Despite challenges, runner Halle Marr fought seven years to PR.
By Samantha Stewart | Sports Reporter
At long last, Halle Marr could see the end in sight.
Halle Marr jogged on the track in one of the biggest races in her athletic career, and the end was in view. As she went over the last bend, Halle used the last of her reserve to push even harder. Long, brown hair tucked neatly back in a hair tie, she sped up in her green, blue and orange running shoes that read “118:17” on the end of the Nike symbol. I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of the LORD.
Sprinting, she glanced ahead, approaching closer and closer — the finish line. Her teammates cheered at the end of the final stretch.
“You cna do it, Halle! Go, Halle!”
She looked up at the large clock displayed above — 5:42, 5:43, 5:44. She was going to beat her record — 5:45, 5:46, 5:47. Halle crossed the finish line as the big red numbers clocked her at 5:48. She raised both hands in a fist, friends cheering alongside her. She has never felt so elated.
For the first time in seven years, Halle had beaten her personal record, or what runners call their “PR.” And to think, she never thought she would become a runner.
Growing up, Halle Marr was a soccer player, for nearly ten years. Dubbed Wheels by teammates because of her endurance, Halle could outrun most girls on the field. A teammate’s dad recommended she join the cross country team.
“I completely ignored his suggestion,” Halle said. “I claimed that running wasn’t even a sport.”
When she got to high school, she saw politics on the soccer team. She didn’t make the Wayzata team. Instead of being upset and giving up on sports, she decided to give running a try. In running, your time was what mattered. Not anything else. Later in life, it would be lifesaving.
“It was actually a time in my life that redefined my faith,” Halle said.
God challenged Halle in this moment. Soccer was all she knew. Did God want her to do something else? She had to trust that God had something better planned, whatever that may be. And He did.
In Halle’s first cross country race, she got third place out of about 300 runners and had a successful freshman year in both cross country and track. On a team of nearly 80 girls, she made varsity, meaning she was in the top seven.
Halle continued to do well. Her personal record began her freshman year in high school. Halle ran a 5:52. She won Rookie of the Year. Halle came to the realization that she was meant to run.
That summer, though, Halle overtrained. She ran a half-marathon and trained so much that she had a knee injury. She had a condition called patellofemoral syndrome, where the cartilage under the kneecap was damaged. As a result, she had to retrain how to walk and she had to take off the fall season of her sophomore year. During the spring of her sophomore year, she still trained, but says she wasn’t consistent in her running. Halle’s faith was also challenged once again. She couldn’t run. She felt out of control. During this time, she realized that running was a blessing, she vowed not to take it for granted.
Halle’s junior year was all about trying to get her body conditioned and her speed back. But her challenges didn’t stop there. Throughout Halle’s junior and senior years of high school, Halle struggled with her physical and mental health. She developed an eating disorder and struggled with depression. By her senior year of high school, Halle was burnt out. She learned she was anemic due to her eating disorder. She wasn’t running nearly as strongly as she wanted.
At the end of her high school career, her coach had announced at the banquet that Halle never reached her potential. The coach called Halle a poster child of anemia, as Halle had put off getting her iron checked until it was too late.
“I almost gave up running,” Marr said. “It was really disheartening. I wanted to quit.”
Halle began looking at colleges. Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Wisconsin-River Falls. Maybe she wouldn’t run in college. Maybe she’d be OK with that.
Then Halle visited Bethel. Halle received an invitation from coach James Timp to check Bethel out. It couldn’t hurt, right?
“He said that in order to run for this team you needed three things — a heart for God, a heart for each other and a heart for running. I was so inspired,” Halle said. “I was inspired to join. I still live by those to this day.”
During Halle’s freshman year at Bethel, she had one of her fastest seasons. She set a goal to be in the top seven. She was ninth.
But her challenges didn’t stop there.
During spring of her freshman year, she had a stress fracture and had to take time to recover. She couldn’t train well during the rest of that season. In the fall of her sophomore year, Halle was diagnosed with mono. She had no choice but to take the year off.
“Every time I lace up for a race, I remember to give it all to God, and every time I take off my spikes, regardless of how the race goes, I remember just how blessed I am.” — Halle Marr, distance runner
Halle felt stuck. She couldn’t run, and once again things were out of her control.
“I was thinking about transferring,” Halle said, “I was thinking about joining a ministry program called YWAM. I thought God had a different plan for me.”
Instead of transferring, Halle studied abroad in Costa Rica. During this time, she gained a new perspective in life.
“I decided to live life with open hands. Life is a gift,” she said. “I should be thankful for everything I have.”
Even running is a blessing. This is where “118:24” on her running shoes stems from. The numbers 118:24 are a verse in Psalms that reads “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Halle wrote these numbers on her racing shoes as a reminder that it is a blessing to be running and the reason she runs is not for herself, but for God.
“Every time I lace up for a race, I remember to give it all to God, and every time I take off my spikes, regardless of how the race goes, I remember just how blessed I am.”
After taking almost a year off of running, Halle returned to the swing of things her junior year. She was as determined as ever to get back to where she was.
“I looked coach in the eyes and I told him, ‘I will be in the top seven by the end of this year.’ ”
During this season, Timp was fired. The team was left switching coaches.
“Going through the transition of being under a new coach was hard,” Halle said. “It took awhile to bounce back, but I am really looking forward to the new season.”
Halle stressed the importance of setting goals for herself.
“There’s a lot of power in goal-setting and through boldness and prayer, I was healed. I was determined to take the changes of my life and take care of myself to achieve my goals.”
During this season, Halle says she overcame her eating disorder. She made this decision along with her goal of becoming a stronger runner. Halle ran in the 2014 cross country NAIA regionals and qualified for conference in indoor track in 2015. She was in the sixth spot of the top seven by the end of the year.
After Halle ran her 5:48 race and beat her PR, she kept improving. She ran better, trained harder, improved her time with each run. Since then, she has dropped her mile time to 5:38. Her new goal is to break 5:30.
“Halle shows true qualities of a leader,” cross country coach Joe Stevens said. “What she has overcome says a lot about her character. I have seen true personal growth in her life when reaching her long term goals.”
“It’s more than just running 55 miles a week and getting PR. It’s about the people and enjoyment of being a part of something bigger than yourself. Running is a blessing, life is a blessing.” — Halle Marr, distance runner
Beyond being a captain of the cross country team and a member of the track team, Halle is also serving her second year as a resident assistant. Getsch last year and Lissner this year. She’s also a student worker for the ITS Help Desk, an intern at Target and a TA in the communication studies.
“It’s more than just running 55 miles a week and getting PR,” Halle said. “It’s about the people and enjoyment of being a part of something bigger than yourself. Running is a blessing. Life is a blessing.”