Meet the Edmond mom who runs so other moms don't have to walk for water

Next week, this mother of two who struggled to get from the couch to the floor not so long ago will put on her fluorescent yellow Sauconys and run from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. She will raise awareness and funds for women and children who don’t have access to water and must walk for miles to find it.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 16, 2014 at 4:58 pm •  Published: June 18, 2014
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photo - Katie Russell, Oklahoma City, photographed Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Oklahoma City in her bright neon yellow running shoes. Katie will run from Tulsa to Oklahoma City next week to raise awareness for Water4.  Water4's mission is to eradicate the world's water crisis in an effort to make clean water realistic for even the most remote areas. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman
Katie Russell, Oklahoma City, photographed Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Oklahoma City in her bright neon yellow running shoes. Katie will run from Tulsa to Oklahoma City next week to raise awareness for Water4. Water4's mission is to eradicate the world's water crisis in an effort to make clean water realistic for even the most remote areas. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman

Katie Russell loves her heels and wedges and boots.

But for all of the Edmond mom’s girlie footwear, her favorites are her running shoes. When she laces them up and heads out the door, she finds peace and perspective.

Purpose, too.

Next week, this mother of two who struggled to get from the couch to the floor not so long ago will put on her fluorescent yellow Sauconys and run from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. She will raise awareness and funds for women and children who don’t have access to water and must walk for miles to find it. In many cases, the water they get is still contaminated. She will run 105.6 miles in four days so that the lives of moms like her will be changed.

They have to walk miles for dirty water.

She is running miles for clean water.

But for Katie Russell, these steps are also the latest in a personal journey that started four years and 90 pounds ago.

*

Katie was sitting on the couch the moment her life changed.

Her son, Benjamin, was playing on the floor.

“Mommy,” the 4-year-old said, “get down and play with me.”

Katie had given birth to daughter, Lexi, only two months earlier. The pregnancy added to some health problems and caused Katie’s weight to balloon. She knew that getting off the couch and onto the floor was going to take a lot of effort, so she didn’t do it. As soon as she told Benjamin no, she sensed that God was speaking to her.

“This is not really what I intended for your babies,” she felt she heard God say. “This is not really what I intended for you. So, you need to go outside and run.”

Katie immediately felt disappointed. Run? Her? That message must’ve been intended for someone else.

She had been active and athletic as a kid growing up, but running had always been punishment. Late to practice? Run a lap. Miss a shot? Run some more.

As Katie got older, married Chuck, and settled in Oklahoma, she was inspired a couple times to give running another shot.

“You see people who run a million miles, and they look so happy,” she said. “And I would try and think, ‘There’s something wrong with them.’”

But as she sat on the couch that day watching her son play on the floor without her, she knew that something had to change. She decided to give running one more shot. She went to Academy and bought running shoes, a pair of New Balance that she picked because they were the cutest ones in the store. She made a running playlist for her iPod and chocked it full of up-beat, high-energy songs.

Then, she stepped out the door for her first run. She remembers looking down her street at the stop sign. It was less than a block away, but it might as well have been a hundred miles. She knew she couldn’t run that far.

“That was an incredibly hard moment,” she said.

She leaned on her faith.

“God, we both know if I don’t make it to the stop sign, I’m done,” she prayed. “So, could you please just carry me to the stop sign.”

Katie made it to the end of the block. She went a mile that day.

It was the first of many.

*

Slowly but surely, the scale went down and the miles went up.

After a year or so, Katie entered a 5K, but even as she paid her entry fee, she was convinced the three-plus-mile run would be a disaster. She was sure that only skinny people and fast runners did races. They were going to trample her.

The day of the race, she sat in the car hyperventilating.

“Get out,” her husband finally told her. “Get out, and go run.”

Once she did, she realized that there were a lot of normal-looking people at the race. They weren’t all skinny. They weren’t all fast. But they loved to run.

That day, she caught the race bug. She signed up for more 5Ks, then a 10K, then a half marathon. Last fall, she ran her first full marathon.

She had lots of reasons to run. Her fitness. Her family. Her future.

A couple summers ago, she found another one.

*

Her son was doing vacation bible school at church, and the kids were asked to bring change to benefit Water4. It is a local charity with a global mission — provide clean water for everyone everywhere by supplying well-digging equipment. Benjamin had questions, and Katie tried to help him understand that there were places in the world where people lived differently than they did. Some didn’t have toilets. Some didn’t have running water.

WANT TO HELP?

Katie Russell is running four marathons in four days in an attempt to raise $40,000 to help bring clean water to remote regions of Africa. Want to support the Edmond mom’s journey from Tulsa to Oklahoma City? Go to www.water4.org/donate and click on “Katie Runs 4 Water”.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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