Mary Kate became a GRACEDBYGRIT influencer a few years ago and inspires us. When she graduated from the College of Charleston and decided to move out to California, we were thrilled for her to join our team as a sales associate in our stores in San Diego. Mary Kate is GRACEDBYGRIT because she didn’t allow her gritty moments to hinder her passion for running and living her best life.
Her love for running began at an early age, and was fueled by the challenge of “being faster than the boys.” In first grade, she came in second place out of all the boys and girls in her class in the P.E. Time Trials. Although her competitive spirit was slightly miffed that a boy came in first, that only fueled her fire and triggered her competitive running career.
Throughout her childhood, Mary Kate was inspired by her father and his advice to “Start strong, finish stronger.” With this mentality as well as hours on the trails and track, Mary Kate earned a spot on her university Division 1 track and cross country program.
During her junior year, MK’s life drastically changed when she was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. It is through this gritty moment that she found her grace.
We decided to sit down with Mary Kate and learn a little bit more about what makes her gritty. We hope you are inspired by her answers as much as we are.
Running has been a huge part of your life. What do you love most about running? What are some of your favorite memories of your running career?
Running has always been a way for me to relieve stress and clear my mind, and I was also lucky to make it my sport. It has been such an amazing experience to be involved in a community that so many people can relate to. Trust me, there were plenty of practices I dreaded, but what made it all worth it were the friendships and relationships I was able to build over the years. One of my favorite things that running has taught me is the power of positivity. Ask any distance runner and they can tell you how much of a mental sport it can be. Over the course of two minutes in a workout/hard run, there can be moments of fear, strength, weakness and self-doubt - but you cannot beat the sense of accomplishment that comes once you've completed a hard workout. I equate this feeling to everyday life because the hard times feel as though they will last forever, but on the other side you come out stronger. Some of my favorite memories from my running career have to be the friendships I made along the way. Without my college teammates, I would not have been able to be where I am today. Waking up every day through college at 6 AM was not easy, but with the help my teammates/best friends it made every hard workout worth it. I, of course, have had races that proved the hard work was paying off and to have my best friends there to support me in these races are some of my best memories from my college running career.
What was it like to be diagnosed with a seizure disorder? How has this changed your life since being diagnosed?
It came as a bit of a shock to me to be diagnosed with a seizure disorder. I had relatively no major health issues up until being diagnosed officially in February 2016. My first seizure was in August 2015 right before returning for my junior year cross country season at the College of Charleston. At this time, we were unsure the episodes were even considered seizures. I had a seizure once a month until I was finally put on medicine in January 2016. You could say I was a bit of a regular in the emergency room! Throughout this time I tried to keep my days as normal as possible and still attended practice every day and meets as often as I could. Nevertheless, my running career definitely started to look different than it ever had. I was no longer at my peak in my running, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from finishing what I came to the College of Charleston for, and what had been such a major part of my life. I took on more of a support and positivity leadership role on the team, which are all things I felt from my teammates during this gritty period of my life. My seizure disorder is something that will always be a part of my life and I chose to look at it not as a downfall, but a way to demonstrate the strength we all have in everyday challenges. This is not something I wanted to define me, but I realize how important it is to maintain my health and being mindful of how I choose to live it fully and full of grit.
How do you stay balanced? Where do you go to seek rest and rejuvenation?
Now that I consider myself a "retired" athlete, I love to seek rest in going on a nice run or some yoga at the beach. Even just relaxing on the beach helps clear my head. I tend to get stressed and anxious easily, so being able to use these tools to take a step back and allow for grace is something that allows me to stay balanced. I cannot emphasize enough how important my family and friends are to me.
What are your professional goals? What are your personal goals?
My professional goals are something lately I have had a hard time wrapping my head around. I am not sure what this postgraduate chapter in my life is going to look like, but I am ready for it. I am ready to work hard and utilize my life experiences as well as my degree in marketing to my advantage. I made the move to San Diego in November and I can't wait to see where this move takes me. I'm here to hustle and am excited to see the people I meet along the way. As for personal goals, I hope to maintain good relationships as well as create new ones here in San Diego. I am also committed to maintaining a healthy balance between professional and personal life.
What can you not live without?
I cannot live without family, friends, God, and maybe coffee. If I weren't surrounded by such strong gritty people who have dealt with their own struggles and have come out on the other side stronger, I am not sure what I would do. I have many people who are there for me and I hope they feel I am always there for them as well (the coffee just helps with a bit of productivity). I also love enjoying myself a nice hoppy IPA or a glass of red wine, but you could probably say I can live without those! I think any stress can be momentarily cured by a beautiful sunrise or sunset. I also don't know what I did without west coast burritos up until recently moving here.
How do you find your grace amongst gritty moments? What gets you through your toughest days?
I have been shown grace through this entire process. I have realized how to be grateful for good health when it's not always something we are given. Grace in these gritty moments has helped me to better myself professionally and personally. I find joy in knowing there is a greater power that allows us to see all these moments of grit as moments where we can show our strength. Showing our strength sometimes means allowing for times of weakness. Getting through your toughest days means knowing you are not alone and can lean on family and friends and don’t always have to be “gritty”. Others can be gritty for you when needed most. There are lessons to learn and joy in hearing how others have overcome obstacles. God grants all of us grace in order to grow.
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