By Henry Howard
Ask Davonda Williams about how she got started running and she laughs. Williams then goes on to explain about a man she used to date who was “always talking about his ex-girlfriend” who was a runner.
“And it started to irritate me,” Williams says cheerfully. “So the first 5K I signed up for was more about me being able to say, ‘Hey, I can run too!’ I am going to show him. And show her. And show everybody.”
Positivity, Inspiration Drive Busy Single Mom
After that first 5K, she ran on and off for about five years, doing a 5K here and a 10K there. Williams, who was a cheerleader in high school, has always been active, doing cardio or lifting weights at the gym.
But, as that first 5K demonstrates, when Williams gets an idea in her mind, she will accomplish it. Two years ago, when she turned 40, she set a goal to run a half marathon.
“I signed up for a Divas Half Marathon in San Francisco,” she says. “Part of that was so that I could travel. I started the training program and followed it to a ‘T.’ Then I went and ran the half marathon, and from that point I was hooked on the half marathon. I was already looking forward to my next race.”
In addition to San Francisco, she has completed half marathons in Atlanta, Las Vegas and her hometown of Houston, where she PR’d earlier this year with a 2:06. “I try to go to the cool places so I can enjoy the city as well as do the half marathon to make an adventure out of it as well.”
Beyond her fitness and full-time work schedules, Williams is a single mom who cares for Kamryn, her 14-year-old daughter who has sickle-cell anemia. It’s a genetic disease that affects the person’s hemoglobin. The hemoglobin starts off round but it takes a sickly shape and doesn’t oxygenate well, causing pain in the joints.
“She hasn’t had a lot of issues,” Williams says. “But when she does have a crises, which are few and far between, I feel so helpless as a mom because I give her the pain medication but it really doesn’t take the edge off.”
Kamryn’s perseverance through those episodes inspires her mother.
“She’s not a whiner. She doesn’t complain about it. She gets through it,” Williams says. “And that so motivates me to see her be so strong. It helps me and motivates me to do whatever. I look at her and think that if she can go every day of her life with this, because there is no cure for this debilitating disease, I can do anything.”
Williams describes Kamryn as her cheerleader. “After a race, when I am done, I will check my phone. And I’ll always have text messages in my phone. She’ll text me a “You can do it.” Or a Scripture, or something like that. She really – without ever knowing it – motivates me.”
Kamryn is active, too. She has played sports like soccer and tennis. Now, she is planning on trying out for the golf team when she enters high school in the fall.
“She comes with me to the gym once in awhile to lift weights, get on the treadmill, all that good stuff,” Williams says. “It’s important for her to see what it (fitness) does for me. I tell her all the time, ‘Your life is what you make of it. You just have to make the most of it. If there is something you want to do or pursue, all you have to do is try. And you just keep going.’ ”
Williams and her ex-husband preach positivity with their daughter. “I try to continue to be positive with her. And so does her dad,” she says. “He lives close by and is very active in her life. We try to make sure that we are on the same page with her at all times, keeping her in a positive mood, feeling good about herself.”
In turn, Kamryn provides inspiration.
“My daughter inspires me. There are a lot of people who inspired me,” Williams says. “You never really imagine yourself at the age you are until you get to that age. I really thought there is no way that I would be as active as I am at 42. I would have never imagined it. But I guess when I think about the people or what inspired me most is defying my own thought. Again, I never thought or imagined I would be this active. Seeing other runners — and other people doing amazing things — I think that I can get better.”
Williams’ positivity push is echoed when she encourages others to become active. Her advice to other single parents trying to find time to exercise: You make it work for you.
“You can read all the magazines, get all the advice. But you have to take the recommendations and make them work for you. People always tell me, ‘Oh, I wish I could run a half marathon.’ And I say, ‘Well, you can.’ You just have to make it work with your life.”
Working from home, Williams often schedules her day to balance work with a noontime run or trip to the gym. She encourages others to carve out time, based on their schedules and commitments. “When you start doing it, you realize it wasn’t that difficult to fit into your schedule at all. It all starts in the mind. If you think you can’t do it, then you can’t do it. But if you believe that you can, you will figure it out.”
A friend of hers recently called Williams, looking for advice on starting to run. “We talked for an hour,” she says. “It means a lot to me because when we start off as parents, we say we don’t have the time. But when someone reaches out to you, it means a lot because they know you are doing it. It’s motivating for me when other people come to me and ask for advice. The fact that the are asking me a question is inspiring because they see me as someone who is doing what they want to be able to do.”
Williams has no plans to do any races longer than a half marathon. Next up for her is the Rock N’ Roll race in Dallas in March. Beyond that, the six-time half-marathoner would like to run in New York City and Hawaii this year. “I started off slowly but now honestly I feel like I could do one a month. This year my goal is to do one every other month.”
On her bucket list, Williams lists a 2-hour finish. She would also love to run in Europe, maybe Paris. “Between this year and next year, that will get checked off the bucket list as a promise to myself.”
With her positive mindset, she will no doubt complete that quest and show everybody once again.
Name: Davonda Williams
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Number of years running: Seven
Miles per week: 10-20 (depends on if I’m training for an upcoming race)
Point of pride: recent 2:06 half marathon (PR)
Favorite distance: 10 miles
Favorite pre-race training food/drink: bagel w/peanut butter and Gatorade
Favorite inspirational song to run to: anything by Jay Z
Favorite inspirational mantra or saying: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phillipians 4:13)