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Its that time again folks, where we showcase just one of the amazing women from our community who has caught our eye. This month we feature 30 year old Lisa Miller from Northern Indiana, USA

When did you start running and why?  3 years ago I was 225 lbs. and I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) playing a game of soccer. Something I had done since I was young. My weight contributed to my injury. During recovery I was forced to rely on others just to take care of my daily needs. I refused to let that happen again.  I started working with a trainer and watching my diet. But I always wanted to be able to run long distances. So I used this time to not only lose weight but to become a runner.

Did you run a lot when you were younger? I ran frequently as I played soccer year round. My problem was that I never had stamina or endurance. I was a great sprinter but a poor distance runner. I could only play as a forward and only for short periods of time. I never could run longer than a couple of minutes. Due to this I was never a fan of running until after my surgery.

What do you love and hate about the sport of running? The bad thing about running is that it’s more of a mind game than a physical one. It is difficult physically when you first start out or are looking to improve. But running longer distances and running on a frequent basis requires you to improve your belief in yourself. This is by far the toughest challenge. But it is also the most rewarding. When you start loving yourself more and increasing your self-confidence through running you obtain rewards that far outreach anything else. To see your body go for so long and cover that much ground makes you realize you are capable of so much. No matter what your body image tells you.

How often do you run? I generally run 2-3 times a week. I use strength training or cross training in between in order to help improve muscle and prevent injury

What kind of distances do you run in training? Since I just ran my first marathon I trained up to 23 miles prior to the race. I ran 2 days a week 4 miles each day and a long run on the weekends. On the weekends I would add 2 miles more every two weeks. So the long run started with 6 miles (as I run 4 during the week) and then every two weeks would add around 2 miles.

We know you recently took part in a Marathon, could you tell us about your experiences with training, motivation etc. I was talked into the marathon by my husband. He wanted to run one and we had the opportunity to do so. Immediately after signing up for the marathon I almost had a panic attack. I kept thinking “I can’t do this. This is crazy! I’m not in any shape to do this. I’ll be too slow. I’m too big to be able to complete this. I’m going to get swept before I get to the finish line!” Another marathon friend told me that I had plenty of time to train and get ready for it and to take it one step at a time. So I chose to focus on that and start training.

I found a training program. The first thing I learned about training for a marathon is that it takes time and it takes support. I would frequently post my runs on Facebook to my running friends to be held accountable for my training. My weekends were no longer focused around social events but around my long runs.  When I started having to use trails and be around other runners I was pretty self-conscious. One of the things that bugged me the most about my runs were my running shirts. They kept riding up and my tight running pants emphasized my stomach. And being around other people, I kept thinking all they would see is my fat stomach. However, I soon found out that I needed a hydration belt for the longer distances and I used that to keep my shirts down. I also found a lot of supportive people running on the bike trails. I was constantly encouraged by others to keep it up. It was the complete opposite of what I was expecting.

As the distances got longer I noticed I was eating a lot more. Unfortunately I found out that many people training for marathons gain weight because we eat more due to the longer distances. When I noticed I had gained back weight it was pretty hard for me to keep going. But I focused on how far my distance progress had come and I keep putting one foot in front of the other.

My husband (who was training with me) was very supportive of my progress. However, he was much faster than I was and per my Garmin I was barely making the cut off time for the marathon. As the distances got longer my body did not adjust to the distances as easily as it had before. I had sharp pains in my back, my knees hurt from the pounding, and sometimes the bottom of my feet would kill me. I kept thinking that if I was in better shape then I wouldn’t be in so much pain. But there was no time to change that so I kept going. My husband kept telling me that I would make it and not get swept. But as I stated above, the mind games are the worst part. Making yourself believe in your own capabilities when you have so much doubt is very difficult.

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The last 0.20 of the race needed a hand to hold

The day of the marathon was nerve racking. Plus it was very cold out for Florida. But we didn’t choose a Disney race for nothing. As my husband and I started the race I did fine until about mile 6 and my body started hurting. People started to pass me and my negative thoughts started coming in. But the fun and the support of volunteers cheering and my husband there to run with me helped me to keep going. I noticed that my long distance runs were allowing me to go further between breaks than others and I looked for every small step of progress and held onto it for dear life.

