Sole Sister Stories from the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Portland - Part One of Two

by Jodi with help from Sky and Courtney

This weekend was the second annual running of the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Portland. Many of our friends and Sole Sisters participated in the event.  As we circled back post-race to get their stories, we knew we had to share them with you.  It's fascinating to hear from other runners why they run, what motivates them, and celebrate their victories with them.

Sky Stephens

I met Sky almost four years ago and was immediately drawn to her.  Our friendship was formed fast and cemented by walking through some life changing events together.  Sky is smart, funny, efficient, determined and resilient.  She is an amazing mom to her twin toddlers and is growing more and more into the image of Jesus every day.  Sky was born to run and is already impressively fast and smooth in her stride.  Here's her story.

Sky and her twins
After failures, exhaustion from twin toddlers, heart break, and single motherhood, a dear friend invited me on a run longer than I had conquered in about ten years. After we finished, I was so pumped up that I had gone the distance yet still filled with self doubt, fear, and a debilatating lack of faith. I concluded that if I wanted to not just "limp along" through life, but finish strong (live well, make a difference, and please the Lord) -  I had to stop letting life happen to me, and letting external influences toss me like waves in the sea (see James 1:6 about doubt).  I needed to be an active player in my own life. 

Good running requires discipline, and I desperately needed to discipline my mind - which affects everything else. I wanted to run a full marathon but wasn't sure yet what the impact would be on my work and my children.  I felt clear that starting with a half marathon would put me on track for a full marathon but leave room to adjust if the impact on family stability was just too much.  I got clear and committed to run a half marathon. Not a little, all the way. Before I knew it God was speaking loud and clear into my life that he was going to use this race to show me that I am His and He created me capable of great things - a truth I often don't believe. 

I set some life goals..  (1) Discipline my mind and self through training.  (2) Believe God made me strong, fearless, capable, etc. (3) Combine the first two goals with faith and belief that God would join me in this challenge and expect results.   

...and some running goals.  (1) Apparently the first goal should be to have fun and finish. Both did happen but my #1 goal was to do my very best consistently and know that I had prepared to the best of my ability. I simply did not want to have excuses in the end and felt that the only way was to make a plan, do my best to execute it, and trust God with the rest. (2) Run 13.1 miles at 8 minute per mile pace. This was never my real goal during training. This was the reasonable goal for the race that I told everyone in case of disappointment, but I always "reached" by attempting to discipline myself to believe it was possible. (3) Run 13.1 miles in 1:42:00 which would project out a Boston qualifying marathon time should I continue on and train for it later. 

I am sure I made a lot of mistakes, but I also avoided many by gleaning wisdom from the marathon of life. I have learned the hard way to seek wisdom from many trusted sources.  But I've also learned to  not change my course at every word or thought, to pray a lot, accept and ask for help, bring trusted friends and family along to invest in and support me, invest in others that need me, and keep my priorities in line such as God, kids, and work first.  

For me, the most all encompassing truth was to trust and obey God with every detail, thought, step, and breath. Our "perfect plan" is never enough and God always knows best. I run religiously with music and voice feedback for time awareness. The day of the race my new belt (rookie mistake) just wasn't working so I did what I had to. By mile three or four, I  ditched it. I had no music and no awareness of time.  The only thing I could do was listen to my body, believe in my training, and put every step from beginning to end in God's hands. He provided. 
a beautiful image of Sky praying and running
I smiled from ear to ear most of the race never knowing that I would not only reach but surpass my goal.  I finished in 1:40:40 (7:41 pace) - something I truly felt was impossible.  God showed me that through Him I can do anything.  All things are possible.  
seeing the clock for the first time
I had to learn to believe - only faith the size of a mustard seed is needed.  Believing is followed by actions.  Had I continued to be paralyzed by my disbelief, fear and doubt I would never have known what God desired to accomplish through me... and this is just running!  Imagine how much more God wants to do in every area of our lives if we only trust and believe?

Next stop...  Portland Marathon!
Sky and Courtney post race
"Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders ...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." - Hebrews 12:1

Courtney Rogers

Courtney is a new friend to me.  Sky introduced us this spring at a women's event at our church.  We stayed up all night praying, worshipping, and building friendships with the women in our group.  Courtney was passionate in her prayers and excited about her half marathon training.  I could tell she had a story to tell.  I was so thrilled when I heard how well her first half marathon went and asked if she would share with us.  An added bonus that I didn't expect was her full story, shared on her personal blog.  If you struggle with addiction or have a loved one that struggles, you MUST read her story.  She is living proof that God is in the business of redeeming, renewing, and rebuilding shattered lives.  So proud of you Courtney!
this is Courtney
I’ve always had a marathon on my bucket list. My big 3-0 birthday is coming up and I began to think about that bucket list more seriously. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to run a half marathon first and the training scheduled seemed manageable. So I made the plunge into the world of running!

Once I began the training I saw how running paralleled my life in so many ways!  I have struggled with alcoholism for years and the regimen I found in training was really helping me to stay sober.  I had to prioritize my time if I wanted to fit a five, eight or even fourteen mile run into my day.  With work and running there was little time for anything else.  I had to daily choose running over my desire for alcohol.  But I did it!  I didn't have a drop to drink the entire time I trained and that is a huge victory for me.  This is the longest I have been clean since I was sixteen years old.   
an obvious transformation:  the night before Courtney went to rehab and race day morning
Race day was all excitement, nerves and determination! I felt ready to run the race before me.  I had my music, my mental preparation and I was full of carbs!  I had no idea what I was going to experience, but I was ready.

It was a surreal, yet super real experience all in one breath.  I barely felt like my feet were hitting the pavement, yet my body was pushing with everything I had in me.  I PR'd by minutes from my goal time and ran my first negative splits.  The moment I crossed the finish line and caught my breath I was hooked.

This race was the race for my life.  I replaced alcohol and addiction with something positive.  Running pushes me to lean on the Lord for strength and I get to persevere when it seems impossible.  I am a different woman today than I was before the race. I will run and not grow weary when I find my strength in Him.
Sky and Courtney - they earned those medals
Time: 1:48:02  *** Pace: 8:15 *** New life:  Immeasurable

Thank you Sky and Courtney for sharing your stories.  We celebrate with you for the victory you are experiencing in running and in life!

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow we'll share Part Two and hear from Kathleen and Kristen.  You won't want to miss their stories...


  1. Thank you for sharing your beautiful stories Sky and Courtney. I am inspired by you two!

  2. Thanks for giving us a way to share! This blog was a huge source of information and wisdom for me to be able to glean as much as possible on a fast curve. Looking forward to this upcoming race and learning more from you ladies to prepare us!

  3. Carissa, thanks for being an inspiration and teacher to my daughter, Sky - and for sharing her story. I don't think I've ever seen her happier than when she was training for this race.