At age 18, is when I took up running. I had never ran farther than 3 miles, but was told that I should go Decatur’s local running club for a group run. So, I went and had no intention of running a whole 10 miles, but Mark Rotz, starts spouting out that I can do it, and that I would probably do it faster than I thought. I can remember on that first run, he quoted Romans, “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame…” I somehow found that I was able to run 10 miles. I was riding a wave of elation, finding my new hobby of running long distances such a challenge, but so rewarding. I went back a few weekends later, he said he was doing a “long run”….I thought anything over 5 miles was long, so if 10 miles wasn’t long, then I was curious to see what what “long” really was, so I tagged along. I found that we were in for an 18 mile run, but Mark told me I could do it. My freshman year of college, when I decided that if I was going to run so much on my own for fun, I should join a team, however, I didn’t want to part with my Decatur running friends and the solace I found in running 10-20 miles at a time, but Mark told me that I had the rest of my life to run marathons recreationally, but only 4 years to be on a team and compete. He told me it would be a mistake to not take up this opportunity for running for my school, Millikin.
Little did I did know that this decision would change my entire life, who I wanted to become, and what part of the world I wanted to be a part of. Little did I know my second semester of college at age 19, with a 3:48:45 marathon PR, never having done a season of track in my life, I would give that up to find the best experience of my life getting to race in DIII NCAA races, finding a passion for the 5, 000 meter race. Little did I know that I would find that I could be “good” at it once I had put some training in. Little did I know that I was signing my soul over to this sport that has done nothing but betray me, test me, and challenge me feeling like there is no hope, but that once in a blue moon, it gives me a ray of light that leads me to feelings and realities that make all of it so incredibly worth it.
I think back to what Mark would tell me nearly every single run, “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame…”
Julie Rotz is one tough cookie. While I have not physically ran with Julie as much as I have Mark, I am so incredibly inspired by her. Every single time I talk with her, she has a smile on her face. She was diagnosed with cancer just 4 months after qualifying for the 2013 Boston Marathon, did that stop her? No.
She then, gets there only to be a few minutes away from the finish, to not finish this race that she trained for through and after cancer because of the bombing. Does that stop her?
She goes back the next year and gets to finish.
That is the definition in having strong perseverance, hope, and character.
Julie and Mark Rotz are two of the most inspiring people in my life and I just wanted to shine a light of appreciation on them, as they have done for anyone they meet.