Guest Post: Heather’s journey from lupus to 5k

I recently ran a 5k on February 17th in Nashville, Tennessee.  My niece Kayla challenged me to share my journey on her blog so here I go.

It all really started back several years when my niece decided to change her lifestyle.  It was like she took off running one day and never stopped.  Of course, as an aunt, I supported her wholeheartedly but from afar, kind of removed from what she was really doing.  I knew she was training for races and marathons.  She was making lifestyle changes with her eating habits, getting up early to run, and dedicating herself to reaching her goals.

None of it really sunk in until I attended her first full marathon she was running for St. Jude.  I showed up in the big city where thousands (I mean thousands) of runners showed up to do what they trained so long to do.  The energy was palpable to say the least.  Everyone looked elite to me.  I was wowed!  Runners of all sizes, shapes, colors, ages, and nationalities.  I wanted to be one of them right then and there.  I left there asking myself, “What are you doing with your life Heather?”  It answered back pretty quickly, “Nothing!”

After Kayla crossed the finish line and my heart swelled with so much pride, I decided I wanted to do what she did!  Not a full marathon of course but I wanted to start running.  I returned home and was so scared to tell anyone what I wanted to do.  Deep down inside I wasn’t so sure I could do it.  I didn’t want to tell anyone just in case I failed from the get go.  See, I had turned 50, survived stage one cancer and been diagnosed with Lupus all within the past 2 1/2 years. I let my diagnosis rule my life for two years.  I hurt all over my body.  Most days it hurts to even get up from where I’m sitting or laying.  My joints scream quietly from inside where no one can hear them.  On the outside, I look like a normal functioning individual but on the inside my body  attacks itself and wreaks all kinds of havoc.

I first told my daughter Madison about my crazy idea and ran it by her.  She was supportive from the beginning, believed I could do it and told me I was the only one who could make it happen when I was truly ready for it to happen.  I then called my niece a couple of days later and shared my goal with her.  I remember being super nervous.  She was fully in from the beginning.  The advice started pouring in from her.  She was a wellspring of information and support throughout the whole process.

My first step was to consult my doctor and get the go ahead to beat up my body more.  He was truly excited for me.  I remember him telling me at least a dozen times to take it slow.  So I took to the internet to find a training plan that worked for me specifically.  The plan I found started me out slow, it worked it’s way up gradually, it encouraged rest and recovery times, and most importantly it advised not training on consecutive days.  My body needed more down time in between.

img_3782.png

Next, I amassed a support team.  Everyone was so open to my goals.  My family was instantly behind me.  Friends at work were pulling for me.  But what really got me through were the people willing to train right alongside me.  They will never really know how much that kept me on my path to my endgame.  I mean they took time out of their schedules and weekends to sweat right next to me. In all kinds of inclement weather too.  All the while telling me “You got this!”  I started running around my neighborhood, then at my local civic center, and any greenway that was close to me.

I also quit drinking. This was huge.  I struggled with alcohol abuse for years.  It was my best and worst friend.  I knew I couldn’t train for a race and drink.  My body was already starting at a disadvantage.  Drinking would allow me so many more excuses not to reach my goal.  So I said bye to that relationship.

My last training day ended with a beautiful sunset, so beautiful, I took it as a sign everything was going to be just fine. I took it in with the ones who helped me train the most (Madison and Em) and knew my goal was waiting for me right around the corner.

IMG_3565

On the eve of race day I was so nervous.  I didn’t want to let anyone down but most of all I didn’t want to let myself down.  My support team was right there with me of course.  Then came race day.  My stomach was all nerves but I was actually calmer than I thought I would be.  I had my daughter and niece right by my side the entire time.  I was where I wanted to be.  I zoned out a bit while running.  My niece brought me back down when she told me I just ran an entire mile straight through.  I was so proud of myself.  I stayed focus on the route in front of me never forgetting the love that surrounded me.  My daughter ran out in front to make sure I didn’t trip over anything.  I was bummed at the one mountain (paved hill) I had to stop and walk in the middle of Nashville but I didn’t let it get to me.

