Run, Write, Repeat: A Tale Of Two Sisters

   In my experience running I have been privileged to meet numerous people who have inspired me. Many of these people I have had the opportunity to train with every day as they have been teammates. I have been teammates with Erin and Ellie Quam for over five years, and throughout that time they both have overcome significant adversity and demonstrated incredible resilience that perfectly embodies all of the things that make me proud to be a part of this sport. Although running has not always been enjoyable for them, they have found the importance of working as hard as they can every day regardless of how the results may go. I hope that their stories prove as inspiring to you as they have to me.

MPA girls cc team at sections 2016


    Erin Quam (MPA Class of 2017) started running cross country in 7th grade when she transferred to Mounds Park Academy. Having competed in sports ranging from soccer to hockey, deciding which sport to compete in at her new school was a challenge. "Running itself was not my biggest motivator to join the team, but rather the people who were on the team," she told me when I asked why she chose cross country over soccer. "Looking back, my favorite memories were days where we would play fox and hounds, go on our annual DQ runs, team bonding, and especially cheering on all of our teammates at races."

     Erin was a talented young runner, entering the MPA top-20 cross country runners all-time list in only her freshman year. Up to that point, running had been very up and down for her. Reflecting on her running prior to tenth grade Erin said that, "I felt more or less comfortable, but at times I would go from having a great race to feeling like I could not walk."

     There were three moments that Erin recalls as the scariest in her running career when she felt that something could be medically wrong with her.

"The first time I remember feeling bad was in fourth grade. I felt something funny in my heart and after a normal EKG I went to a therapist where they said that anxiety was likely the cause." Erin persisted through her discomforts until her eighth grade year. Prior to a 25 kilometer nordic ski race Erin was frightened by recurrent chest pains, and with another normal EKG doctors suspected that anxiety was still the likely cause.

     On a Friday afternoon during a threshold run her senior year Erin knew that something had to be wrong.  After feeling chest pains worse than ever before she recalled, "having to stop because I was concerned for my own safety." After numerous appointments and consultations, Erin's cardiologist, Dr. Charles Baker, decided to try another test, an echocardiogram which showed a troubling image. A few days later she was diagnosed with an anomalous right coronary artery- a congenital heart defect that limited the blood supply to her heart; a condition which, if left undiagnosed, can be fatal.

     "My initial reaction after my diagnosis was shock, but at the same time a strange sense of relief came over me. After knowing for so long that something had been wrong it was nice to finally get some answers." Later Erin was informed that she would need to have open-heart surgery soon to correct the defect.

     It cannot be understated how incredible it is to have personally watched Erin's persevere through the 7 years that I have known her. "I stuck with it because I wanted to be as strong as my teammates. Not knowing about my medical issues at the time made me feel that my only option was to stay and train to get better. It was hard to think that I just wasn't as good as the people around me."

     Erin was allowed to compete in one last high school cross country race before her surgery, provided that she kept her heart rate low and stopped should anything feel wrong. "I was relieved to be given another race to make my last. Having ended junior year struggling to finish the race at sections I wanted to finish my high school career in a more positive way."