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What Do Marathon Training Plans and Knitting Patterns Have in Common?

By November 17, 2015News

Answer: Meredith’s now an expert at both.

I know what you’re thinking: knitting and running? Those are two activities you don’t see paired together too often. I mean, when’s the last time you spotted your grandma running 26 miles?

marathon and knitting

However, Meredith Parmalee (Northeastern University International Business major, senior, and recent marathon conqueror) saw potential in the paradoxical activities, and took to the New York City streets a few weeks ago decked in running shoes and yarn-in-arm. 

The NYC Marathon is an annual event coursing through five boroughs in New York City. Each year, runners and attendees hail from all over the US to put their training to good use and cheer on their friends and family. It is the largest marathon in the world, with tens of thousands of runners participating each year.

This year, Meredith stood out from the rest. Not only did she run the NYC Marathon, but she knit a 22-foot scarf along the way.

July of last year, Meredith was stationed at her second co-op (for all you non-Northeastern readers, that means that she was working full time for a semester while in undergrad at NEU) in Madrid, Spain. She worked in the marketing department of We Are Knitters, a knitting company in the city that made knitting supplies and various knitting kits. One day, while doing some marketing research, she came across a man who was notorious for knitting and running a marathon simultaneously. Meredith was intrigued, and joked the next day at work that she’d do it—of course, never thinking it’d actually happen.

marathon and knitting

But then, with the encouragement of her co-workers, she came up with an idea. She could do it; and for charity, too. Her grandmother had taught her to knit when she was a child, and while on co-op, her knitting skills got a little more serious. So she had the first half of it down. Suddenly inspired, she laced up her sneakers and attempted the feat of knitting and running at the same time. After the first mile, she was pretty winded. As you might have guessed, the activities don’t exactly mesh as easily as one might have hoped. However, Meredith remained motivated and found a team to train with.

She decided that she would train with Team in Training, a team perfect for Marathon newbies that raises money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. With her fundraising in mind and team at her back, she began going on training runs.

marathon and knittingMeredith embarked on a 16-week marathon training plan, bringing yarn with her all the while. She maneuvered it by wrapping the yarn around her wrist and completing a finger knit pattern, holding the knit scarf underneath her arm. The knitting did limit her mobility considerably, but she knew it was nothing her training couldn’t fix.

With her co-op ending in mid-August and her return to the states mid-training, Meredith continued to raise awareness for her cause.

Back in Boston, classes started to take up a good portion of her time. Beginning her last semester of undergrad, Meredith says that this last stretch of training was the hardest part. She went on her long runs before her 9:15 AM class and over the weekend when she had the most time. However, it was still her senior year, and her friends wanted to go out on weekends. Motivated still, Meredith cut back on drinking and going to bars over the weekend and worked hard to fit in her training, despite the temptation to go out – not to mention, also having to study. Though it was an adjustment, Meredith says she had a great support system at her back the entire time.

“I’d run 3 half marathons, 5 k’s, 10 k’s, and cross country; but I didn’t think I could do it,” Meredith confessed. But with her friends and family’s support, she continued to train for her run. “There’s no end to what you can do,” she said. “And I surprised myself in how much I could physically do with training!”

Flash forward to Sunday, November 1st. Race day. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Meredith said. “I didn’t know what people would think, or if people would say anything.”

marathon and knittingMeredith’s wave left at 11am. Before the start, there was a lot of waiting around, which can really work on the nerves. But the sense of community Meredith found at the race lifted her spirits. “Everyone has his or her own story for doing it [running a marathon],” she explained. “There’s a whole community I didn’t even know existed.”

Meredith had quite the community to support her efforts at the race as well. Her co-workers traveled from Spain to support her, cheering enthusiastically from the sidelines and waiting at mile 16 with replacement yarn when she ran out. From what she told us, it sounds like an awesome time; people took selfies with her running with her yarn and shouted things like “Make me a sweater!” from the raucous surrounding crowds. “It was such a good experience!” she professed.

marathon and knitting

The scarf may have been bulky, but she says it ended up even serving as a helpful distraction from the pain in her legs. “Some people listen to music while they run—I knit!”

Overall, Meredith explains, it was a hugely rewarding endeavor. “Maybe in a couple of weeks when my legs heal,” she said, “I’ll decide to do it again, but in a different city.”

Before training, Meredith admits that at times, she hadn’t always had this ambitious mindset. She thought, “No, I can’t do that. I can never do a full marathon—those people are crazy.” But the doubts we tell ourselves aren’t always so accurate. She did it, and she’s got the scarf and the medal to prove it.

If Meredith’s story tells us anything, it’s in the power of motivation and believing in yourself. If you persist and keeping working towards your goal, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. 

Wanna try your take at knitting and running? Check out this video where Meredith explains her technique:

Author Holly Van Hare

Holly is a recent graduate from Northeastern University from Boca Raton, FL. She loves writing, math, and all things nerdy, as well as fitness. Holly is a health and wellness online influencer, group fitness instructor at BURN Fitness Studios, and future podcaster. Her favorite classes right now are HIIT training and cardio boxing.

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