As I'm nearing my final week of training for my half of the Los Angeles Marathon and coming closer than ever before to checking off item 23 on My Father's List, "Run 10 miles straight," I want to acknowledge how hard my relay partner, Kelly Solis, has been working on her half of this.
Every week since we started training in January she's met a new distance goal, and every week I've been more inspired to meet my own because of it. She decided to split the marathon with me after I found my dad's list and said my new goal was running 10 straight, and I will always be amazed by the generosity behind that decision. But the greatest joy for me as I've worked to accomplish my goal has been watching her continually surprise herself by crushing her own.
Here's what her experience has been, in her words.
by Kelly Solis
I’m about to run my second half marathon and it’s only been three months since my first. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that this is my life now.
Like most women, I’ve struggled with my weight and body image for as long as I can remember. One of the things I’ve come to understand since I started talking openly about trying to be healthy is that lots of women worry about their weight and have a distorted body image. Even the skinny ones. It's crazy to me. I always assumed that if you wore smaller than a size 14, you must be pretty pleased with yourself.
My dad weighed over 400 pounds most of my life. He had his first heart attack at age 40. I didn’t realize until I was an adult how much his weight impacted his quality of life and mental well-being. He had gastric bypass right after my parents got divorced, when I was 21. He died just three years later. Another heart attack while having excess skin surgically removed. He had lost over 200 pounds after having the surgery and was happier than I had seen him in a long time.
Growing up I didn’t play sports, really (according to my sisters, marching band doesn’t count). But I did go on walks with my mom, and I loved walking through our neighborhood and the woods behind our house. Since high school, I’ve had two modes. One where I try to be healthy—I go to the gym, walk or hike and try to eat well (I’ve become a member of Weight Watchers multiple times)—and one that's full-on gluttony: eating and drinking whatever strikes my fancy, little movement.
I’m always happier when I’m being healthy. But it’s hard to maintain. I’ll be super-focused for a while and then poof, no more focus. I become distracted by life or complacent with my current self. Or I’ll get pregnant. That happened three times. Or I’ll move across the country, away from my family and friends. That happened once.
In December 2015 I found myself the heaviest I had ever been without being pregnant, and I came to the realization that my then-1-year-old could withstand my not being with her every waking moment. But what she couldn’t and shouldn’t have to deal with is my being miserable and tired all the time. And that’s how I felt. Uncomfortable all the time. Unhappy with myself. I decided that that wasn’t what I wanted for myself or my children.
I started doing DietBets and logging my meals into MyFitnessPal. I dusted off the Fitbit I'd gotten months before and got serious about trying to hit 10,000 steps every day. I followed other women who were losing weight or making healthy choices on Instagram.
I made myself a priority. As a mom, wife and teacher, that was hard to do. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you are never doing enough. There is always more you can do. Around this time, I was listening to Angela Watson’s weekly podcast about being more productive with your time as a teacher, and she said that sometimes we have to go through a period of sacrifice to get to where we want to be, which resonated with me. She was talking about staying late in the beginning of the school year to set up your systems in order to save time later. But what I heard was that I needed to have a period where I hyper-focused on my health and then later I could relax a bit.
So that’s what I did. I made super-healthy choices, most of the time. I took walks whenever I could—before school, during my rather short lunch period, after school with coworkers or at night with my children. I ate more salads and fruit and veggies then I ever had in my life. And the weight came off. From January to July 2016, I lost 50 pounds.
I felt awesome. I had energy. I had to buy smaller clothes. I was enjoying my walks as “me time.” I would listen to podcasts or music and nobody needed anything. It was wonderful. During the day, I have 31 little ones who constantly need help and directing. Before school and after school, I have three adorable children who tend to be needy with wanting to be fed, bathed and given attention. Suddenly I was daily carving out time for myself, and I was hooked.
That summer I decided that although I still wanted to lose 20 more pounds, I wanted to stop focusing so much on weight loss and instead set a goal of running a 5K. I’d never been a runner. Always joked that my body wasn’t made for running. But all of a sudden I realized that maybe my body was. I started doing one- to two-minute intervals on the treadmill and listening to the Couch to 5K program. Setting and reaching small goals, like running a few minutes at a time, felt amazing. I felt like I could conquer the world.
My friend Laura and her husband came out to California in October to do the Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles 5K with me. The week before the race I decided I would try to run it. I had been doing lots of 5Ks with friends, but had always walked them. That just didn’t feel like enough of a challenge anymore. So I ran it. Well, at least most of it. Another realization I’ve had as I've become a runner is that lots of “runners” walk a little. They don’t all run the whole time. A 5K would normally take me about 45 minutes, walking. I completed this one in a little over 36 minutes. I was so proud of myself.
With all this self-confidence just busting out of me, I agreed to sign up for a half marathon with my neighbor. I didn’t really put thought into the fact that it was in six weeks. So with this new goal in mind, I began training and increasing my distance run. The longest I went before the race was nine miles. I figured, If worst comes to worst, I can just walk. I had a 3½-hour time limit and joked with my sister that my main goal was not to get picked up by the bus. (They send one out to collect runners who can't finish due to injury or other reasons.)
On race day it was overcast and rainy. The course was surprisingly hilly. But I plugged along, walking more and more as the miles wore on. And I completed it. In just under three hours. Again, I had this feeling of being unstoppable.
It was (and still is) crazy to me that this is something I can do.
As the date of my second half marathon nears, I’m getting nervous, but I know I can do it. Getting healthy has had so many positive effects on my life. I’m comfortable in my skin. I have energy to run around and be active with my children. I have self-confidence like never before. I coached my 5-year-old’s soccer team in the fall—I'd never played soccer in my life, but they needed a coach and I figured, Why not? That never would have happened 50 pounds ago.
Possibly one of the best side effects of my being healthy is setting this example for my children. They are watching their mother set goals and crush them. My 7-year-old joined the track team at school and loves it. We finally went on a run together the other day, as he’s been asking for a long time, and it was great! Our first mile was my fastest mile ever. My 2-year-old willingly snacks on cucumbers, carrots and mini sweet peppers. And we all have dance sessions and work out in the family room together.
I worry sometimes that I’ll slide too far into old habits and put the weight back on. But I’ve noticed how I feel physically and emotionally better on the days when I eat better and get my exercise in. I’m running the Los Angeles Marathon relay-style with my friend Laura and raising money for Girls on the Run. I named my fund-raiser Strong Girls = Strong World, and that’s how I feel now: strong, and able to accomplish anything.
To support Kelly's run and Girls on the Run Los Angeles, click here.