“Above all, running has challenged me to push myself harder, further, and to places I never dreamed I would or could“
The power of one moment, one person, or one decision can never be underestimated. London Midnight Runners captain Dana Shockman is a walking (or should I say, running) example of how a series of small, ordinary events can completely change a life. If you’re looking for inspiration you can end your search here: Dana’s story will impress you, motivate you, and have you itching to put your shoes on and hit the road.
Her story starts ordinarily enough: girl moves to new city, meets a runner, runs a 5k. That was 2012. Fast-forward a mere 7 years and that first 5k in gym shorts has turned into a whopping 10 marathons and one 100km ultra.
“I had moved to Washington DC after college and joined a few sports leagues as a way to stay active and meet people. An older friend I met through a soccer supporters club did half marathons and encouraged me to give running a try.”
Apparently that’s all the convincing she needed, so Dana found a 5k on July 4th and started training.
And while you might think that a seemingly “natural” runner like Dana would have taken to running like fish to water, she will be quick to correct you.
“I had no idea what I was doing- I went out way too hard at the beginning and had to stop and walk a few times near the end.”
Contrary to what you might expect, Dana did not jump into the running world with both feet right away. “I thought I would just run a local 5k here and there and that would be it. I never expected running to become such a big part of my life”.
The proverbial “runner’s high” kept her coming back though, and gradually those 5ks started turning into 10ks, half marathons and finally marathons. There was only one problem- she was doing it all alone.
“I was/can be a pretty reserved-quiet person. When I started running, I literally knew 1 person who was a “runner”. So I just tried to figure it out on my own, trial and error, a lot of guessing. I didn’t know there were running groups or clubs. The ones I did see, I never felt confident enough or good enough to join- there was a massive fear of judgment/rejection because I wasn’t in runner shape or fast. So I just went at it alone.”
This sense of loneliness and lack of confidence followed her when she moved to San Francisco and finally London, England. But enough was enough.
“After a year of it alone and struggling to find meaningful friendships - I gave myself a January ultimatum - FIND RUNNING FRIENDS.”
This ultimatum is what lead Dana to push herself out of her comfort zone and go to meet a group of strangers at Angel Station for a Sunday morning long run.
“To be honest, I have no idea how Midnight Runners came up as the one I picked (I googled & searched on Facebook). I had a long training run to do for an upcoming marathon and saw they had a Sunday Long Run group that week. They were meeting at Angel station (10 minutes from my flat) and it was free, so I thought- WHY NOT? What’s the worst that happens- they are strange/unfriendly and I just don’t go again.”
That, of course, could not have been further from the truth. Dana ended up having the most amazing run with a group of people who have now become lifelong friends.
From the outside Dana makes running look easy, but the sport has not been without its challenges. She describes the 100 km ultramarathon she completed in July 2018 as the biggest beast she has ever faced. The course took her 13 hours, 24 minutes and 37 seconds to complete and was just as much a mental and emotional test as physical. With blood on her knee and tears in her eyes, Dana crossed the finish line completely exhausted yet elated...she had completed a physical feat that few people could ever conceive of doing, and got perhaps the most epic finish line photo of all time.
And while most of us would spend the next month lying on the couch after such an incredible accomplishment, that of course, is not Dana’s style. She was out at the London Midnight Runners bootcamp run just a few days later.
Aside from the physical challenges that come with training for and completing multiple marathons and one ultramarathon, her most recent struggle has been dealing with Amenorrhea.
“It’s an ever growing issue with female athletes, something I had heard of before but dealt with silently for 3 years. It was only until recently, after working with my running coach, did I decided to come out about it while I seek a “treatment” plan to correct it.”
With the help of her coach, Dana is looking at a revised training plan that is lower in mileage that will reduce the stress on her body and allow her systems to return to normal again. Of course, her biggest concern is how this will affect her relationship with running, but she understands the importance of having a regular cycle for female athletes, and stresses the fact that her health always needs to come first.
“This is a sport I want to be able to participate in and enjoy for the rest of my life. I want to make sure that I address this issue before it leads to injuries that will prevent me from running, like stress fractures”.
Her advice to other female athletes dealing with similar issues? Get help from a professional, and don’t be afraid to make the changes necessary to solve the problem so running can remain a healthy part of your life.
So now to answer your burning question… where does she find her superhuman levels of motivation? Where does she get her inner drive? For Dana, the answer is quite simple: you get out of the sport what you put into it. The feeling of accomplishment after pushing your body harder than you ever thought possible is enough to keep her coming back, and has effectively changed her life.
“The physical health benefits have been a naturally positive outcome- I’m in the best shape of my life. Mentally, it’s given me a place to escape, to clear my thoughts, a space to test me. Above all, running has challenged me to push myself harder, further, and to places I never dreamed I would or could. It’s given me a level of confidence in myself that no other activity-course-jobs could ever live up to. I believe in myself, I believe in the goals I set out for myself, and it’s given me the ability to help other believe in themselves- I’m able to share my running “skills’ with others and feel confident that I belong in this space.”
Dana can not express enough what the Midnight Runners global community has meant to her. As a naturally quiet person, MR has pushed her outside of that comfort zone, and has not only been the running group she always wanted, but the one she needed.
“I’ve always been pretty reserved, I’m not someone who likes to wear their achievements on their sleeve, I thrive on comfort, and rarely do you find me as the loud person in the group. But the support, encouragement, challenges of this community (from the members and crew), have improved my life in so many ways. I’ve gained greater confidence in my abilities, I’ve been pushed to achieve things I never dared dream of, I’ve been given a place to openly pat myself on the back for working damn hard to achieve my goals. I’ve been pushed out of my quiet comfort zone to LEAD group demos, to SHOUT to hundreds of people every week with confidence, to dance when people ARE watching, to stand up in front of a group and present my story- things I would NEVER have done before. I’ve been given responsibilities, asked for advice, and collaborated with crew/companies/vendors to make our MR community a better place.”
So what’s next for our small-town girl-turned marathon-crushing wonder woman? In just a few short days she will be toeing the line for the runner’s Olympics- aka the Boston Marathon- hoping for a shiny new pb. You know what they say… maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s the weeks and months of training and dedication.
At the end of May Dana will be travelling to Uganda to participate in a very special week of culture, volunteering, and of course running a marathon. She is raising money for St. Jude Primary school in rural Uganda to build a freshwater well on the school grounds, where students and staff are forced to leave the classroom daily to fetch water, most often from an unclean source. Perhaps Dana really is Wonder Woman after all…
If you would like to donate to this very special project, Dana has created two pages where supporters from the UK and around the world can donate:
If you’re sitting at home reading this thinking wow, this woman is incredible- I could never be as accomplished as her! Dana has some advice for you:
“Never stop believing in yourself. It’s amazing what the power of positivity can do- your body achieves what your mind believes. Challenge yourself, push yourself outside your comfort zone, find that friend-community member who will give you the extra nudge and GO FOR IT!”
And if you’re struggling with comparing yourself to other runners around you? She’s got one for that too:
“Be happy and confident in your own achievements. You have worked hard to be where you are- celebrate every little victory, every day you can wake up and go for a run. Be happy for others as they achieve but never get caught up in comparing your goals & achievements- we are our own individual runners, with our own goals, and our own journeys- enjoy the one you’re on!”
And finally, our resident Wonder Woman has some advice on how you can become a superhero too:
“Everyone starts somewhere- We don’t become marathoners the first day of 5k training, we don’t get strong after the first push up. But if we keep showing up, keep working, we’ll get to the goals we want.”