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Health & Fitness

Going the distance

Former Air Force Reservist and current JBLM Army spouse, Natalie Hopkins, is managing to balance raising two children while training for the upcoming Tacoma City Marathon

Published: 01:54PM February 7th, 2013
Going the distance

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

Natalie Hopkins, a former Air Force Reservist, is planning to achieve her goal of running a marathon this spring. “It would mean more to me now than it would have meant to me five years ago because of everything I have going on,” Hopkins says.

This year is Natalie Hopkins’ year.

The former Air Force Reservist and now JBLM Army spouse has tried to run a marathon since she signed up for her first one in 2008. Whether because of Army life, injury, having children or everything else life has thrown her way, Hopkins just hasn’t been able to reach that elusive goal.

But this year it will happen. Finally.

Starting Jan. 1, Hopkins began training for the Tacoma City Marathon May 5. In her running journal where she logs mileage, times and what happened during each outing — such as getting lost on the trails — she also has her training mileage mapped out for the next three months. She manages to masterfully juggle being an Army spouse, a stay-at-home-mom of a toddler and infant, a family readiness group leader of the Headquarters Battery of the 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment and freelance writing while training. Though difficult, Hopkins is determined to make it happen.

“I have goals in running just like I have goals in life,” Hopkins said. “With running I’m never going to be OK with not having a goal. If I don’t have a goal then I’m going to stop, and that’s not good for anybody. It’s almost as necessary as coffee."

Hopkins couldn't train without the support of her husband and family, and of course the double stroller, which Hopkins has nicknamed “the Marauder” after the armoured, anti-mine vehicle.

Logging miles on foot can be challenge with just the weather elements, but the 120-pound Hopkins has the added challenge of pushing an 80-pound stroller while she trains.

Hopkins also battles the doubt that creeps into her mind at times. When she first joined the Air Force Reserves Hopkins was intimidated by the required two-mile timed run. Many miles later Hopkins still fights thoughts that if she wasn’t able to run a marathon when she was single, what makes her think she can do it now?

“It goes to show how mentally tough you are,” Hopkins said. “If you believe in yourself, it will happen. Just because a door closes doesn’t mean a window isn’t open for you to crawl out of.”

Soon after moving to JBLM in March 2011, Hopkins plugged into the local running scene. She volunteers and runs with a local group — wear blue: run to remember — and she also runs with an informal group twice a week. The informal group is made up of runners who are all training for the Tacoma City Marathon, including JBLM Army spouse Andrea Dornelas.

“I’m so happy for Natalie because I know she’s been wanting to run a marathon for so long but life has gotten in the way,” Dornelas said. “Now is her chance to do what she loves while proving to herself that she has what it takes.”

Hopkins had thought 2011 was going to be her year to run her marathon. She registered for the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington, D.C. to honor her older brother, a former Marine killed in Afghanistan. But two months before the October race Hopkins found out she was pregnant with her second child and decided not to train during her pregnancy.

She still kept active, listening to her doctor and her body. Hopkins ran until three days before her son was born. “It’s my sanity,” she said. “A lot of problems get solved on a run.”

Once her elusive marathon is finished, Hopkins will set her sights on the next goal: ultramarathons. But for three months her focus will be to cross the finish line of the 26.2 mile race.

“It would mean more to me now than it would have meant to me five years ago because of everything I have going on,” Hopkins said. “Back then I could sleep in until noon and not run because I didn’t feel like it. Now it takes me longer to get ready for a run than the actual run.”