On the Podium: Tori Howard

Gilbert and I received the following email from Tori a few weeks ago—right after the Houston Marathon. We found it so inspirational we asked if we could share it with the entire group. Tori’s story is a good reminder that we don’t always know what others are going through and to always be patient, understanding and kind to one another. And her Houston Marathon achievement deserves some major kudos as well. Tori will be an official pacer at this weekend’s Austin Marathon. —Susan


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I’ve been with the Gazelles just over six months. When I joined the group, I had hit rock bottom. I was reaching for a lifeline and didn’t even know it. My family was struggling on many levels and I felt like a failure. I was in a dark place. Adding to that, I had devoted 10 years of my life to another running organization—three of those years as a coach. I found happiness in both the training and in the runners I helped. I gave it everything I had. Unfortunately, that organization let me down and I didn’t know what to do with myself. In addition to that, I had overcome a serious back injury in which I was never supposed to return to running. You’d think I’d be excited by the thought of running after such serious setbacks but running had lost its spark. When I found the Gazelles I didn’t have any expectations. I’d been deeply hurt by the running community and I just wanted to be alone in a group of people. I wanted to be invisible. 

Gilbert turned my life around by being a good role model and by never letting negative thoughts enter the training place. He didn’t know me or what I’d been through. He simply created an environment for people to come together as runners and to be accepted no matter their circumstances. He created an even playing field and made me feel important. Running with Joy became my new mantra. The Gazelles became a safe place for me to recover from all the things that pulled me down to rock bottom. This community took me from bitter to better.   

It took me nearly 10 years but I finally set a new PR in the marathon in Houston. I lost nearly 14 pounds of body weight during the last four months of my training. I stopped being negative and as a result, my life at home changed and my relationships with family returned to a healthy state. My love for running and runners was renewed. In addition to setting a new PR in the marathon, I met the Boston qualification standard. I never imagined being able to do that! In the 15 marathons prior to Houston 2019 I had never been able to finish without walking. Most of the marathons prior to this one were done with some level of injury. Simply getting to the starting line healthy this year was a huge accomplishment. 

Thanks to Gilbert, his staff and to this community of runners, I’ve been able to tear down the walls I built around my heart and establish a place of peace. I’ve returned to running with a childlike love and my faith in runners has been renewed.  

Thank you for everything. My new home with the Gazelles and my Houston Marathon experience will always have a special place in my heart.