Then my niece and daughter, with the biggest smiles ever, pointed at the finish line.  I couldn’t wait to get there.  All the times I had to push through the pain, all the calls and doubts my family had to get me through, all the afternoon training I had dedicated myself to was about to pay off.  I heard my family cheering me on from the sidelines and I think I pretty much floated across the finish line in a happy daze!!!  It was exciting!  I did it!!  I not only reached a goal, I had a plan and executed that plan with my own hard work.  What more can you ask for?

Does running a 5k change your whole life?  Probably not. It’s all the negative internal dialogue you stop listening to that changes your life.  It’s the realization you are the only thing in your way.  It’s setting a plan in motion that keeps you moving forward.  I have fallen in love with life and learned my family is the most important relationship I have.

My goals for the future are running a 5k comfortably without stopping.  I still plan to train every other day.  I’m going to start strength training also to get my body stronger for a 10k race.  I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me with kind words and encouragement.  Could I have done this without you?  No, I couldn’t have.  I love you all.

-Heather Kelly

I Was… I Am… I Will…

I was…

lost, used, beaten, insecure, weak, gullible, sad, abused, far from God, naïve, empty, taken advantage of, unhealthy, mistreated, broken.

I am…

strong, fierce, confident, determined, beautiful, brave, motivated, baptized, closer to God, learning, growing, forgiving, independent, fit, happy, healthy, free, hopeful, a fighter, a runner, a blogger, an entrepreneur, a badass unicorn.

I will…

motivate, inspire, guide others, walk in my purpose, succeed, lead, disciple, achieve, thrive, prosper, encourage others, overcome, live life to the fullest, become all I am intended to be.

I was. I am. I will. was a very challenging and eye opening experience. To write down who I was, was sad and hurtful but then I saw all that I am and will be. I am who I am today because of what I’ve been through and I am so proud of the strong woman I have become. I challenge you to write your own I was. I am. I will. Keep it for yourself or share it with us and others. So many people can relate, learn, and be inspired by your story. This challenge was inspire by youniquefoundation.org

youniquefoundation

-Sarah

Navy 10 Nautical Mile Recap

What is a nautical mile, you ask? According to Wikipedia, it is exactly 1,852 meters or approximately 1.15 miles. When I looked up the equivalent miles for the race, Google said 11.5. My phone said 11.7 after the race. People online who used the hashtag #10NM said it was 11.8. So…let’s just say it was almost 12 miles aka 10 nautical miles.

Okay, so why is this the only foot race measured in nautical miles? According to NSA Mid-South, the Navy base in Millington, Tennessee, the unique distance represents the distance from a ship to the horizon line, a distance in which the United States military battled when they stormed Normandy in June of 1945. So part of this runs allows us to show support for the work of our Armed Forces. This race also gives back to the Sailors and their families in the Millington area. So, yeah, Go America!

FullSizeRender-3

Like any good military related race, the start was bright and early, 0600. Meaning I had a wake up call of 0345. while Sarah had the benefit of sleeping till 0400. Thankfully, due to a threat of storms, the entire race was overcast. The biggest complaint I have heard about this race is how hot it is. It was muggy but thankfully no sunshine to fry us or rain to annoy us. The popsicles we were treated with at Nautical Mile 6 were still a blessing!

IMG_0689

We were drenched with sweat. There wasn’t a part of our clothing that was dry. I couldn’t even dry my phone off after a water station mishap! After this mishap, I got a false short burst of determination and started running faster. I thank T. Swift for motivating me through the haters (Lady in the red shirt, I’m talking about you!) Sarah began to get delusional as I began to get tired and over it.

Sarah was Miss Peppy, trying to motivate me to keep pushing, not only keep pushing, but push harder. I just didn’t think my legs could push any harder. We only had one nautical mile left. My personal cheerleader, who thought I was mad at her, actually helped me make it to the finish line. Without Sarah, I would have walked way more in that last mile. Thanks to her peppy cheering and pushing, I kept moving! She wouldn’t leave me behind and that is what I love about this friendship that grew around running. We have each other’s back. Even if that means yelling at the other, “We’re almost done! There’s beer at the end! And food. Keep pushing!” While in my head, I am like, “Bitch, shut up, I am dying.” (I say bitch in the most loving way). See below for the picture that pretty much sums up the interaction between us on that last mile.

