My guest today is a proud member of the Navajo Nation as well as a proud member of the running community.
She started running with a goal of losing weight but has gained so much more in the process.
I will go a few easy miles with Verna Volker as she shares with me how she hopes to inspire other Native women to get into the sport she loves.
Changing Her Perception
Verna describes herself as, “never a runner, always an athlete.”
Basketball was her main sport growing up and she hated the conditioning part of the sport that included running.
It wasn’t until 2007 that Verna would run her first race.
The race offered a 2.1 miles distance as well as a 5-mile distance.
Verna was signed up for the shorter distance and at the time could never imagine running 5 miles.
Two years later in 2009, her family was complete with 4 children, but she had also gained 50 extra pounds.
It was that year that she resolved to run a half marathon and take better care of herself.
Her lack of knowledge about training made for a challenging race day, but she completed the distance and was hooked.
Going the Distance
Two years after her first half marathon, Verna completed the Twin Cities Marathon.
She went on to complete more fulls before she set her eyes on going longer in 2018.
This past year Verna completed three 50k races despite a health issue that derailed training for almost 2 months.
The forced break in her training required her to go into one of her 50k races less prepared then she would’ve liked.
It was during that 50k that she had to call upon her mental strength to get her through.
Verna always had that mental capability but failed to realize it until that race.
Verna credits her Native American ancestry for her resilience and strength.
Her next big goal is a 50-mile race in April of 2019.
Heritage and History
“Wake up before the sun rises and run to the east.”
This phrase is commonly heard in the Navajo culture.
There are many Native runners, but often times there is no attention drawn to them.
Verna is working to change that.
She has a 6-year-old daughter and she wants her to see athletes that look like her.
Verna began an Instagram page stemming from her frustration of not seeing more Natives represented.
Her ultimate goal is to showcase the amazing Native women and encourage them to share their accomplishments.
The best way a non-Native person can support her culture is by supporting businesses and social media accounts of Native Americans.
Above all welcome Native Americans with open arms at events.
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