Why We Run: May Edition - A Change of Plans

Laurie Plaza

“I run because it saved me in so many ways and I almost feel like I owe the sport for all it has done for me, so I have tried to use it to give back.”

Nicole first entered the athletic arena as a basketball player. She loved the sport, but experienced severe bullying while playing basketball. The situation got so bad that she and her parents made the decision that it was time for a change.

With encouragement from both of her parents (former runners themselves) she joined the cross country team to finish her high school years. Throughout middle school Nicole battled with body image, was bullied, and struggled to find who she really was. When she joined cross country she finally had a sense of belonging. Little did she know at the time that this change would forever transform her life and lead her to places she never thought imaginable.

Nicole excelled at the sport and while running in high school she was recruited by Niagara University (a Division I school) and ran for their cross country team. A school like Niagara would have been beyond her reach without the athletic and academic scholarships she received.

Right after college Nicole had the opportunity to have an experience of a lifetime running across America for the Ulman Cancer Fund. She ran 12 miles a day, relay style for 30 days. She and 22 of her fellow teammates lived out of vans and asked for food donations in order to eat. The wildlife and US landscape became her home while running. She was able to meet so many advocates and cancer survivors. There’s something about running for a cause and for fun, not competitively, that will forever stay with her.

After college Nicole wasn’t quite ready to leave the sport and started looking into how she could turn it into a career. It all began while coaching at a small Division III school in addition to holding down 2-3 other jobs. After some time she went on to become a full time assistant at Buffalo State and eventually became head coach. She found that not only did she love coaching, but she loved building relationships with her athletes. Being exposed to athletes from so many backgrounds changed her and made her more open and vocal in the fight against social injustices. She became a more empathetic, patient, and understanding person.

Fast forward a few years and she was ready to start a family welcoming a beautiful baby boy. Nicole was determined to continue her running even after having a baby. Although it would be a challenge, she was at her best when she was doing what she loved…and in the end her commitment to running would make her a better mom.

This fall she will be running her first postpartum marathon in Chicago on October 9, 2022 in honor of her grandfather.  Nicole is running to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s Champions. Her grandfather struggled with the disease and she would love nothing more than to see a cure.

When asked why she runs Nicole said, “I run because it saved me in so many ways and I almost feel like I owe the sport for all it has done for me, so I have tried to use it to give back.”

Sometimes our circumstances bring us to places we never thought imaginable. Nicole loved basketball and still does, but running changed the entire trajectory of her life and for that she is forever grateful.

To learn more about Parkinson’s Champions check out Nicole’s link: Parkinson's Champions.prkorg



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