However, after the 6hr 30 minute pacer caught up to me I almost had a meltdown right on the course. It was around mile 17 and I told my husband that I couldn’t do it and I was going to get swept. He literally refused to let me accept defeat by grabbing my hand and pulling me forward. This is when the will and the mind games became particularly difficult. I knew in my head that if I had weighed less, trained harder, and focused more on my eating I would be better off. I knew that I was going to be “too slow and too fat” to finish. But I couldn’t let my husband down so I kept pushing forward. We were around mile 21/22 when we went up a hill and the soldiers from “Toy Story” were on the hill yelling and encouraging and making people laugh. I started laughing and I couldn’t stop.

That was such a relief!

The negative thoughts started to fade away and I got my second wind. We went through the back of Hollywood Studios and out the entrance. Right at the entrance was the sweeper busses. I ran right past chanting in my head “I will not get on the f****** bus!” We crossed onto the boardwalk by Disney Springs and after the boardwalk we entered through Epcot. We came out onto the England Pavilion in the World Showcase. I almost started crying. I knew the finish line was in the Epcot parking lot. I knew at that point that as long as I could finish the last mile I would make it! They couldn’t sweep me! We ran our “victory mile” around the World Showcase and we went through a couple of more turns. Around the last turn were the grandstands and the finish line. I was smiling from ear to ear. I ran right up to Mickey and Pluto and slapped their hands right before crossing that finish line. I broke down in tears and kept saying “we made it! We made it!” I knew then that all that negative self-talk was FALSE. SOOOOOO FALSE! I was now a marathoner!!

What are your biggest fears or hangups about being a plus sized runner? The biggest hang-up that I have had has been my own self beliefs. I believed that I needed to be skinnier to be a good runner. That I deserved to have aches and pains because of how fat I had let myself become. But the marathon taught me something different. That no matter what you look like, how big you are, or what others may say, if you have a goal you can reach it. Your body is your vessel to get you there but it does not determine if you make it or not. Your mind does.

What is your ultimate running goal and what’s stopping you from getting there? I just reached my own personal goal of running a marathon. Eventually I would like to do the Dopey Challenge. The Dopey challenge at Disney is a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon all in a 4 day time span. But I am not quite ready for that just yet.

What could the government, local authorities, sports clubs etc do to encourage more people to take up running and sport, especially overweight and inactive women? Have phones, cameras, and regular police patrol running trails, bike trails, and parks. Make it as safe as possible because I feel that most women do not want to take up running because of fear. I would also encourage more women to speak up that are bigger or plus size like myself. Create women’s running groups for ordinary runners. Not for speed or for professional racing. But just ordinary runners and ordinary women.

What are the biggest barriers for plus sized women?  The belief that you need to be skinny to run. You are a runner whenever you step out that door.  Our biggest barriers are not our sizes. The biggest barrier is the lack of faith in us. We need to believe in ourselves, believe in others, encourage ourselves and others, and overall allow ourselves to feel good about what we have accomplished.

What would you say to other runners just starting out? Start small with your goals. If you can only run one block. Your next goal should be two blocks and so on. And with every small goal reached, CELEBRATE! Celebrate it as if you just ran a marathon. Once your comfortable sign up for a fun race like the Color-Run. Having a fun race to get ready for keeps you moving forward and keeps you going.  And whatever you do, do not let your size be the reason you hold yourself back. Your size does not dictate whether or not you are a runner. Because you are! Even after running that first block!

What have you learned about yourself through running?  That my size does not dictate my accomplishments. And it does not dictate my right to celebrate my accomplishments either.

If you know someone who deserves to be featured here please let us know by emailing help@toofattorun.co.uk

If you would like to have the support of incredible women like this on your running journey, why not consider joining our online running club, The Clubhouse. We have 250 members from across the world, and the accountability and support is great no matter what distance you are at or how often you get to run.

Click here for more details and to sign up

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