Our newest East Nasty of the Week (ENOW) is a mother of 6, a grandmother of 5 and qualified for Boston running her first full marathon. Nasties, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Denise Leaver!
Denise was born in Traverse City, Michigan, lived in Michigan and the outskirts of Chicago until she was 16, and then moved to Tennessee. She ended up attending three different high schools: two in Illinois and then Pearl High School here in Nashville (the actual, 100-year-old school). Denise attended Cumberland College in Lebanon. She later went back to school to become a Lay Pastoral Minister in the Diocese of Nashville and took classes through Brescia College. Denise is the Director of Religious Education (DRE) at St. Luke Catholic Church in Smyrna, and on Fridays she delivers Wheels and Deals magazines.
Denise started running in college because of a required PE credit and ran off and on through her first four children. Her longest runs were 3 miles. She took a break from running and had two more children, went through a divorce, gained weight and then decided she needed to get healthy again. She started walking with her kids and then one day they took off running and she followed and realized she could still run. She started by running up the hills and then connecting them and eventually did a mile. That was the summer of 2004 and by that Christmas she was up to 6 miles. Her oldest son signed her up for the Country Music Half and she was terrified! So she trained and ran her first half in April 2005 and she hasn’t looked back since!
Editor’s note: I asked Denise to elaborate on her weight loss because it’s a much greater accomplishment than she’s letting on. Here’s what she said, “I have lost a total of 70 pounds in the last 10 years. I lost the first 40 pounds pretty quickly (6 months), with diet and exercise, and then over the next few years by eating healthy, smaller portions and regular exercise (running, especially!). I have been able to keep it off consistently, and even lose a little more here and there, the in last 2-3 years.”
Denise’s biggest accomplishment in running is doing her first full, Country Music, in 2013 and staying with her running partner, Shelley Norton, the entire time. She really thought that at some point she’d crash and burn and Shelley would pull away from her, but they not only stayed together, they tag-teamed with one of their running friends, Randy Neff. Denise LOVED the training and was astonished at how well it went. She learned so much, especially from Daniel Hudgins and Kim Stokes-Lanier. And she ended up “accidentally” qualifying for Boston with a finish time of 4:09!
Shelley Norton, friend and running partner has this to say, “It’s actually hard for me to find the words to describe how I feel about Denise. She is honestly one of the most amazing people that I know. I’ve had the privilege of training for, running with and crossing the finish line of a marathon with her. Wow, what a dedicated runner! If our training plan says that we need to run 20 miles, we run 20 and not an inch less. She’s so positive and encouraging and always keeps me going even if I feel like I can’t put one foot in front of the other. I truly couldn’t ask for a better running partner! Denise is also a great mother and grandmother. Oh, and she makes the best mac ‘n cheese ever! I love this girl!”
Denise heard about East Nasty & started running with us in the fall of 2011. She was training with our “Monday Night Running Group” and a few people mentioned this huge group that ran on Wednesdays. She was intimidated by the name at first, but decided to give it a try – and the rest is history!
When asked what she enjoys most about East Nasty, Denise says, “Oh the people for sure! So much camaraderie, love, challenges! It never gets easy because you keep getting either faster or battling some overuse injury or another. There’s always new people to meet and hear their stories. And there’s always friends to share your struggles and triumphs! And of course, there’s 3 Crow!”
Fellow ENOW Mike Clark has this to say, “Denise is one of the most encouraging, loving people you will ever meet. Everyone needs to hear her story about running. It is truly inspiring. Before a run starts, she is saying hi, hugging, and motivating people. Her work ethic is second to none. If there is 4 mile run, she does 6. If someone needs help with their pace, she runs at their pace. A giving person in all aspects of her life. My life, her family, and friends have been blessed by Denise.”
Denise’s most memorable East Nasty experience is running with our Ragnar team this past October. She says, “As a runner, you compete so much with yourself the entire time you forget what its like to run for a team! You just want to do your best for that team! It was amazing and I’m so thankful to all of our team members that made it so!”
When Denise isn’t running, she loves to read, go to the gym and ride bikes. She tries to spend time with her kids and grandkids on an individual basis or in small groups. She knows that sounds ridiculous, but with 6 young adult kids and 5 grandkids – that turns out to be a hobby!! She also loves hanging out with her friends Shelley and Dawn.
Here’s what friend Dawn Bogic has to say, “Denise is one of the nicest, most caring people I know. She really listens to and gets to know people. She always takes Mark Miller’s words to heart and introduces herself to new people every Wednesday night. If Denise meets someone new to East Nasty, she encourages them to keep coming to our runs and to socialize. On top of that, she’s fast! She qualified for Boston on her very first marathon, the “monsoon”, otherwise known as the 2013 CMM.”
Denise, thank you for bringing your light and positive energy into our little running group. Congrats and welcome to the ENOW club!