Yumn Elkhoja is an international marathon runner, a mother of two, and a registered nurse.

Being a single mom is a struggle—it doesn’t feel balanced. It doesn’t feel balanced when you have to do everything. I work full time as a nurse. I have two children. They have their father, who’s involved in their life. He’s very helpful. But still, it’s me on my own at home.

When I was married, it was not the best marriage. I feel that a lot of people, when they get divorced or when they leave their marriages, or when they leave bad relationships, they tend to blame the other person.

There’s a lot to blame him for, but I feel that there was also a lot about myself. There were sides to me that I didn’t know I had until I was in that marriage. It was almost like a mirror for me. I saw a lot of very ugly parts of myself. I could say all the things he did, but there was a lot I did too. When I left the marriage, I said, “I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be that way.”

So I started to work on myself. I mean it might sound selfish, but it’s not for selfish reasons. I became consumed with trying to work on myself and be a better person, and not worry about external factors. That is why I turned to running. To just work on myself internally.

It was one of those times when I compare myself to a phoenix. At the end of their life, they burst into flames and then they come back as a new person. That, for me, was a big transformational time.