StoryCorps in the Valley: Turning Dark Times Into Beautiful Moments

Jul 6, 2021

As part of WMRA’s partnership with StoryCorps in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia, we’re sharing a conversation today between Mark and Cynthia Lorenzoni who own the Ragged Mountain Running and Walking Shop in Charlottesville. 

They reflect on their time during the pandemic and how tough times in their personal lives brought them together over 40 years ago.

Mark:  For us in many ways this past year has been one of the most remarkable of our 40 some years together.  In an odd, weird way, it's been one of the most exciting years and none of that would have been possible if some really negative things hadn't happened in our life 40 some odd years ago that brought us together and it's a time for reflection and I'm reflecting back on when we met and what led us to meeting each other, which were dark scenarios that led us to the classic doors closing windows opening.

Cynthia:  Yeah, because without the hardships that we each faced, our paths would have never crossed. I was running at Michigan State and I was a varsity athlete and I got injured and I couldn't run and it was just devastating to someone that was used to spending four hours a day doing a sport that I loved.

Mark:  Yeah, for you because you had been captain, leader of your team.  You've described that was a dark time, you were depressed.

Cynthia:  And of course, not only did I go get this job which I loved and really honestly led to us opening our running shop in 1982.  And if I hadn't changed my major, I would have never met you.

Mark:  So that trajectory began with you getting hurt.

Cynthia:  Similarly, for you. You went to Michigan State to be a vet.

Mark:  From my freshman year in high school forward, everything was focused on being a veterinarian. I worked at that animal hospital all through high school.  I got into Michigan State. The vets I worked for in high school said you are going to be a great veterinarian. We can't wait to congratulate you when you get your degree.  My mom and dad were thrilled.  I had no plan B.  It became apparent to me after two semesters that this was going to be a real reach because it was academically so difficult. I just wasn't cut out and I can remember calling my mother and say, Mom, I didn't get in, my mother's words were, God has a different plan for you.  I said, no mon, this is my only plan, I'm going to be a great veterinarian and she goes, I thought you'd be it too but there's obviously something else out there.  And sure enough. I transferred it into the same major you did a year after I was working down here in Charlottesville. I got a letter that chased me down and said you’re three credits shy of your degree and sure enough it was at that field trip, as you know.

Cynthia:  We met on a field trip.

Mark:   I dreaded that.  It seemed failure all over again.  I was going back to school. I got on that bus and I sat in the second to the front seat; I said I'm going to sit up here. I'm not going to meet a single person. I'm going to read, I'll get the class done and move on with my life and go back to Virginia.

Cynthia:  And I didn't want to be there either because I was missing my pre-season training with the team and so often in life, where you think something is going to be bad, it ends up being the best thing that ever happened to you.

Mark:  Cynthia, I’ll never forget seeing you that first day on the trip.  We stopped for the night and I went out for a run and I was coming back and you were running.  And you asked me how far the road went.

Cynthia:  I was trying to get a workout in.

Mark:  I had no stinking idea how far this road goes because I am a recreational runner.  The next day.

Cynthia:  We started talking.

Mark:  But when you came up and sat down next to me on the bus, the third day maybe, and we didn't stop talking all rest of the trip and we haven’t stopped talking since.  It's been the inspirational story of my lifetime because every time I do go into a darker place, when we face challenges, I'm reminded of there is almost always another plan out there and to think we opened the business just a few years after.  We got married in 80.  Gosh, Cynthia, we married 51 weeks after we met.

Cynthia:  It's kind of crazy.

Mark:  That experience that led to us meeting each other gave us a deeper appreciation of crisis of tough times that crisis defines your character.  Anybody can live through easy times, but can you make it through tough times? I didn't think I could. But we have.  And, Cynthia, I got to say, that I'm really forever grateful for you coming up and sitting next to me.  I'm grateful for not having gotten into what I thought was my dream scenario vet school.

Cynthia:  I was speaking to these high school kids two days ago about leadership, and I was talking about the first thing about being a leader is really being a risk taker. So I guess I had that in me from early on.

Mark:  The risk of coming up and sitting next to me?

Cynthia:  Yeah

Mark:  I do love you, Cynthia. I love you forever, but I am forever tied into those routes that let us do each other in 1979. Thanks.

Cynthia:  Thank you.