By Kelly Allen
I have always wanted to be a runner, but thought it was unattainable. Until about three years ago I was morbidly obese, weighing almost 300lbs. I had accepted the fact that I was just an overweight person and that running was not something that I could do. In 2016, I made the decision to have gastric bypass surgery and in October of that year my life changed. The surgery didn’t just help me lose weight, it helped me find something inside myself that I didn’t even know I was missing. I found some strengths, mentally and physically, that I didn’t know I had.
My running journey began a little bit accidentally. I was working with a personal trainer about a year after my surgery and she encouraged me to sign up for a local 5k. It sounded completely intimidating to have to run/walk three entire miles! I made a plan: I would do my very best to run the whole first mile and after that I would do a combination of running and walking as my body would allow. At the starting line I ran into an old friend that I hadn’t connected with in many years (the other Kellie). We ended up running side by side that day. I ran a mile and half without stopping, we walked for a short bit and then ran the entire rest of the race! I had no idea I was capable of that! After that day, Kellie and I became ‘running partners’- running a few times a week together. I don’t know if I enjoyed the running more or the friendship that Kellie and I re-kindled.
I was having so much fun and finding new successes, not just in races but in each and every training run. My New Year’s resolution for 2018 was to complete a 5k every month. I had so much fun at races (who new maxing out your body could be fun!). I was improving each time, getting a personal best time at almost every race. With each new 5k I would set a goal; a 10-minute mile (31:00 5k) and sub-30:00 5k are two big ones that stand out to me. When I reached those goals, I thought I could do no better… until I did during the next race!
In 2017 I went to the Syracuse Half Marathon as a spectator to watch my amazing cousin run. I stood at the finish line waiting for her to come through and I watched these amazing athletes, in all shapes and sizes, accomplish this incredible goal. Some runners were smiling and some were crying, some came across holding hands in the air victoriously, some hobbled across in pain and others crossed the finish line looking so strong. I saw Team RWB members carrying a flag and a dad pushing his son in a wheelchair. It was a very emotional moment for me and one I will NEVER forget!!!
I had said I would never be interested in longer distances; 13.1 miles is CRAZY! But as my journey continued, I started to wonder what was stopping me? Why couldn’t I complete 13 miles? Up to this point I didn’t think I was capable of each goal I had reached… until I reached it. I decided I wanted that finish line moment that I witnessed others having at the Syracuse Half Marathon.
I learned of Fleet Feet Running Club’s Distance Program and I apprehensively signed up. To join a group of strangers is not my normal thing. But I very quickly learned that this group is just made up of like-minded, supportive, and amazing people. The comradery that I felt almost instantly was like nothing I had experienced before. I felt like I belonged before the end of the first night. I was Sunshine. The coaches taught me things I never knew I needed to know, and my new friends became instant family. Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings were the highlights of my week!
The completion of the Syracuse Half Marathon in 2018 is one of my proudest moments to date. This was not who I used to be… running 13.1 miles for fun! But it is sure as heck who I am now. Three years ago running a full lap on a track was completely out of the question; now I am a Half-Marathoner!
To date I have completed 3 half marathons, have begun training for a full marathon this fall (I’m terrified), and I have signed up for a triathlon in 2020. But, way more than completing these physical challenges, what I have found is a community. I have made lifetime friendships and have people in my life that I didn’t know I needed and now I couldn’t live without. Running has given me so much more than my physical health back; it has given me my Tribe!