Marathon Mama:

How I Went From 250 lbs To Being A Marathon Runner

By Barbara Roberson
barbara roberson before picturebarbara roberson after picI know that feeling of being 4 pounds away from a goal. I remember it like yesterday, sitting at the beginning of one of my many spinning classes and telling the instructor and classmates, "I just need to lose these last 4 pounds!" I was 204 pounds that the time, from an all time high of 250 pounds. I had been spinning for months and the weight loss was happening slowly. The instructor looked at me funny as I told her, "I know it sounds silly to all of you, but if I can lose these last 4 pounds then I'll finally see 199 and then that means it is all in the bag! All downhill from there!" They looked at me smiling, sort of shaking their heads and that is when I realized I was with the wrong group! Not one word of encouragement or of advice, so that night I decided to make some changes. I reactivated my dormant Peertrainer account, switched from spinning 2 days a week and weight training 1 day a week, to the Couch to 5K program and weight training 2 days a week. I also refined the Weight Watchers program into my deluxe version in which I used Flex Points but only eating the daily points, used the weekly points as a safety net. I kept at it with the modest goal of running my first 5K in October 2007. I arrived at the race and was terrified but at the safe time felt so alive. I ran the whole thing with a grin from ear to ear! Folks must have thought I was crazy, but good golly it felt so great to be able to run again, and run in public! I had done it! I had ran the whole thing and my hubby and kids were at the finish line cheering me on! Then I signed up for another 5K to see if I can do it faster, did more weightlifting (these months concentrating on heavier weights, so I could get stronger, build more muscle and burn more calories). To my surprise, I did the Jingle Bell for Arthritis 5K even faster, then the New Year's Resolution Run 5K also faster, and as I got more comfortable with my running, I found myself asking...what is next?

Still undecided about what to do next, went to a spinning class to change things up and ironically it had basically the same folks I had spun with 8 months ago. Now it was January 2008 and they were shocked! I had gotten down to 169 pounds and the instructor at first didn't recognize me! She kept looking at me trying to fit the face to the memory of where she had seen me last, when she yells out "Barbara?" I said "Yes!". The whole group was stunned, of course they asked what diet I was on. I told them it wasn't a diet, but a lifestyle change. I told them I was doing Weight Watchers and running now, getting more disciplined about getting to the gym. One of them says, "oh you are doing Weight Watchers", like that was in itself the answer, but they just didn't get it. It wasn't just the WW, something in me had clicked and clicked for good. I had a purpose now, a vision although not quite refined, but a deep do better, want more, get fitter, a hunger almost. I just wanted to be better, look better, feel better, do better. Didn't really know how to describe it, class was starting, and to be honest didn't know if I could get that point across to tell you the truth. I, in all this running and 5ks, have found not just a sport, but a passion and purpose. I am no longer a 39 year old stay at home mom, I am a runner, I feel good, I feel so alive. I feel whole, for the first time in my life I actually listen to my body, can taste the actual vegetables, hardly get sick, and have energy to keep up with my 3 kids. Weight Watchers alone does not do that, but a lot of lifestyle changes can!

So in January, I tinkered with the idea of running a marathon in October. I was hesitant at first, it is a formidable goal, daunting really. Then a Peertrainer buddy told me if I did sign up for it, than I should run a Half Marathon halfway to gauge my progress. Sort of a mid-way test for me, to see how well my training had been going, how long it would take me, etc. It made sense to me and it would also help me to stay focus and on track, and to further develop a sense of discipline, so I put together a half marathon training plan and signed up for the Potomac River Run Half Marathon on May 4, 2008. For 4 months, I refined what I ate, closely counting points, working out at the gym 5 days a week, slowly building up my running. By the beginning of April, I just couldn't meet the caloric needs/demands of all the running and working out and kept hitting the energy wall, getting irritable, tired, so I stopped my deluxe Weight Watchers plan, as I affectionately called it.

After doing it a whole year, I was now familiar with healthier eating, portion control, timing meals, etc, so I kept most of the foods, but upped my veggies, fruits, started baking my own whole wheat bread with molasses instead of sugar, upped the lean protein. Basically, I looked at foods as "which ones gave me the biggest bang for my buck" . Not just the most cost effective, but which ones were the most nutritious. Nutrition above all was more important than cost or calories. Almonds are loaded with calories, so I eat them after my runs to make up for their higher caloric value. I figured my body is taking a beating, might as well give it what it needs to recover, so I can lovingly beat it up some more! Sure enough, it slowly paid off, although my weight hit a plateau of 166-169 for 5 months, the transformation was in the fat loss and the muscle building!

By May 4th, I stepped to the starting line, and did the early bird start, unsure how long it was going to take me to run 13.1 miles and didn't want to be rushed or run down by the faster pack, it was also cooler starting earlier in the morning. I started off slow and steady, even took pictures along the way, just savoring the moment, a life defining moment to tell the truth. This one was not about doing it fast, but just a realization of how far I had come and for me it wasn't just another workout, but a breathtaking sightseeing fun tour on legs along the Potomac River's shore! The run was amazing, beautiful, and demanding, making the finish all the sweeter! I did the run in 3 hours 14 minutes and 19 seconds and that included walking, picture taking, potty breaks, and stretches! I was tickled pink as I got my medal and once again I looked at my goal in October and it looked even more hopeful to me!

I look back now and see that it is more than a lifestyle change. You need to really pick the situations you want to be in, folks you surround yourself is all about choices...little ones you do each day that add up in very big ways in the long run. My faith has deepened quite a bit in this journey too and I am more grateful to my husband for his support in my running endeavors. Thanks to God, and my hubby, I am able to do my long runs on Saturdays. They both keep me motivated to do better. My buddies in Peertrainer keep me honest, encouraged and motivated. I am hoping by my example everyone in my family will be encouraged to get healthy too. I also hope my comments and encouragement in Peetrainer, help others in my groups and teams to follow their dreams and endeavors! It is possible, just look at me! I just finished running the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K in Baltimore, MD! My first 10K ever and did it at a decent time too. I am starting Week 6 of my marathon training plan today! I can't wait until October 2008! Want to see my journey? Then check out my log under "Peace"!

-- 2008 Goals!
International Peace Half-Marathon September 1, 2008 (Official)
Under Armour Baltimore Marathon October 11, 2008 (Official).
Jug Bay Run for Wildlife 10K in November 1, 2008.
Jingle Bells for Arthritis 5K December 6, 2008.
2nd Annual Great Fells Point Figgy Pudding Race 5K December 13, 2008 (Official)

SMCN 2nd Annual Resolution 5K Run January 1, 2009.
ING Miami Half Marathon January 25, 2009 (Official).
Potomac River Run Marathon May 2009.

Races Done!
Run for Kathy 5K 10/13/07 38:48 (flat course),
Jingle Bell for Arthritis 5K 12/8/07 38:39 (flat course),
SMCN First Annual Resolution 5k Run 1/1/08 35:16 (rotary course),
Leatherneck 5K Run for injured Marines 4/12/08 34:00 (flat),
March for Babies 5 Mile Run on 4/27/08 1 hour 19 minutes (rotary),
Potomac River Run Half Marathon 13.1 miles 5/4/08 3:14:09,
13th Annual Civista 5K Run/Walk for Wellness 5/18/08 34:40 (rotary),
Dreaded Druid Hills 10K 6/28/08 1:18:59(killer hills).

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Barbara Roberson is a long time PEERtrainer member and keeps her public log here.