The anatomy of a 6 star with Erica Reeves Saunders

Usually, we’ve chatted with runners about their goals, wants, achievements and their passions. One of the things us runners almost ALWAYS stumble upon is the quest for the 6th star as it's not something that comes easily. It takes A LOT of work, dedication, early mornings, travel planning etc. etc etc. For us everyday runners that alone is a feat within itself, there are a very few runners that see this entire thing through from start to finish which can be very rewarding. While in London for the marathon we met up with one runner that was there for one last major mission which was to go pick up that 6th and final star. Erica Saunders went to London, and she took care of business. We’ve chatted with runners that have run majors, but we’ve never spoken to runners in depth about what goes behind completing this task, we figured why not start with Erica.

MSM: Firstly, a HUGE congrats on the accomplishment as it's amazing but let’s save this for a bit later as we’re about to run some miles together with this Q&A. For our readers to give us a brief introduction into Erica Saunders, we met briefly, and, in my mind, I felt what you were accomplishing was awesome.

ES: Thank you Jesse and Mid Strike Magazine for the invitation to share my journey to six stars. I’m honored. Truly.

MSM: Let's go all the way back to the beginning before the marathons before the running. We all have that moment in our lives when fitness becomes a lifestyle. It’s usually because of something that is life changing. For me I like to call it a fork in the road where we have a choice to either continue the side of an unhealthy lifestyle or become more aware of the self-care that it takes to become better both mentally and physically. What was this moment like for you and when did you know it was time to make a change?

ES: I remember the day as if it was yesterday. My personal call to action resulted from a downward spiral in my life. I suffered from depression and was using food as my coping mechanism. Eventually I became overweight. The things that were going on inwardly reflected on my outward appearance. Every year my employer requires a mandatory health screening which entails a blood pressure check, cholesterol screening, and height and weight analysis. On this particular day that I went for my screening, I was irritated that I had to take time out of my day to complete it. It was pouring rain, and I had a horrible headache. When the technician took my blood pressure, she looked at the number, looked at me, and looked at the number again. She asked me if I was feeling okay. I told her I had a headache. She took the BP reading a 2nd time and told me to have a glass of water and sit still. I don’t remember what the actual number was, but I remember her telling me that my blood pressure was within stroke range. It was at that moment I decided I needed to make some changes. I call it my “come to Jesus’ meeting” with myself.

MSM: I like to say to folks that there are so many avenues when it comes to working out but somehow running tends to start off as something small and explodes into something bigger. It's also one of the most daunting tasks to do BUT also gives us the mindset that anything can be accomplished if we put our mind to it. How did you stumble into running and what made you decide that this was indeed going to be a lifestyle for you?

ES: I got a gym membership and started working out on my own. I started doing anything and everything cardio – you name it. Whether it was running, the elliptical, or the Stairmaster, I was on it! Although I was making progress, I was seeking someone to join me on this health and fitness journey. I started hearing lots of great things about this local running group called Black Girls Run Delaware, where no woman is left behind. On New Years’ Day 2015 I was invited to a meetup at one of our local parks in Bear, Delaware. I attended the meetup and knew that I had found my place. I enjoyed the camaraderie and fellowship, plus we were getting active at the same time. It was a win! I attended that meetup and never looked back.

MSM: Okay let's talk about that first race! Usually, the experience of the first race is like an introduction into what the running community is. Tell us about your first experience. It's a question I love to ask because as new runners we all make the same mistakes, wear the wrong clothing etc. What were your early experiences like and what knowledge did you gain from them early on?

ES: My first race was the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon in March of 2015. I smile when I look back at those photos. I knew nothing about stability shoes, compression socks, or proper race attire. I purchased a pair of sneakers on clearance at the Nike outlet (I’m not even sure if they were running shoes) and I showed up on race day with some sweatpants and a hoodie. Despite all my amateur moves, it was at that moment that I fell in love with running. My expression as I crossed the finish line was priceless. I loved the feeling of accomplishment and knew that I wanted more.

MSM: The running community, especially ours, is a very tight one. We support each other through thick and thin and we ALWAYS uplift each other to be the best that we can be when it comes to running, training and proper preparation. The actual race honestly is a victory lap. Let's stick to community for a bit. Who are some of the runners that have been with you from the very beginning up to now, that have shown nothing but continued support?

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