My name is Melanie Fullard and I am the newest member to the Students Run Philly Style staff, serving as the program’s Development Coordinator. I am very enthusiastic about returning to the family that helped to mold me into the person I am today. For those reading this who may not know, I was once a student with Students Run. I was a member of team Palumbo. During my time as a student I completed three Philadelphia Full Marathons and two half marathons, but of course, I could not do it on my own.
So how did I initially get involved with Students Run? Honestly, my story is not that elaborate. I was on my way to lunch one day during my freshman year of high school. I noticed two women sitting in the corner or the cafeteria signing students up for something. My curiosity led me to walk over to the table, and I wound up signing up for the program. Little did I know what I was really getting myself into? That upcoming weekend, Students Run was holding their annual Season Kick-Off at Lloyd Hall, (which would become my second home for the next three and a half years). There were a few hundred students there from various schools in the city of Philadelphia. We participated in several team building activities, which were then followed by a quarter-mile run. I was oblivious to how far a quarter mile actually was until I attempted this run. Following behind other students, I thought I could just sprint the distance, and be done. That was definitely not the case. It turned out to be a tragic failure. I only lasted about a minute before I began panting for breath, and my muscles started to ache. I thought my lungs were rapidly collapsing on me. I decided to give up on running and walked the rest of the way. After that day I reconsidered following through on the rest of the season, especially since I knew that as time went on we would be go[ing] farther, but I refused to give up so easily. I decided to stick it out, and attend practice the next week.
The first few practices were not too bad. I learned from my experience that previous weekend, and with the help of my running leaders that I had to pace myself. The goal was to finish, not to be the fastest, but to do your best. Within a few short weeks I was running 2 to 3 miles without stopping. The first major test of my improved endurance was during the Blue Cross Broad Street Run that May, which in my opinion turned out to be somewhat successful. It was the longest distance I had run thus far. At that point I relied on my desire to persevere and motivation from my running leaders who encouraged me every step of the way.
The season got progressively harder— running a half marathon that September, committing to running and preparing for the full Philadelphia Marathon that November, and a 20-mile Marathon Qualifier just a month before the marathon. However the week leading up to the marathon was truly a test of my character and dedication to finally accomplish what I set out to do 8 months earlier. The marathon was on Sunday. The Thursday night before (yes, 3 days before the marathon), I started running a high fever. I do not know if I had psyched myself out and my nerves were getting to me, but I could not move from my bed for 2 days straight. I refused to allow being sick stop me from running the marathon that Sunday. I was determined to make it across the marathon finish line. My running coach made a point to come visit me the day before the marathon to check in on me. I honestly believe that is when I started feeling better. At that moment I knew I had people in my life who truly wanted to see me succeed. Sunday morning I woke up feeling about 90% better. When I arrived at our meeting spot, which was the Philadelphia Art Museum steps, I saw a sea of other students wearing their blue Students Run jerseys, and I was greeted by my 3 coaches and two other teammates.
The first 20 miles were pretty easy, but the last 6.2, not so much. My feet and knees were sore and I had been running for nearly 4 hours. My coach did not leave my side. Within the last 5 miles I broke down crying. I did not think that I could run any further. Even with tears streaming down my face, I did not stop moving I kept running. All my coach could say to me was how proud of me she was, and that I had come too far to give up now. I finally made it to the finish line after nearly six hours, where my family, teammates, coaches, and other people from Students Run were waiting cheering me on.
I have accomplished many things in my life that I find to be amazing, but until this day, I hold completing my very first marathon as my greatest accomplishment. I ran into serious roadblocks that could have deterred me from achieving my goal, but I persevered, and conquered my goal. Whenever I feel like I cannot do something, I think back to that time in my life, and realize that not much else could compare to that feat. I was able to get through that week, therefore I believe I can achieve anything.
Over the course of the next 3 years I worked to improve myself as a runner, and as a person. I was able to improve my personal record times for various distance races, with plenty of encouragement from my running leaders, who were always interested in the different things I was doing, even outside of running. I had the chance to attend the Leadership Summit that Students Run holds every year, serving as a Junior Running Leader my second year. I definitely stepped outside of my comfort zone, especially since I did not like being away from home. I got to connect with other students, forming close friendships with people, who I am still extremely close to today. I also became more focused and involved with school. I juggled between volleyball practice, running practice, and being an honor student, in addition to serving as the vice president of my high school’s chapter of the National Honor’s Society, and an active member of the National Academic League. Students Run Philly Style also guided me through the college application process by offering SAT prep courses, and even taking me on my first college visitation. Students Run also provided me with a scholarship that assisted with my first semester of college.
Students Run Philly Style has impacted various areas of my life, and helped to shape me into the woman I am today. When I heard that there was an opportunity to work with the program that has done so much for me, I immediately jumped at this opportunity. I whole heartedly belief in everything Students Run Philly Style stands for. My goal is to continue to help Students Run grow, so others can come to understand the impact that our program truly has on youth. It is more than just a running club. It is a family, that works together to build resilient, strong, successful leaders who love to run!