Photo by Andrew Haworth
LIVES IN: West Columbia
CLAIM TO FAME: Founder of Marathons Against Domestic Violence campaign, running marathons to raise awareness about domestic abuse; 2016 Runner’s World magazine cover search finalist; 2014 Woman of the Year for Sistercare, a Midlands agency for battered women
ADVOCACY: Served on Gov. Haley’s Domestic Violence Task Force; lobbied S.C. legislature and U.S. congressmen for changes to strengthen domestic-violence laws
How well Elizabeth Gray remembers the pain, the shame, the fear, the bruises, the hair pulled right out of her scalp. Not so long ago, she was living under the daily threat of abuse at the hands of the man she married.
Her journey out of that nightmare has now logged more than 1,000 marathon miles, as Gray discovered that running was a way to both heal herself and help other victims of domestic abuse.
“Running helped me cope” after escaping the marriage in 2010, says Gray, whose ex often scoffed at her dream of running marathons. Plopped down on a curb after her first marathon—in North Carolina, 2012—Gray gushed tears, her path from victim to survivor complete.
“I realized,” she says, “if I could do this, who else can I help, to not only motivate them to run their first race, but to know that there’s light and happiness and peace after a violent relationship.”
Gray launched Marathons Against Domestic Violence with a goal of running a marathon in every state, drawing attention to intimate partner violence nationwide. One in three women and one in four men will be victims of domestic violence, she says.
To date, Gray has completed marathons in 26 states, plus 36 half marathons, dedicating each race to a victim, a survivor or an advocate. Her story impressed judges in last year’s Runner’s World cover search contest and earned a spot in the magazine’s December issue.
After her 50th state marathon—planned for Colorado, 2018—Gray intends to keep running and speaking out to encourage victims to get help and “to want a better life for themselves.
“I would not be here today and have this beautiful life I have,” she says, “if it wasn’t for the courage to take those first steps.”
Learn more about Elizabeth Gray’s quest at her Marathons Against Domestic Violence page, facebook.com/RunningForAwareness.