BY: JENN HAROWICZ
We were standing in the kitchen and I asked my husband, "Do we try for a third kid or do I try out for roller derby?" It was a funny conversation. In the end, we realized it was time for this work-from-home-mom-of-two-boys to get out of the house and have something she called her own. I felt a pull to try something new – so why not roller derby? Go big or go home was my attitude.
After two incredibly challenging tryouts, an intense six week bootcamp, and ten months after that initial conversation in the kitchen, I landed a spot on the Rat City Rollergirls, Seattle’s flat-track roller derby league. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew that it was crazy different, exciting, scary, and out of my comfort zone – just the change that I needed.
It was the beginning of a chapter. The beginning of a four year love-hate relationship that would set the tone for trying, failing, taking risks, being vulnerable, diving head first into new adventures, and challenging me both physically and mentally. That was 2009.
So I was now “Know Mercy” and a member of a league of strong-willed, tough, independent, badass women with many different personalities… some that I'd connect with, some that I would not. After two months, the voices in my head starting saying “What the fuck are you doing? - You’re not as good as them. - Is this really you? - Are you tough enough? - Can you get knocked down, physically and mentally, and get back up?” I listened to those negative thoughts and decided I was better off being a fan in the stands than a skater on the track. After some tough conversations, I was encouraged by my coaches and my husband to stick with it, that I had worked too hard to get where I was.
When I told friends and family that I was now a roller derby girl, many said “I can’t picture you doing roller derby” – it was the start of proving to myself and to others that it WAS in me. And I soon found out that dreaming big and trying something wild and crazy, especially when you’re a mom in her mid thirties, would be inspiring to others around me. The negative thoughts were not going to magically disappear but I had to hold tight to that drive, that need for something of my own, and also set an example for my kids to push through the highs and lows and take a chance at things big and scary.
Fast-forward four years. I found myself spread way too thin and it was time for the chapter to end. I had been challenged like nothing I’d experienced before. I had pushed my body in ways that I had never imagined. I had skated in front of amazing crowds. I had beat myself up mentally, and physically. I had been a part of something big and created some lasting memories. I had the best fans ever and an enormous amount of support from family and friends. I hadn’t broken any bones. I had experienced a sisterhood of women and made some cool friendships. The highs and lows of these four years were crazy and emotional but damn, I did it, and I was proud. It was so much more than skating.
Two months after retiring from skating, my husband and I were in a serious roll-over car accident which set us back physically for a while and put life into perspective. I soon found myself feeling very blah and in the need of a physical activity. This “something” needed to be simple. Besides playing softball and participating in a few fun 5k’s, I hadn’t run much. The simplicity of the workout was appealing. Seattle’s three mile Green Lake loop was the easiest location to hit after dropping my sons off at school. It started out as a “just get fit quick” idea, not knowing that I would soon find myself pushing my boundaries. I remember texting my husband “I just made it half way around without stopping”… then a couple weeks later “I just made it all the way around without stopping”. I found myself falling in love with running and once again, I had something to call my own. This time, it was on my schedule, it was freeing, it started the tone for my day, and I felt success at the end of every run.
Well, my “go big or go home” attitude kicked in and I found myself wanting to know what’s next. I wasn’t just going to run, to run. I wanted to push myself further and see what I could do. Dream big. I remember being inspired by another skater who had retired and started running races. So I set a goal to finish my first full marathon before my 40th birthday. I had no idea what that looked like but I was going for it. I read, I trained, I figured it out, and I did it, running my first full the week before my birthday. I pushed my body and mind, and was hooked.
It’s been four years since that first run around the lake, and so far this chapter has no end. I knew this relationship was going to be one with more love than hate. I know it will always have its challenges, both physically and mentally, but it’s been an incredible journey so far. A journey that has again brought new friends into my life, amazing experiences, cool trips and memories for me and my family, and a magical sense of freedom and clarity that is beneficial in so many ways. I’ve set some high goals along the way, pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do, and am currently training for my sixth marathon, BOSTON! It’s exciting to once again show myself, my boys, and others around me that we have the strength within us to do anything we set our sights on. It’s so much more than running.
Head up, wings out!
Jenn aka "Know Mercy”