In March of 2017, I nervously walked into the Skirt Sports store in Boulder for the Running Start kickoff meeting. I could hardly feel anything except my heart racing that day. I quietly grabbed a chair in the corner and waited for the meeting to begin.
That day, I was introduced to my friend and inspiration Lisa. Lisa walked just a 1/4 of a mile that day with me. It was all I could physically do! I wanted to quit; my back ached, my feet hurt and my heart pounded. The problem was that at 395 pounds, I had not walked very far in years. I was sedentary, discouraged and probably just years from certain life altering health issues. That March day was the beginning of a dramatic life change for me.
Running Start provided me support, acceptance and a plan to help me become a walker (and one day a runner)! I followed the plan and checked in with my motivator and pushed myself daily to go further than I did the previous day. It was not easy, and frequently I wanted to give up, but I wanted to live even more! Crossing the 5K finish line was one of the best days of my life. For the first time in YEARS, I set a goal AND I succeeded!
I have lost just over 60 pounds since the beginning of Running Start. I have a long way to go, but I know that I can do this! As a plus sized woman, I have frequently felt left out, rejected and not accepted because of my weight. Through this program, I have found a welcoming community of women that love and encourage me to be the best I can be. No judgement or rejection here! I currently participate in a bootcamp class, walk and workout at the gym daily. I now have the confidence and courage to try anything new, my weight does not hold me back!
I remember to this day how excited I was when I was accepted into the Running Start program in 2015. I had only been out of prison a little over a year at that point and still did not have many friends. The first meeting was hard for me because I didn’t feel like I fit in. Everyone was wearing work out clothes and I was wearing jeans. I remember thinking to myself, “these are not my people.” I thought that no one would ever want to be my friend because of my criminal history and the life I had previously lived.
We all gathered in a circle and went around the room introducing ourselves and sharing about our barrier to fitness. I realized as I listened to everyone else share, that we were ALL ALIKE. There was story after story of women who were starting over from scratch from a divorce or struggling with children who had disabilities. My story of addiction and prison looked just like theirs. We were all looking for support and a network to help us believe in ourselves. We were all looking for something to help us get out of the negative headspace and work towards a goal of being healthier.
That was three years ago and I can say that the Running Start program has transformed my life. You get out what you put in and I dove all in. Today, my best friends are running friends and running has given me a source of self esteem and confidence that I never knew I could have. The discipline of training has taught me that I can do anything if I just keep at it every day. I am forever grateful to the RS program and all the wonderful women I have met along the way. It turns out, they WERE my people.
I decided to join Running Start as a beginner. Amy Machael had posted on FB and I thought — why not?! I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life, I had recently lost a baby and still dealing with my failure there and I felt like I had nothing to lose. I suffered from panic attacks for years and every day I feared would be the day I would die of a heart attack and leave my husband with our three girls by himself. I had everything to gain but honestly even going into the first meeting — I didn’t feel like I had a “problem” or that I needed help. My high school sports days were long gone but I believe I said during the meeting that I was sporty at one time and that I run occasionally— not a full out lie. Was sporty at one time but long long ago by this time and my “running” consisted of nothing more than 15 seconds and I thought I might die. I was paired with the most positive motivator — Amy Dunbar and she was awesome. Of course I didn’t need much help but she consistently texted me to see how I was doing. Unfortunately, I tore the meniscus in my knee and needed surgery. This meant no actual running race for me and I tried to quit. I wanted someone else to have a shot at this run and accomplishing something but the Running Start team would not let me quit. They told me that the spot was mine and there was no one waiting to pounce on it and if I needed to walk the race I could. 3 weeks post operation was race day. I was going to walk it and I did. That wasn’t the turning point for me though. It was the post my motivator innocently put on FB saying how proud she was of me. Now, if you’re heavy — and I was very heavy. You know this so you take head shots if you have to but avoid pictures the best you can. I saw the picture. Surely that couldn’t be me! The picture must be widened… nope. That was me. It was the first time I actually saw how heavy I had let myself get over the years. I saw how much I did not value myself enough to make me/my health a priority. That was the day it stopped. A year later I had dropped nearly 100 pounds through diet and exercise (Running) and can’t imagine going back. I am a priority and if I am not healthy and the best me I can be — I cannot be there like I need to be for my family. I’ve kept the weight off and completely changed our lifestyle as a family. I decided to become a motivator to help other women realize they can make themselves a priority and be healthy and or just get a new hobby. A lot of the time women/mothers have guilt for taking time for themselves— that can’t happen or continue. I choose to be a motivator and a Program Manager to hopefully help women see the value in themselves enough to take time to enjoy something that makes them happy and helps their health (and sometimes their families too)! Running, walking, lifting, hiking, etc.
