It all came crashing down one morning in April 2015, when April Lund was 32. The evening before, she had stayed out late drinking, and she woke up alone in her apartment in Bismarck, North Dakota, with no idea of how she got there.
“I blacked out completely,” she told Runner’s World. “That’s when I knew I had to change my life.”
At the time, Lund was overweight and had been struggling with an alcohol addiction for about eight years. She had just moved to Bismarck from St. Louis, Missouri, where she said her social life centered around drinking. While living in Missouri, she would sip on a drink “from when I woke up to when I passed out at night,” she said.
“In St. Louis, everything was drinking,” Lund said. “All of my friends were doing the same thing, and didn’t think anything of it. It was normal.”
She managed to keep the severity of her addiction under wraps, because the drinking didn’t interfere with her work in sales, she explained.
On that particular morning in 2015, however, Lund sat up and realized that the choices she was making were leading her down a dark path. She had recently met her eventual husband, Jeff, who went to the gym regularly and wasn’t a big partier; though he never commented on her actions, she said she could tell he was disappointed in her behavior.
“I didn’t want alcohol to steal one more thing that I loved away from me,” she said.
So that day, instead of pouring a drink, Lund laced up her running shoes. She had run on and off since she was in high school, but her lifestyle had sabotaged much of her fitness, she said. While Jeff rollerbladed beside her, Lund ran four miles. A few weeks later, she ran a 5K in 27 minutes.
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“I remember feeling so fast, having run three miles in under 30 minutes,” Lund said. “It’s amazing what your body can do when you just get up and do it.”
That day in April, Lund quit drinking cold turkey. She signed up for the 2015 Bismarck Half Marathon that fall as motivation to train and stay sober, and committed to her new lifestyle. Over the years, she’s grown stronger in her sobriety while improving her running and happiness in the process. Today, Lund boasts a 2:49:55 marathon PR, works as a successful personal trainer, and directs a local running club. But her journey to get there was not exactly smooth.
The First Drink
Growing up in Mount Vernon, Illinois, Lund started running in 7th grade, but she quit shortly afterward because “the girls were too mean,” she said. Talent-wise, she was far from being able to run a mile in 6:29, her eventual marathon pace. “I was last in almost every race,” she said. “There was one race where I beat one girl. That was it.”
Lund improved when she joined her high school cross-country and track teams. By her senior year, she was regularly racing the mile, two mile, and the 4×800- and 4×400-meter relays at track meets, and had a two mile PR just shy of 12:00. She said she wasn’t great, but good enough to earn a spot on the team at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the fall of 2000.
But a few months into college training, she started to burn out of running.
“I was giving 100 percent every day in practice, and by the time the race came, I didn’t have anything left to give,” she said. “I was getting sick and injured.”
After one particular bout of sickness took her away from practice for a few weeks, Lund thought it would be impossible to make up for the lost training, so she quit the team her sophomore year, in 2001. With her extra free time, she started waitressing and going out more. “College is where I had my first drink,” she said.
Lund left college early in order to pursue a sales career in St. Louis, where she continued her party-heavy lifestyle and gained around 90 pounds, she said. Things took a turn for the worst when she turned 26, and was hit by the devastating news that her mother had died.
“That’s when I truly became an alcoholic,” said Lund. “I was also experimenting with drugs at the time. My fall-back was running, because it was the only thing that made me feel good. But I had to find another way to express myself than just running.”
Knowing that her social circle in St. Louis was only enabling her addiction, Lund decided to leave for North Dakota. “I had to get away from that community,” she said.
But it wasn’t until 2015, when Lund joined Gold’s Gym on a recommendation from Jeff, that she fully committed to improving her health.
Running Down the Road to Recovery
Along with abstaining from drinking, she started lifting and running again, and soon shed the pounds she had gained in her 20s. In 2015, she placed second for women in the Bismarck Half Marathon, her debut at the distance, in a time of 1:41:33. Then the following year, she returned to win the women’s race, finishing the 13.1 miles in 1:29:13.
Lund’s own transformation inspired her to help others, so she switched careers to become a full-time personal trainer in 2016, and in 2018, established Bismarck’s first running club, called “Get You Sum” (GYS), which welcomes runners of all speeds and sizes to evening track workouts and group runs.
During this time, Lund continued to train, ramping up her mileage from 30 to 60 miles per week—plus six days of lifting—to prepare for the 2018 California International Marathon, her first attempt at the distance, which she finished in 2:49:55. Then this past January, she dropped her 13.1 mile time to 1:19:40 in Houston, Texas. The half was a tune-up race for the Prague Marathon in May, which she finished in 2:51:55, despite suffering a wicked fall 15 miles in.
“I was in shape to run 2:43 in Prague, but life had other plans,” said Lund, whose hope is to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, which means running sub-2:45. She’ll have a chance at redemption later this year at the Berlin Marathon as well as CIM, where her goal is to “kick butt.”
Regardless of whether or not she makes it to Trials, Lund has already accomplished something far greater: turning her life around for the better.
“I’m running for my life,” she said. “I have the chance to live a quality life, and I’m taking it.”
Digital Editor Hailey first got hooked on running news as an intern with Running Times, and now she reports on elite runners and cyclists, feel-good stories, and training pieces for Runner’s World and Bicycling magazines.