Alison Phillips, 37, has turned her life around and found solace in friendship, community, and running. The lifelong athlete is training for her first half-marathon for St. Jude and celebrating life every step of the way. 

When Alison relocated to Memphis a few months ago, she was just beginning to rev the engine on her path to healing. The traveling nurse had recently lost her father to COVID-19 in three short weeks and was experiencing profound grief. 

“It rocked my world because I was super close with my dad, so it really sent me for a whirlwind.” 

Receiving a call from her recruiter to work at Saint Francis Hospital was the sign Alison needed to get back on track, to live in a way that honored her dad and that would make him feel proud. 

Since arriving in Memphis, Alison has made friends while attending local community events like Tom Lee Park’s 901 Day and by joining a co-ed pickup soccer league. There, she met a young three-year-old brain cancer survivor whose parents are fellow soccer players and to whom she has dedicated her St. Jude run. 

“I always wanted to try running a marathon,” the fitness challenger shares. “One day, I ran 10 miles randomly. It was so liberating, and I found a lot of mental clarity in that.” 

To prepare for her first half-marathon this winter, Alison takes advantage of Shelby Farms’ 100+ acres of trails and the Riverbluff Walkway, sometimes bringing her French Bulldog, Hiccup, along. 

“I like to get lost in my thoughts when running solo. It’s a time for me to challenge myself,” she says of the time and space it gives her to process events and think about life. 

The operating room nurse wakes up at 4 a.m. to squeeze in her daily movement. Between twice-a-week runs of medium and long distances and HIIT-style superset workouts at Harbor Town Fitness, Alison feels more than ready for her first half. 

As someone who played soccer in high school and college, Alison has changed her approach to fitness over the years, trying different activities like yoga and CrossFit to find her threshold and then pass it. 

Despite an active routine, Alison says, “I didn’t understand the value of food, and I didn’t know how to eat healthfully.” 

Learning the value of tracking macros to make good food choices that are also enjoyable has been a liberating game changer— something she was initially introduced to during her brief stint in Bodybuilder competitions. 

“For me, where I find most refuge in fitness is that it helps me mentally.” 

Despite some setbacks, Alison gathers strength from her faith and trust in the process. Plus, as a nurse, she understands the long-term payoff of staying in shape. 

“My overall goal is to invest in my future self. What you do with your time matters.” 

IG: @the0nlyway0utisthr0ugh 

By Shlomit Ovadia 

Photo by Tindall Stephens