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running through the discomfort: an interview with dawn

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dawn is one of philly's VIRs - here's why

Dawn Armentani is a Philly native and running enthusiast. Ian, the founder of the eseo sports app, interviewed her as one of Philly’s VIRs (very important runners). Read to learn what Dawn shared about beginning a runner’s journey and how it deeply relates to getting through life’s hardships.  

How did you get comfortable with being uncomfortable?

I think running had a lot to do with it. I started running a couple of years ago when I worked at Aramark. One of my friends there pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to join a fundraising team for the Broad Street Run. I said, “I can’t do that. I can run a mile, maybe, but not ten.” She said, “Well, I already signed you up, so you have to come.” So I did it. And it was fantastic. 

Running was a great way for me to destress and clear my head. I didn’t even realize back then just how beneficial running truly was for me. Over the years, I’ve gone through a lot of hardships. I’m in this very messy and overwhelming phase of life— something nobody should ever have to go through. 

Now that it’s summer, conditions are never “just right” to run. It’s too humid in the morning. It’s too hot in the afternoon. I eventually figured: you know what, the only way out of this run is to get through it. Just like this terrible situation I’ve been going through lately

I think running has helped me realize that. The only way to get through challenges in life is to push through. 

How did you get more into running after you started?

I didn’t learn about endurance until later. I didn’t get how people could run several miles at a time. But I started using the app, Couch to 5k, which was more of a walk/run for long distances. One mile turned into two; two turned into four. Then I just kept going. That Broad Street Run was my first race. That fall, I ran the Rocky Run and the Philly Half Marathon. 

Eventually, I figured, if I can do 10, I can do 13. The day after I finished the Philly Half, I signed up to do the full marathon for the next year. Then COVID happened— so it’s been a long time coming.

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Before running, were you into sports?

No. I never played sports but I grew up in a family full of brothers. All of them played and loved sports. I was a fan of sports, but I was more into books when I was younger. I liked working out and fitness, but I didn’t think of myself as being an athlete. 

It’s funny, I entered an essay contest for “why you deserve to throw the first pitch at Drexel homecoming night at the Philly’s game”. I wrote about how I never played sports but this is my chance to own up to my brothers and show them who’s boss. And I won! So, my life was prided on not playing sports— up until now. 

What keeps you coming back to running? 

I feel like it keeps me focused, in check, and not so stressed out. It helps calm me down and clear my mind. There’s always the goal of achieving a little bit more. The stress relief, mindset shift, and unpredictability of it all keep me coming back. 

What did you notice when you started running more?

It never gets easier, you just get stronger. I took that and carried it with me. 

I became stronger mentally and physically. I’ve always been kind of a crybaby… And I don’t think I would’ve been able to get through this past year with all these personal challenges if it wasn’t for running. 

Running was a big impetus for me in deciding to leave a toxic situation. It’s hard. And I have a great support system; I’m very grateful for that. But I still don’t think I would’ve had the courage to run away from it— to run through it.

I also noticed it opens up space for a lot of thinking. So many things go through your head when you run long miles. It gives you perspective, which helps you through any difficult but overall beneficial decisions in life. 

What does your running future look like?

I’m training right now for the Philadelphia Marathon in November. I’m contemplating running the 5k for the Philly distance run. Last year I did the half marathon there, and I enjoyed that race, but I think I overextended myself. Mainly, all my training right now is going toward the Philly Marathon.

What does your marathon training look like?

I’ve scaled it back, which took some strength. My training’s a lot more “easy running” but longer workouts. I do a lot of hills, both outside or on a gym machine. 

Before, I felt like I had something to prove. This time, I want to enjoy the process and get further in the long run. I PR’d really hard before but didn’t have much training. Now, I’m focused more on getting ready to have that strength to go all out when it counts. 

What would you say to anyone who wants to start running?

I truly believe that one run can change your life. Just pick up again the next day, keep a positive attitude, and keep going. 

You can follow along on Instagram and connect at future Philly runs!

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dawn is one of philly's VIRs - here's why