Sam Gardner started running when she was in high school.
“I remember thinking, ‘oh my gosh, I just ran half a mile.’ That is so far,” she says.
Now, she’s running a lot more than that. In her peak training time, she runs 80 to 90 miles a week! She runs half marathons and marathons regularly. Recently Sam won the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in New Orleans.
A picture of her crossing the finish line shows a big smile on her face and her hands in the air. But, that smile means a lot more than being the first to cross the finish line. Running hasn’t always been filled with good memories for Sam. When she was home from college one day 10 years ago training for a marathon, her world changed forever.
“I was basically attacked and kidnapped for hours and raped repeatedly. He basically threatened me and told me if I told anyone he was going to kill me,” says Sam.
She suffered post traumatic stress disorder and developed an eating disorder, but she says by the grace of God, she was able to get back on her feet.
Today, she’s sharing her story to show positive things can happen come from tragedy. For instance, had she not been attacked, she wouldn’t have met her husband Daniel. She was looking for a running buddy so she would no longer have to run alone.
“We met that first day, and we were just going to run a couple of miles. We ended up running three loops of the route we were going to run. We instantly hit it off.”
Less than a year later, they were married.
Now, Sam may have the chance to share her story in Runner’s World, a national running magazine. She was chosen out of 1,600 applicants and is a top 10 finalist. The finalists were flown to New York, took part in a photo shoot and listened to each others stories.
“All the finalists are amazing. They all have amazing stories. I don’t know how the judges are going to choose.”
Whether she lands the cover or not, she’ll continue to share her story and how it made her stronger.
“Just to never give up, because it would have been easy for me to quit and never run again.”
The winner of the cover of Runner’s World will be announced Thursday.
As for her attacker, he was arrested and remains in jail.