer from any of those, nor do I ever want to hence why I continue to run. I’m MORE confident and I’m healthier. It’s a WIN WIN!

MSM: Let's get to know the women behind the runner as we all see each other on the pavement. One thing we like to do is learn about the person. You’re an educator and a mentor. Give our readers a little background into both, most importantly thank you for being an educator and mentor as I'm sure the ability to teach can be very stressful yet rewarding.

Ayanna: I’ve been in education for 21 years. I am an alumni of Teacher for America. In these 21 years, I’ve been a middle school teacher, Dean of Discipline, and now most recently I am currently a College Counselor where I work with seniors in high school. I absolutely love the work that I do. My own high school teachers while I was in high school are the REASON, I’m “seemingly successful.” They poured into and believed in me when I didn’t even know how to believe in myself. Essentially, I wanted to be the type of educator to students that they were to me. I stand by the statement, “Too whom much is given, much is required.” My mentor in high school is someone who I remain close to, to date. Dawn Axam essentially stood in the gap as it relates to parental support. I was more or less a “latch key child.” However, she was a safe place to land. It is for that SAME reason why I am an educator and mentor. I don’t want any child or student to ever feel like they don’t have a person. I know what it feels like to not have that, and I want to pour and give back in the same way I was poured into. 

MSM: Seeing the energy that you pour into educating; how does it feel when you see those that are able to succeed? 

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