IMG_0700 (1).jpg

I think it is safe to say, that we both highly recommend this race. You might not luck out with an overcast day, but you will luck out with free beer and food. The volunteers throughout the course were so supportive. They did great with making sure the runners had liquids. They also made sure to cheer us on. Even the military personnel that allowed us to come on base, were a great support! Sometimes you get a race where the volunteers don’t say anything. Don’t be that volunteer! We need a “WooHoo Keep it up!” There was also a great expo after the race that included vendors with lots of unique goodies for runners. They had different free food options, not just one lame-o choice. Overall, one of the best races we’ve done in awhile. Keep an eye out for next year’s registration and take the challenge!

IMG_0705

Above, you can see this is what people mean by Runner’s Amnesia. I already had forgotten how much the last mile killed me. I was running on fumes and just glad to have a beer. We were proud of ourselves. Running isn’t easy. I think that might be the best part. You get to conquer a challenge and if you’re lucky, you get a free beer at the end!

Speaking of Runner’s Amnesia, Sarah and I have both registered as St. Jude Heroes for the full marathon in December. If you would like to donate to helping us raise money for the children of St. Jude, please follow the links below.

Sarah

Kayla

With love,

Kayla

10NM sunrise

Sarah’s 10 Nautical Mile Recap

Overall I feel this was a great race! I remember when Kayla first told me she wanted to do this race. I totally did not want to do it. I’ve always been told how hot and tough this race is. Well, we lucked out this year. It was cloudy the entire race. It was a bit humid and still hot but at least there was no sun! And even though the race started at 6am, I am so happy that I was able to catch the sunrise before the race.

I do not know what was up with this race but I was hype the entire time! I was super energetic and positive. I did not feel much pain throughout the race either. My feet and knees were hurting near the end but nothing more than usual. I was dancing and singing all the way to the end!

13875880

Photo Courtesy of Blair Ball Photography

We finished the 10 Nautical Miles, almost 12 actual miles in 2:22. A bit slower paced than in our half marathon, but I feel we are on a good start. We have just started our marathon training and I know our pace will increase.


The race ended with free food and beer. Also a great expo with awesome running gear and gadgets! Great race! I would highly recommend this race and I’m sure Kayla and I will run it again next year. The absolute best part about this race and every race we run though was that I was with my bestie Kayla. Near the end of the race I wanted to go faster, but Kayla did not. She told me to just leave her. I wasn’t going to do that. No unicorn left behind!! Yes, races are competitive to me but it’s not all about winning or getting a better time than my running partner. It’s about the journey. The journey in which we push ourselves past our limits and push each other to be better. I know I would not have been in such a great mood this race if it wasn’t for my badass unicorn running partner with me! Even though during the last Nautical mile Kayla called me delusional and was annoyed with me, I’m so proud of her for pushing it even though she wanted to walk. Kayla even went along with her delusional running partner when I told her we were going to sprint to the finish line. As soon as we were past the finish line we quickly forgot about all the painful, tiring, almost 12 actual miles we just ran!

-Sarah-

Why I Run?

I think it is very important to know why you started something. The reason you start something and continue to do it is usually very powerful. And when you are struggling or have lack of motivation, your Why will keep you going. So as Kayla and I are training for a full freaking marathon, I think it’s time we were reminded of our Why.

Why does Sarah run?

I run because it’s FREE.  When I first started running I didn’t have much money at all and I needed to get into shape.  Running is probably one of the cheapest and best full body exercise. Later I learned that it does cost a little bit. You have to pay for shoes, clothes, gear, supplements, etc. But not all of that is really needed. Shoes are a definite must though. Please spend some money and get you some good running shoes.

I run because of the feeling after I run. The runner’s high. Yes sometimes I’m exhausted but I feel amazing. I pushed myself, I accomplished my goal, I’m fit and strong. I also run because I feel like crap when I don’t run. Seriously. After you have been running for a while, it’s like your body craves it. Not only your body, but your mind too. I just feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally because of running.