One of the things I love about Running Start is how much we all inspire each other. Just because you’re a Personal Motivator, doesn’t mean you don’t need someone to motivate or inspire you. Last summer I was getting ready to drive to Wyoming to do a 50k trail race. I’ve been running since I was a teenager, have done big races in the past, but was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. I was in tears and couldn’t get myself together. This wasn’t my first rodeo, so why was I feeling this way? I was driving alone, but meeting friends at the race, then adding on a post-race vacation at my sister’s house in Montana. This was something I had been looking forward to for months!
I didn’t feel like I should be driving, so I turned my car around and went back home! I didn’t want my boyfriend to see my like this, so I ran in the house with my sunglasses on and said I had to go to the bathroom. Well he eventually sent me on my way. As I was driving a few miles from home, facing a 6-hour drive, tears streaming down my cheeks, I happened to look out my window. There it was, a big real estate sign that said “Beth Shields”! Beth was one of my beginners! She’s one of the bravest woman I know, she steps out of her comfort zone every day, and now she was my motivator!! Seeing her name was all I needed. Of course, I pulled my car over, sent her a text to tell her how much I love her, we shared a few laughs, and I was on my way. It’s amazing what a kind work and knowing someone believes in you can do for your self-confidence. Just seeing her name changed my day! Some days I think I might learn more from my beginner than she learns from me!
In June of 2018 I found myself in South Dakota to support my sister who was running her second half marathon on the Michelson Trail. At this time I was also battling moderate to severe depression. I was in a complete mental funk and just could not snap out of it. To me meds were not going to be the first form of treatment. Flash forward a few days and there I am signing up for Running Start on Facebook. My first thought was “what could it hurt?” A few weeks later I received a phone call asking if I was still interested in the program because I somehow missed the email telling me I was accepted. I missed our first meeting but was met by my personal motivator and shared with her the reasons I chose to try this out. You see, for years I made every excuse to not take a chance and try something new. My stress, anxiety, and depression had kept me paralyzed in that mindset. Multiple health problems had me wondering if I could do this and Serena just talked me through it. My sister had also mentioned how running really helped her with her stress, so I decided right then that I would take this opportunity and give it my best shot.
Flash forward 12 weeks and there, with my second personal motivator Becky (Serena moved out of state for a job opportunity) and I remember the week that I had just faced. Everything had just started to crumble in life and there I was standing on the starting line thinking to myself. This is my chance to overtake the “old” me. I was able to get through my tough week and still get to that starting line. I was dealing with so many emotions and was still able to get through it without the paralyzing moments. Through this 12 week training I had come out of my shell. I started to get out more, I was getting more work done, I was seeing improvement in my mood and energy and by the time race day arrived I was ready to face this new season of my life. They say it is half the battle to get to the starting line. Well when I got there I was ready to be at the finish line. It was such a relief to know that I had an amazing group of women supporting me and two amazing woman to motivate me every step of the way. Crossing that finish line was a feeling like none other I had set out on a journey to run a 5k and here I was a 5k finisher. It has now motivated my youngest son to want to start running as well. I cannot begin to describe the amount of change that Running Start brought to my life. I can say that it has all been positive and drastically life changing. Just finally being able to be mentally present in my life again will keep me a runner for life!