Susan Keithley

In 2010, I was a working mom with 2 boys (11 & 13 yo) who were very active playing football, baseball, soccer and track. They were both in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as well. I was working full time as a nurse midwife. I had just gone from Active Reserves in the Navy Nurse Corps and was now in the IRR (no more weekend drills and going away for 2 weeks every year).

I was active as a kid. I did figure skating, cheerleading and even played little league baseball up until 8th grade, but I always struggled with my weight. At 16, I joined Weight Watchers. In order to join the Navy out of college, I had to lose weight. In the Navy, I had to be weighed and measured twice a year and take the PRT (Physical Readiness Test) which consisted of running 1 ½ miles, and doing push-ups and sit-ups. My weight and my ability to meet the prescribed standards were a constant pressure for me throughout my career. I usually “made the tape”, meaning, I wasn’t within weight standards, but I would just make the measurement standards and I also would barely pass the PRT. Despite this, I excelled in my career in the Navy Nurse Corps making the rank of Captain (Colonel in the other branches in the military) the first time I was eligible.

Since I had the lowest seniority compared to the others who were also selected to the rank of Captain, I had to wait for 16 months before could be promoted.  During this time, I had gained some weight and did not “make the tape”. The Commanding Officer (CO) of the reserve center where I was stationed knew I had not met the standards and had placed me in remedial PT along with the others who were also out of standards. Every reserve weekend I had to weigh-in and run. This was monitored closely. As my promotion date approached, I was constantly called in the CO’s office and was reminded by him that even though I was losing weight, I was still not within standards. He also told me that I couldn’t just “make the tape”, but I had to be within weight standards. A month before the promotion date, I was really close, but the CO told me I wasn’t going to make it and that I should just give up. Me, being stubborn, did not give up and I made the weight and was promoted.

Then, I gained weight again. The CO noted it at the next PRT and I decided to transfer to the IRR so that I would not have to go back into the remedial program. At that point, I felt so bad about myself that I gained over 50 pounds. All I did was work and drive my kids around. It was fast food and whatever you could grab quick between all their activities. I felt awful about myself and didn’t care.

On my day off in 2010, I was watching the morning news and I heard about Skirt Sports and their new program Kick Start. The purpose rand true to me. I needed motivation to feel good about myself and I wanted to be able to keep up with my active kids and enjoy things with them before they grew up and moved away. I applied and I was accepted.

At the first meeting, I met Nicole DeBoom and her staff. They were so nice and welcoming. I met my personal motivator and was inspired. At that meeting, we got to try on a skirt and top that were provided for us to wear at the Skirt Chaser 5K. I was so excited until I tried them on and they were too tight. I had no idea what size I was and they ended up finding me an XL skirt and an XXL top. I did not let it pull me down and I trained for the 5K. The day of the race, I had to go alone because my youngest son had a football game. I was excited and nervous at the same time. When the race started it was HOT! I ended up running and walking. People would tell me I was doing a great job and were encouraging me along the way. I was determined to not be last and I ended up finishing 3rd to last, ahead of the woman with the a knee replacement a few months before and a pregnant lady. The ambulance with its lights flashing followed us in. The moments that stood out for me and carried me through to today was seeing my husband and kids at the corner before the finish line and my boys joining me to run across the finish line. The other moment was locking eyes with Nicole at the finish line as she handed me a pink rose. I felt I had accomplished something so huge and Nicole was so proud of me! I will never forget that feeling!

Shortly after the race, I injured my back in work and was out for several months. I had hoped to run another race that year, but my dream was placed on hold as I worked through the injury. 2 years later, I was turning 50 and I need to pull myself together. I joined Weight Watchers and focused on losing 5 pounds at a time and have lost 80 pounds. I started exercising at lunch and the girls I worked with and exercised with were talking about all of us doing a 5K together. I remembered “the feeling” I had at the Skirt Chaser 5K as I finished and it motivated me to try again. I trained by myself and I ran (walked only once!) the Color Run 5K and had a blast with my friends! I had “the feeling” again when I finished and shared the experience with my friends and the next thing I knew, I had a plan to do 5 5K’s while I was 51 (5×1=5). At 52, I did 10 10K’s (5×2=10). At 53, I did NOT do 15 15K’s, but thought I would try to do 3 sports and did a few Sprint Triathlons.

I am now 55 and I am running my first half marathon this year as well as doing a few Sprint and Olympic Triathlons. People young, middle and old have told me I am an inspiration to them. I just know that I am happy, confident and a better mother since I began my journey to fitness for my own reasons and not anyone else’s requirements for me. I do not think that I would be where I am today in my journey if it wasn’t for Nicole and the kick start program. I am delight to say that I am paying it forward by being a personal motivator for Running Start. I loved sharing my journey and helping others as they move past their personal road blocks and achieving and goal to run a 5K. I now weigh less than I did when I was in the Navy and all my uniforms are too big. I run for me and the joy it brings me. I have wonderful run friends that support me when ever I need it and I know I will never be judged by them or anyone in the Running Start program.

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