As many of you know, I've been training extremely hard and dilligently to run my first ever marathon at this year's annual Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon! I know a lot of my friends know my personal story and journey, but I want to share it here (and for those of you who don't know the story) as inspiration and why this is so important to me.
I was the fat kid growing up and in high school, for most of my life actually. I still remember the nicknames -- Free Willy (yea, you remember that movie???), Thunder Thighs... yup, kids were mean bullies even back in the 80s and 90s. I struggled with my weight and my body image my entire life. I yo-yoed. I was 110 at my lowest in my early 20s and ballooned up to over 270 at my heaviest less than seven years ago in my early 30s. I've suffered from multiple eating disorders, but I've finally overcome all of that, and here's why and how!
Less than two years ago in June of 2017, about a month after I had turned 36, a dear friend of mine asked me if I was pregnant -- I wasn't. I was probably around 180-190 then and pretty bummed out when she asked me that, but it also made me realize that as I got older it wouldn't get any easier to get in shape and if I didn't start then I probably never would. So I took to walking and eating better. I walked. A lot. Miles. Miles. Every. Day. And I started doing Zumba once a week at my old job with the sweet older ladies but never really thought about looking for a more intense class. Just never crossed my mind because walking was working and I had lost about 20 pounds at that point.
Then one year ago last month, I met this awesome woman at my hair salon when I was getting my hair done, and I learned that she is a Zumba instructor. She invited me to come to her class in Highland Park outside by the fountain the following month. I was all about it! I found a new Zumba class! Yay! Little did I know that chance meeting would forever change my life.
I LOVED her class so much and fell in love with Zumba. I never considered myself to be much of a dancer but it was over. I followed her to our gym and officially joined the gym on my birthday last May as my gift to myself. I was finally going to start taking fitness super seriously -- to the next level. And boy did I!
The following week on Memorial Day I happened upon a mashup class and had NO idea what I was getting into. We did some cardio, fun and easy stuff! Then people started pulling out the weights. I remember looking around nervously -- I'd never lifted weights before! I was scared, were people going to judge me? What was I going to do? I sure as shit wasn't going to leave -- that's not my style. I don't give up. But the instructors could see that I was new and coached me through my first ever Body Pump class. I never thought I'd a dancer or a lifter but here I was in love again! I consistently lift at least three days a week with Body Pump now -- again in love with it!
So running... right, back to the running bit. Sorry... If you had told me a year ago that I'd be able to run a mile let alone attempt to run a full marathon I would have told you that you're crazy, outright insane! But I woke up one morning in late June of last year while on a mini-staycation and felt the urge to take on a new challenge. I texted a dear friend of mine who is a lifelong runner, asking when her next race would be. She said she was doing a half marathon in October, sent me her training plan, and I started training the very next day to run my first ever half marathon, which I completed in 2:07 this past October. Yes, I went from never running not once in my life to running a half marathon in 16 weeks. Pretty cool!
But then in January, my dad... Oh dad, how I love you but really?! We talk on Sundays, it's a football thing that just carries over through the rest of the year. First Sunday in January he says 'hey, I saw on the news last night that marathon training started this weekend. You're running the full marathon right?' I said 'hell no, no one needs to run 26 miles.' Then I started thinking about it. Well, overthinking about it... 🙄
Two weeks later I started training and told myself if I could get up to 20 miles by mid-late February I would do it. And I did. I want to prove not just to myself but to everyone out there that this is possible. That you can go from where I was less than a few years ago to being able to run a marathon IN LESS THAN A YEAR!
This is NOT a brag story. This is supposed to motivate and inspire others. It isn't easy, it takes utmost dedication. It is basically a part time job. I work, workout, cook, eat, and sleep. I spend a good 18-20+ hours a week working out. Everyday. But I didn't come this far not to go all and do it right -- that's how I do everything in life. Go big or go home! I run 3-4 days a week and I cross train 4-5 days a week.
Do I still struggle with my body image? Yes. Do I hate my body? Yes. But do I also love my body? Also yes. I've developed muscles in places I never thought I would. But I still have skin in places I wish I didn't. It will never be perfect, but it's the only one I have so I am taking care of it and loving it for the first time in my life!
So that is how at 37 years old I went from never running to getting ready to run a full marathon in less than a year, and while I'm running for myself and to prove that I can do it, I also want to fundraise for a cause that is important to me. So I'm fundrasing for Hello Neighbor, a Pittsburgh based nonprofit that works to improve the lives of refugee and immigrant families by matching them with Pittsburghers as friends and mentors. I've been consulting for Hello Neighbor since late last year and prior to that was on the Advisory Board. I've been working with refugees and immigrants for over 7 years and am always looking for ways to continue to contribute to their ongoing success. 100% of what is raised will go directly to support Hello Neighbor's core mentorship program here in Pittsburgh.
So I am asking at least 26 of my friends to sponsor a mile at $20 per mile -- and if more people want to contribute or if you'd like to contribute a higher amount then that's even better!
Hope to see you at the finish line!