How long have you been running?
I have always wanted to be a runner since trying to lose weight in 1997. I ran in fits and starts until my sister-in-law got me to try half marathons in 2003, and I have been doing about one a year since. However, it wasn’t until the last couple years that I really stuck with races year round. Before that, I would train for a few months and stop after the one race. Now, I really feel like and consider myself an actual runner. I also feel like the body positivity movement has emboldened me to really call myself an actual runner.
What prompted you to start?
Like many—and I know this dates me—Oprah was my original inspiration. However, the sense of accomplishment running gives me is my fuel. It is far more to me than a calorie burner, a meditation, or even a chance for alone time. It is now necessary to be my best--energized, focused, connected to my city, my dogs, and myself.
How often do you run?
Three times during the week with long runs on Saturdays.
What is your routine?
Four miles along the bayou with dogs at 4 a.m. during the week. Long runs with my group on Saturdays during the school year. My husband and I are both teachers, and we camp, hike, and travel for several months in the summer and any other chance we get. The last couple of years, I have had amazing opportunities for runs through national forests, the Sierra Nevadas, Rockies, and other countries. I love exploring on foot. I always take the dogs with me if we are able—ten legs are better than two.
Do you race? If so, how often, and what kind of races?
The last couple of years, I have tried to do one half marathon a month during our Texas “season,” from November until July. Obviously, races after May in Texas are rare, so we have to hit the road for some. I am now going to continue that as best as I am able. I am also training for my second full marathon here in Houston in January.
Do you engage in other sports or activities? If so, what and how often?
I have never considered myself athletic, but now I cross-train and have started strength training. I really want to get past intimidation factors to try a triathlon. I have also just recently fallen in love with trail running. How did I not see that perfect amalgamation before? My husband and I avidly backpack and hike. We are now on a mission to climb as many fourteeners (mountains with peaks bigger than 14,000 feet) as possible. Of course, the dogs tag along—or lead the way, actually.
What’s the most rewarding part of running for you?
Running reminds me I can do difficult things. It empowers me in almost every aspect of my life. It has somehow crept into my lens of the world and how I view life. It also unplugs me from what feels trivial and soul-sucking and takes me to a place where breath, simplicity, and Mother Nature heal and reward. One doesn’t need to be athletic or fast for that.
Please describe your weight loss journey, including your before and after weights.
I have never been a small person. I have been overweight since fourth grade and come from a pretty big family. I was definitely that kid who hated and tried anything to get out of physical education. Like I said, I was not athletic. My highest weight was around 102kgs in graduate school, when I basically stopped weighing myself. I have lost weight a few times over the years, but would have still been considered overweight. A few years ago after a stressful few years at work, I crept back up to almost that weight again.
On a kayaking trip in Spain, I could not get myself back into the ocean kayak. Let’s say the guide was not kind about it and didn’t hide his repulsion. I was mortified, and knew my priorities couldn’t be others or work anymore. It had to be me. Running has been a huge part of that. I didn’t just train for one race, but used it as a metric for putting my health and well-being in front. After I saw some success, I downloaded the Lose It! app to track calories and eventually macronutrients, and that has helped tremendously. That was huge for me.
My goal weight has changed during these two years. As I would hit a goal, I realised my weight should be lower. I didn’t know because I have never been these weights as an adult. It also seemed so much more doable since I was breaking it into chunks. So, it’s been a journey. Now, I am 58kgs, only kgs away from losing 45kgs, and I’m shooting for more after that.
What is the secret to your weight loss success?
I have the most loving and amazing husband. He is incredibly supportive of the goals I set. I couldn’t ask for better.
I love having monthly races and feel continually inspired by the running community and other runners, especially those who may not be stereotypical athletes, may not be fast, or those who beat the odds just by lining up. We have really grown as an inclusive community from when I started. I remember being in a race and an announcer got on a loud speaker, “Slow runners, you are being lapped. I repeat. You are being lapped. Move over!” I remember thinking, “I paid for this?” Now we are so much more celebratory and inclusive. At the end of the day, only three to five are truly competing. The rest of us are there to improve, have fun, and make ourselves, and maybe the world, better.
I also respond well with having tracking and metric goals. The trackers and apps really work for me.
However, the greatest shift was perhaps realizing that I was going to truly show up for myself every day. It doesn’t matter if I am athletic, fast, or good at it; I just want to improve. Just show up. I am worth that.
How do you stay motivated?
Monthly races. Checking off calendars. Apps. Progress photos. Tracking, tracking, tracking—exercise and calories!
Do you have any favorite motivational quotes?
I can do so much more than I think I can. Especially toward the end of a race when I am pouring my all into it, my mantra is, “So much more than you think you are.” Has a good cadence and not too much at that moment. But it packs a wallop. Who could slack off then?
What are your current short and long term goals?
I would be thrilled to lose those last 2kg. Try a tri. Line up for the full at the Houston Marathon. Keep trail racing. Try a 50K. Climb more fourteeners. Try anything I truly want without feeling intimidated. I feel like my list of goals just keeps growing with my confidence.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
My story isn’t unique. I am not unique. It has taken two years to lose the weight (and I am still a work-in-progress). I just made tiny, incremental changes, stuck with them for a bit, and then added another change. I didn’t try too much, too soon, or too short. I tried to be patient with myself and break it into mini goals. It’s what we do for students, why not ourselves? I know the real test is in maintenance, but I feel stronger now, and I am looking forward to the challenge.
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This article originally appeared on Runner’s World.