How Martha Youngblood and Chrissy Forrester support each other to accomplish the extraordinary

By Savanah Bandy

Martha Youngblood and Chrissy Forrester are living proof of the health and wellness research stating people with an accountability partner are 85-95 percent more likely to accomplish their goals.

The two have been running together for four years and, in that time, have helped each other accomplish some truly remarkable things.

Martha started running during her time serving in the Marines, but she didn’t really consider herself a runner until about 10 years ago when she started running on her own.

“I hated running in the Marines. I did it because I had to,” she said. “I got out and went to nursing school and became an ER nurse in Aurora. I gained some weight, and I had a son who was in kindergarten, so I wanted to be healthier. I did the Couch to 5K app and followed it for nine weeks.”

The weight came off, and Martha was hooked. Running became her stress reliever and time to listen to music and clear her mind. Working in the ER, she was no stranger to stress and sometimes seeing the day-to-day difficulties of her patients would weigh heavily on her.

“We are a small community hospital, and we get patients who are unable to fill their prescriptions to get antibiotics or to pay for a cab to and from the hospital,” she said. “The nurses started a tiny mission fund to help offset some of those expenses, but it wasn’t enough.”

Then, in 2017, Martha got an idea to combine her two passions: running and helping patients. Why not host a 5k to raise money for patient needs? The Mercy Aurora Run To Care 5K was born.

While Martha was busy organizing the 5k, Chrissy Forrester was hard at work in another part of the hospital as materials manager.

“A bunch of us decided we wanted to run in the 5k and so, in order to not look like we were dying, we decided to start running at work,” Chrissy recalled. “At that time, I was 260 pounds, at my heaviest, and I couldn’t run for 30 seconds. I was crying, and I was like, ‘I’m never going to be able to run this.’”

But, with the support of Martha and the other women in the running group, Chrissy kept at it.

“If the other girls in the group would’ve quit, I would’ve quit,” she said. “But we all stuck it out. By the time we ran the 5k, I was starting to like it. I didn’t completely suck anymore, and I was starting to lose weight, so that inspired me to keep going.”

Today, just four short years later, Chrissy is 90 pounds lighter, a non-smoker and has run countless 5k’s, three 10k’s and two half marathons. She is currently training for her first full marathon.

“I just really have changed my lifestyle around a lot,” she said. “A lot had to do with weight loss, which was originally my intention, but more importantly, I’ve learned to love myself more. There’s a huge mental-health component to running.”

On the weekends, Chrissy and Martha can usually be found running 5k’s together — “for the free T-shirts,” they added with a laugh. Their favorite annual event is the Ruck ‘N’ Run in Republic, Missouri. The event is held in honor of service members, so it’s semi-bootcamp style in which the participants run carrying rucksacks and stop at stations along the way to do burpees, mountain climbers, squats and other exercises. It takes place in November, usually in 10-degree weather.

They both still work for Mercy. Chrissy is the wellness coordinator and leads Mercy’s Healthification program. Martha has been promoted from ER nurse to director of nursing. She admitted the demands of COVID-19 have forced her to take somewhat of a hiatus from running. She added that’s why having an accountability partner is so important — because at one time, Martha was Chrissy’s biggest motivator, and now the roles are reversed.

“We go back and forth,” Martha said. “Right now, Chrissy is way more motivated. I work all the time now because of COVID, but we have the same apps and we track each other. Seeing her running these huge miles every single day is inspirational for me. Definitely having an accountable partner is 100 percent effective in so many ways.”

Chrissy agreed.

“If someone is new to running, it is really so helpful to have a running partner,” she said.

The two friends are currently hard at work planning the next Run to Care event, slated for October 16. Proceeds will go toward patients’ expenses as part of the Mercy Aurora and Cassville Mission Fund.

“Now there’s no limit to what we can buy for patients’ families,” Martha said. “Food, hotel rooms, you name it. We love that we are able to help.”

The next Mercy Aurora Run To Care event will be held Saturday, October 16, 2021. For more information, visit the Facebook event page @4th Annual Mercy Aurora 5K Run To Care: In Memory of Monta Rae Glaser.