The day I won the How Do You Celebrate Success RunDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon contest, it felt like it was all about me. Pandora’s phone call, congratulatory messages from friends and family, my head spinning at the idea of running 13.1 miles… but by the next day, it had turned into so much more. It became about tons of people inspired to start running, all because of what I had done. It was overwhelming and amazing.
So many people wrote asking for advice and support. I answered as many as I could, as thoroughly as I could. But I wanted to do more than just send messages, I wanted to create a bond within this group of people – friends and strangers alike – who all shared the desire to lose some weight and get moving. So I started the Team Slender Seekers group in my hometown in Ohio, and we pledged to spend 12 weeks training before running in the “Color Us United” run to benefit the United Way. It was a 2k rather than a 5k, and not timed, therefore perfect for even the most uninitiated of runners.
The group grew HUGE! I expected about 10 friends to sign up, but by the end, I think we had about 50 participants. One mom trained with her two boys, and one of them showed up in a super hero cape. Another mom trained with her young daughter, and they ran in matching tutus and glittery mustache shirts. Two team members whom I had never even met volunteered to design and make team t-shirts. It made my heart so happy to see such enthusiasm. And in addition to getting healthier, we raised over $600 for the United Way to help some worthy causes.
The night before the race, my email and texts blew up. Each girl probably thought she was the only one, but so many had questions and fears. I understand the anxiety that happens before you do something you’ve never done before. “What if I can’t keep up?” “What if I can’t finish?” “What should I eat before the race?” I assured everyone that it wasn’t about keeping up or even finishing. It was about showing up and trying. Ten steps or a thousand steps, it was just about giving whatever they had to give.
Race day was beautiful. Sunny skies, not too hot. We gathered for a group photo before corralling with over a thousand other runners. People were throwing their color packets into the air and onto each other, batting beach balls through the crowd, and for a few, slightly panicking. But everything went beautifully. Each girl moved at her own pace, for the distance she was comfortable with, and I was so proud. I had one girl who had recently been very sick. She was in tremendous pain but she kept putting one foot in front of the other until she’d been all the way around the track. She felt disappointed, but to me she was the greatest victor of all, because she had every reason to stay home that day, but she didn’t. She showed up, she gave it her all. That is ALL it’s about.
Another friend, one I’ve previously mentioned who wrote that she was terrified to try this… she finished with no problem at all. She has now lost about 50 pounds, and she looks totally amazing. She rocked a beautiful dress at her daughter’s wedding last month, all because Team Slender Seekers inspired her to start her journey.
To Pandora and the incredible sponsors who have made this contest possible: Please, please know that all of your efforts and contributions have made the biggest difference. Not just for me, but for this group of people who otherwise would have been in bed on that early weekend morning rather than outside experiencing their first run. Pounds have been lost, hearts have grown stronger, confidence has been built, and it’s only just the beginning.
I encourage anyone who is thinking “I wish I could run” to just try it. Download a couch to 5k running program onto your smart phone or iPod and just try. You don’t need to be fast. Trust me, Pandora and I are not breaking any land speed records! Just move, faster than usual, for a couple of minutes at a time. Follow the program and I promise by the end, you’ll be able to finish a 5k too. It all starts with just 60 seconds. And if physical limitations prevent you from running, then walk a 5k. I’ve become close friends with some amazing walkers who still enjoy participating just as much as the runners. I’ve become addicted to races. There’s nothing like that camaraderie, the feeling of pushing yourself to stay ahead of those behind you while trying to catch those ahead of you, and fun finish line celebrations. Plus, I. Love. Swag. My friend Pete made me an awesome plaque to hang my medals from. I’ll probably never win a medal for being fast, but I am every bit as proud of my participation medals. Because a year ago, I was not running anywhere. Not for 60 seconds, not 5k, and certainly not a half marathon. I am proud to be a participant, even if I’m always going to be at the back of the pack.
Try a run this week, and let us know how it goes. Every one of us is a member of Team Slender Seekers. We’re all in this together, you are NEVER alone. Good luck!
Note from Pandora: I want to take a moment to send Amy a very warm thank you. As I have posted before, the last couple of months have been very difficult for me dealing with the anniversary grief of my Father’s death and sometimes we don’t see all the lives we are able to touch by an action we take until someone else points it out. It’s very easy to get down on ourselves when we think we aren’t doing something well enough. When I read this story and realized the impact this contest has had on so many people thanks to Amy having the “Pay it Forward” type attitude that I do it literally brought tears to my eyes. Thank you Any for making this coaches day!
I’d also like to take a moment to thank our sponsors, without whom none of this would be possible. Ameriwell Bariatrics, Celebrate Vitamins, Kay’s Naturals, Wellese and BariMelts thank for being the sponsors of a contest that helps people celebrate their weight loss success and allows us the opportunity to help us motivate others.