every runner has a story

Meet Jan Mohler

► From: Tuscon, AZ
► Started Running: 2001, at age 52
► trains with Lakeland Galloway Run-Walk-Run program

Running was a surprise gift for Jan Mohler.  A tragic loss for a co-worker led Jan to volunteer and raise funds for the Leukemia Society which lead to a meeting with a Team in Training and LRC running coach. 20 years and a bunch of adventures later, and Jan is still lifting others’ spirits with a smile and encouragement.

People are drawn to try running for a variety of reasons – to lose weight, improve their health, compete in races, or try something new.  How did you get started?

When I worked at Merrill Lynch in downtown Lakeland, a co-worker of mine, Diana, lost her 10-year-old son, Chris, to Leukemia.  It was such an overwhelming, devastating event for everyone in our office.  I felt the need to do something for Diana and in Chris’s memory and for everyone in our office.  I contacted the Leukemia Society in Orlando and they brought Light the Night to Lakeland to “to bring light to the darkness of cancer”.  Once a year our office would fundraise and get as many people involved as possible and have a celebration in Munn Park with food, drinks, games, give always, etc.  It was an evening event and we all walked around Lake Mirror with our lighted balloons.  Cancer patients and survivors carried white balloons as lights of hope, supporters carried red balloons, and those walking in remembrance of someone carried gold balloons.  After five years we pretty much permeated Polk County and interest started to wane.  Then, I got a postcard in the mail from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to attend a Team in Training (TNT) meeting at the Lakeland library; Little did I know what was in store. 

I get emotional just thinking about my journey and if it wasn’t for Chris I wouldn’t be where I am today.  It’s funny how life leads you in so many different directions.  I went to the meeting just to see what it was all about and that’s when my running journey began at the ripe old age of 52.  Sue Abrahamson (past LRC board president) was the coach who came to the meeting to talk to all of us and she was one of the nicest people I’d ever met, and I was hooked after she convinced me this was something I could do even though I had asthma.  So began another 5-year fundraising journey for the Leukemia Society.  If Sue hadn’t attended the meeting, I know I wouldn’t have gotten involved, her magnetic, humble, caring personality shone through like a bright star 🌟.  I had several different positions with TNT, but I really enjoyed being a mentor to the new runners for fundraising and encouragement and anything else they might need, we all had so much fun and I meet so many wonderful people along the way all with the same goal in mind, to raise money for the Leukemia Society and enjoy the journey with every step we took.

Team in Training Lakeland end in 2006, how did that impact your running?

After TNT ended, Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run program started in Lakeland and it’s a good thing because I would not have continued my running career, if you can call it that, on my own.  I’m not what you would call a self-motivator, at least not in my estimation.  Jeff Galloway’s program has been instrumental in my continued running success and what could be more motivating than having an Olympic athlete as a coach and mentor! I’ve used the Galloway method for most of my races and I was fortunate enough to work alongside Brendan Ellis as an Assistant Program Director while Brendan was Program Director for the Galloway Program. 

I can’t even remember when I initially joined the Lakeland Runners Club.  I was the Secretary for a short period of time when Sue Abrahamson was the President (2005) before she moved to MN. We are fortunate that Lakeland has such a great running community, there’s always someone to lend a helping hand when needed and give advice when asked. I’ve had many mentors along my journey and appreciate all the great advice I’ve received.  We also have a great community of volunteers who are always at the ready. 

You went to Greece to run the 2500th anniversary of the “Marathon” – what other adventures has running taken you on?

I’d guess I’ve run approximately 25 marathons in about 18 states and 40 half marathons plus too many 5k’s, 10k’s, 15k’s to count. My first marathon was in 2006 at Disney, then I did the Disney Goofy Challenge in 2008, the 2500th running of the Original Greece Marathon in 2010, Ragnar Miami to Key West 2012, NYC Marathon 2013, Chicago Marathon 2014, Badwater Cape Fear 50k 2018, back-to-back Baltimore MD/Atlantic City NJ in 2018, and the Ragnar Trail Alafia State Park 2018.  I’ve had so many great experiences.  

Whenever I look back on my running adventures I’m always amazed and feel so incredibly blessed to have been able to do all the things I’ve done and traveled to so many places. It did take me 3 years 2008, 2009 & 2010 to get into the New York City Marathon on the lottery (on the three strikes rule that was eliminated in 2013), then I had to postpone in 2011 due to emergency colon surgery, then the 2012 was cancelled due Hurricane Sandy and I finally got to run in 2013. That was a long 6 year wait, but I persisted!  One thing I do have is an abundance of patience!!! 

What advice do you have for someone who is new to running?

My advice to a beginning runner is never give up, just put one foot in front of the other & keep going.  Also, for me, taking baby steps was instrumental in me staying with running and many other events in my life.  I know a lot of people start with a marathon and just the thought of that was too daunting for me.  Coach Sue said to “start with a 5k, then a 10k, then a 15k, then a half and gradually, at your own pace, work up to a marathon”.  If I remember correctly, my first race was the LRC Christina 5k in 2004, I remember being so proud of myself! 

To me the back of the back is the stress-free place to be, I’m not a competitive person, I don’t think I have a competitive bone in my body 😂.  I just want to finish and enjoy the journey, life is all about enjoying the journey.  When NJ (training friend) and I ran our back-to-back marathons in Baltimore and Atlantic City, it felt good to know we could finish both races and enjoy both races, no pressure and we met some wonderfully encouraging people along the way, so much fun!

What are you most looking forward to next in your running journey?

I’m looking forward to a time when we can all get together again and run races other than virtually.  I run with a great group of ladies and we’re all anxiously awaiting the time when we can travel again to races.  I’ve missed seeing the runners I use to see on a more regular basis, I guess a little more patience is in order!  “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy

I generally run three days a week now with my group, sometimes we add an extra run depending on everyone’s schedule.  I enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship of my group, coffee after our run, celebrations within our group, traveling to races, etc.  I’ve also enjoyed volunteering at the Disney Marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society handing out water and cheering people on, that can be as much fun as running the race!  I know when I can no longer run, I can always volunteer and remain a part of the running community, the fun never ends!!!

Want to learn more about the Lakeland Galloway Run-Walk-Run program?

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