I run because I love food! For the most part I eat healthy but because of running, I don’t feel as bad when I eat some not so healthy foods. I also love running because it keeps me strong and in shape. I have a hard time controlling, maintaining, and losing weight. I know I would be miserable and not happy with my body if I didn’t run. Running helps balance everything out or so I tell myself.

simpson run think beer.png

I run to run away. Run away from life, stress, hurt, chaos and I run into my own world. A world full of nature, beauty, and music. When you run you see things from another perspective. You get to notice all the natural beauty around you. I also love music. So to be able to be outside and listen to my music for an hour or longer is just heaven to me. It is definitely a stress reliever. I get to spend time with myself and my thoughts.

running cheaper than therapy

I run because others can’t. One of the main responses I get when I tell people I am a runner is, “That’s awesome! I wish I could run.” I run because I still have the ability to run. Some can’t run because of major impairments: missing limbs, paralyzed, or wheelchair bound. While others can’t run because of what could be seen as minor impairments to others but major impairments to themselves: weight, age, painful joints, feet, ankles, shins, hips, health reasons, etc. Whatever the reason, some people can not physically run. I run for them. I run because God has blessed me with the ability to run so I am going to keep running till I can no longer!

set goals crush them

I run because I love to challenge myself. I love to push myself to the limit and then surpass it. I never knew how strong I was till I started running. Now I know that I can do anything that I put my mind to. I can crush every obstacle in my way and accomplish any goal. My main goal in life is to inspire, motivate others, and to change lives. I run because I see how running can do all of that and more. I see how my running inspires others. I know running can change lives because it has changed mine. I have truly learned who I am because of running. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. Because of running I know that I am a badass unicorn and I am unstoppable. Watch out world!

–Sarah B.

So why does Kayla run?

Some of these may end up being the same as Sarah’s or similar, but maybe that will just make someone want to start running!

I run to be in control. I get told a lot that I am a controlling person. In all honesty, though, I feel like I don’t control that much in my life. I can control running. Only I can make the choice to actually put my shoes on and get on the road. I can control how far I am going to go. I can control my breathing. I can control which direction I go in. I get to choose everything when it comes to running. And it’s pure bliss.

15390907_10210147931469791_7212360842906442637_n

I run to be closer to Mother Nature. The photo above was taken by my aunt while I was running in Cocoa Beach. All I want to do is be outside. Running gives me a chance to reconnect with the world, even if it is a solo endeavor. I am able to get in touch with nature. I see a lot of neat things while running. Sunrises, raccoons, deer, puppies, armadillos, even snakes. I travel frequently for work and running has given me the ability to fearlessly explore these new places. There is a great sense of peace and serenity in running. It really is the best form of therapy.

I run for food. And beer. As any inner fat kid turned runner knows, after spending two hours on a long run the best thing about the end is the chance to eat. When I am struggling, I like to think of what I get to eat. And I don’t feel so guilty when I want another beer! It is all about balance though. It is easy for new runners to overeat and find themselves gaining weight. I don’t think losing weight needs to be the focus, you’ll most likely shed some pounds and can brag to your friends about how strong you are. As long as you find balance in your food choices. It’s about being healthy, not skinny.

13659166_10208817191162115_1493468026763892749_n

I run to inspire people. Now, I did not start running to inspire people. I started for weight loss. I did a 5k and was hooked! Along the way, I began sharing my journey through social media and with my family. All of sudden, I had people telling me that I was the reason they started running. They were asking me for advice and wanting to hear when I ran so they would to. When you have people looking up to you in that way, it actually inspires you to be better. I was able to encourage one of my best friends to run her first 5k (Emmy and me pictured below for the Wicked Wine Run 5k). I’m seeing a pattern, there was booze at the end! The community that comes with running has been such a welcoming experience. I always thought runners were stuck up…NOPE! Most runners want everyone to be great, at any pace.

18222038_10211455242391747_2318857461539962314_n

I run to challenge myself. So my last reason is the same as Sarah’s. I think everyone can benefit from doing something that isn’t easy. Running hasn’t become easier in the last two years. I have found ways to keep it challenging *cough*marathon*cough* I love how I feel when I get done with a really hard run, hell, any run for that matter. There has never been a run I’ve regretted. There have been runs that didn’t go my way but I still come out proud of myself. I haven’t given up on myself. Being able to fail and still conquer the challenge is satisfying. I never thought I would be a runner, but here I am. Being all badass working my way to a new goal.

With love,

K