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From “fat” girl” in an office chair to “fit girl” knocking out a half marathon

YES! I just completed my first-ever half marathon and am grinning from ear to ear! It was an amazing experience. I feel great. Really. And, there is a big part of me that wants to go do it all again.

My official finish time was 3 hours and 11 minutes. I walked a 14.35 min mile on average — my fastest ever. Because of issues with knees and joints, I am discouraged from running. So I walked the race — though the desire to run is great.

Leif Anderson, my incredible transformation coach, walked the entire half marathon with me and encouraged me to run/jog at a couple of points near the end of the race so we could finish under 3:15. (Thank You Leif! You are amazing. You know exactly when to push and how to help me achieve my goals and “reach my full potential.” I am grateful to have had you by my side today. Another significant milestone/culmination in our journey together.)

Seven of us, including Leif, participated in the Half Marathon. The truly remarkable part of the story: ALL (except coach Leif) were obese and inactive just two years ago. Collectively, the six of us have lost a total of 750 pounds in under 2 years! And, ALL of us completed a 13.1 mile marathon in under 4 hours either running and/or walking. Congratulations and thank you to these amazing women for sharing the experience. From Fitness North #4 they are: Joyce Deiter-Cunningham, Deb Frie, Linda Koenig, Karen St. Louis and Julie Langenbrunner Wolleat.

In the end, we went back for a “team member” and walked her to the finish line as a group. According to my Fitbit, I walked a total of 17.8 miles and 32,300 steps (and 69 flights) — all before noon! Cardio for the day completed. Check!

From “fat girl” to “fit girl”

If you had told me two years ago that I would be competing in a half marathon I would have asked if you had been drinking…heavily. When I was working 12-18 hour days running my marketing business and leading a sedentary life from an office chair, I would never have imagined that I could accomplish anything remotely like this. I struggled to walk to the end of my block, let alone 13.1 miles.

But less than two years later — sans 200+ pounds and a whole lot of self-doubt — well, here I am. A half-marathoner with a medal around her neck, a BIG smile of accomplishment on her face, and a lot of gratitude for all of the help and support along the way!

This half marathon came about earlier this year when a group of women from Fitness North signed up as a team to participate in the Lady’s Speed Stick Women’s Half Marathon in Bloomington, MN. I reluctantly agreed to participate (at some urging from Leif) thinking I would do it with/for Leif Anderson Fitness. It seemed far off when I committed so I wasn’t that worried.

It wasn’t until about two months ago that I got serious about preparing for the 13. 1 mile race and embarked on a race walking training program. My trainer, Sandra Swami, showed me the correct form for race walking and coached me in race strategies. I marked my calendar and followed the training program religiously for about a month. In July, I did the Tofte Trek 10K Wilderness Run on my beloved North Shore of Lake Superior. We walked up mountains and through tall grass and navigated big mud holes, and I finished at a pace of about a 15.45 min mile. I felt fit and strong. And, I began to embrace the half marathon as “my race” vs. doing it for someone else.

I set some personal goals including completing the half marathon in a 15 min mile or less; being at my all-time lowest weight and final resting place by marathon day; and being in the best physical shape of my adult life. At the time, this all seemed very doable.

Doubt creeps in and threatens my resolve

Then, life happened. In early July, I had a long-awaited leg surgery. This set my marathon training back by 2-3 weeks and I had to build up my leg strength and stamina post surgery. Work got crazy busy and work challenges demanded way more of my time making it difficult to juggle with my training. Just two weeks out from the marathon, work travel took me off my training program for  a week and right after knee problems resurfaced.

About the same time, I began to struggle to stick to my nutritional program and I put on some weight moving farther from my goal to be at an all-time low by marathon. I then learned that I may indeed need to walk the half marathon alone — the Fitness North group expected to run/walk and would likely outpace me and Leif’s ability to race was uncertain. Finally, there was a bit of fear of the unknown associated with competing in my first race. And, with that fear, came self-doubt. For these reasons, I strongly considered not competing.

Certainly, I had legitimate reasons for throwing in the towel. But, really, were they reasons or just fear? Ultimately, my stubbornness and determination won out. I decided I would not let fear stop me. Or a knee. Or the fact that the training didn’t go exactly as planned. I knew that I would be more disappointed if I didn’t try.

And so, I forged ahead. I adjusted my goals to competing and finishing in under the four hour limit – an 18 min mile. And, I implemented the strategies that worked so well for me in achieving my weight loss goals and putting myself in the equation.

  1. I pushed past the fear and self-doubt to just do it.
  2. I asked for help from my support team.
  3. I wrote about it in my blog – a way of processing it and keeping myself accountable.
  4. And, I celebrated my progress in getting to this place vs. focusing on the arbitrary weight goal I had set for myself by race time.

Support team kicks in

There is no question that this race would have been far more difficult and less fun without the support of an incredible team of people. This of course starts with the other Fitness North women who participated – Deb, Julie, Linda, Joyce, and Karen. My other Fitness North friends and colleagues who have shared this journey – Shari Blair Cummelin, Lori Martin and Jean Forrey. All three provided emotional and cheer-leading support and Shari and Lori both agreed to walk sections of the race with me if need be – even when it was not easy or best for them to do so.

My rock star trainer, Sandra Swami, prepared me for the race with training, race strategies and pep talks. And, taught me how to warm up and stretch properly pre- and post-race. Finally, my transformation coach and friend Leif Anderson, drove from Duluth to walk with me the entire race at a great personal sacrifice. He became my time-keeper/pacer, the on-course motivator, and coached me to a better time than I know I would have achieved on my own. It was incredible having him there.

The lessons in all of this? I am reminded that:

  • I can do anything I set my mind to – absolutely anything!
  • When I am feeling negative and the excuses come fast and easy, fear is likely hiding beneath those excuses. Pushing past that fear to accomplish that which you did not think you could do  is THE most amazing feeling in the world;
  • Sometimes we all need a little help. It can make ALL the difference;
  • It feels totally incredibly to be fit, active and happy…inside and out.

So to those of you on the sidelines today who think you can’t do something – anything – I give you this. You CAN do it! I KNOW you can. Look at me and my story. Look at this amazing group of kick butt women who raced with me today. We are living proof. We are your inspiration and hope. And today, we all wear a medal around our neck with a sporty hot pink ribbon to prove it.

Anything is possible! Absolutely anything! I can’t wait to see what’s next…for me and for you.


Click here to view photo gallery from Women’s Half Marathon

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kim #

    So very proud of you! It DOES indeed feel awesome to cross that finish line. I still remember my first half marathon like it was yesterday! I am itching to do another…..especially after reading about this and Elizabeth and Kelly’s triathlons….sigh. IN all good time…

    August 27, 2012
  2. Denise #

    Whooo-Hoooo! I will say to you what I always say to my Solejourner friends: “Proud to say I know ‘ya!”

    August 27, 2012

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