At the end of February I had the pleasure of participating in the Mardi Gras Marathon and Half-marathon in New Orleans with fourteen other SparkPeople members. While many of us participating were runners, two members, RELLIMTENAJ (AKA Janet, at right in the photo) and Boopster69 (AKA Betty, at left in the photo) walked this great event. And if you think finishing a half-marathon walking isn’t worthy of praise, I hope after reading this blog it will inspire you to take on the challenge of living your dream. These two women are an inspiration, not only to me, but to all of us who had the honor to meet these two phenomenal ladies.
I met Janet and Betty in the hotel lobby on Saturday night before the event and was immediately drawn to their inspiring personalities. They truly embodied the true SparkSpirit! I hope you enjoy reading their story!
How did you discover SparkPeople?
Janet: I found SparkPeople via a sidebar on a morning news show website. My personal trainer had been harping on me to track my food intake which I hated, especially having to look up everything and write it all down in a journal. When I saw that SparkPeople was a free website with a nutrition tracker as well as a fitness tracker, that’s when I signed up.
Betty: I was introduced to SparkPeople by my very good friend Janet in late 2008, but really didn’t get into it until February 2009.
Where did you meet?
Janet: I met my good friend and walking buddy, Betty through the American Stroke Association’s Train to End Stroke program, where we trained participants to walk or run a full and/or half marathon. I was her mentor. A couple years after she completed the program I wanted to get some of the old group together to start training for an upcoming race, so I sent her an email. She came out to join us and we have been training together since.
Betty: I met Janet when I enrolled to raise money for the American Stroke Association in 2004 and committed to completing a marathon. Janet was my mentor during that time. I was encouraged to do the event when I found out you didn’t have to run – you could actually walk the distance – and I did. I finished the Kona Marathon in 7:40 on June 5, 2005 – and I was thrilled to have actually done it.
Janet and I reconnected in 2008 when she contacted me and asked if I wanted to join her and a few others for “training walks”. She put the bug in my ear that if I wanted to train for a race she would put together a training schedule.
When did you start walking and then participating in events?
Janet: In July 2003, I received information on the Stroke program. I felt possessed to check it out because my dad died from a massive stroke. I postponed our vacation and went to the meeting without telling anyone what I was doing. After listening to their talk I decided that I would do their program and walk a full marathon. I went home and told my husband. He never believed I would do it. I completed the program and on January 11, 2004 I completed the P.F. Changs Rock n Roll full marathon in Phoenix, Arizona, all 26.2 miles in 6:50:17. After that I became a mentor for several seasons, however I did not participate in races.
In June 2005, I got my husband and two boys (then 12 & 17) to join me in doing the Kona Marathon/Half Marathon and did 5 more races through October 2006. I ended up stopping again, totally this time. Then in July 2007, my walking friends conned me into training for the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll Half. With only 7 weeks training, I completed it and have been doing races ever since.
Betty: Walking has been a great way to get back into the physical side! I have always been fairly active – I taught aerobics in the 80’s for 10 years, hiked 7 of the Colorado 14er’s (with hopes to do at least one this year) – water skied and snow skied and danced – country, rock-whatever!
I lost the fitness edge somewhere along the line and looked it square in the face in 2009 when I was preparing for a week long hiking trip to Zion and Bryce - I knew I needed to drop some weight and gain some strength – so, that is when I started following the SparkPeople guidelines. My progress has amazed and pleased me – no diet – WOO HOO!
How many events have you participated in as of this month and in how many states?
Janet: As of March 21, 2010 I will have completed one full marathon and 31 half marathons in 16 states and one Canadian Province. The farthest I have traveled for a race would be to Kailua Kona, Hawaii to do a half on the Ironman course.
This year, I plan on doing at least a dozen races and adding another 6 states and maybe one more Canadian Province. Hi, my name is Janet and I’m a half-aholic--walking is better than any drug.
Betty: My first and only, marathon to date was June 5, 2005. My first half marathon was San Antonio – November 2008; followed by Sedona Half – February 2009; Colfax Half – May 2009; Seattle R-n-R Half – June 2009; Spearfish –July 2009; Virginia Beach R-n-R Half – September 2009; Zooma-Denver – September 2009; Las Vegas R-n-R Half - December 2009; and New Orleans R-n-R Half – February 2010. So far I have traveled to 8 states to participate in these events – Woo Hoo – what better reason to travel? Hawaii is the farthest I have traveled to join the fun! I am registered for five more half marathons so far this year! I love this!
Have you met any other SparkPeople members?
Janet Just a few weeks ago, I was able to meet up with other Sparkers at the New Orleans Rock n Roll race. It was a great experience. Before that I have had the privilege to meet up with local Sparkers by encouraging them to come out and walk with us and do local races.
Betty: I have connected with so many people via SparkPeople and have had the opportunity to meet some of them in person – most recently my 8 Week Battle – Warrior/Sister – SUEZETTE-414 and Coach Nancy at the New Orleans race.
I have had the pleasure of walking with many Thornton Sparkers including Janet(RELLIMTENAJ), Joanna(SVRFREAK176) and Mary Ellen(MARYELLEN36-who just returned from Iraq) as well as others. I count my blessings every day.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned on this journey?
Janet: I am not the typical endurance event type; I don’t have an “elite runner’s build,” I don’t run and never will. Throughout my race journey I have learned that I am stronger than I know. I can go farther and faster than I ever believed and I can endure and push through pain that might stop the “typical” racer; I don’t have to run, I have to endure.
Betty: The greatest lesson I have learned on this journey – never give up – you are capable of so much more! It is not about perfection – it is about progress! I am my only competition.
What advice would you give other SparkPeople members who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Janet: Whether you’ve always dreamed of doing an endurance event, or you are like I was, and believed races are for those “elite runner types,” I’d say, “You can do it.” Find a half marathon that has a 4 hour course time, which is totally walker friendly, and sign up for it. That’s the motivation factor.
Next, find a good training schedule that gradually increases distance over 15 to 20 weeks. Learn about fueling and hydrating and do join one of the half marathon teams on SparkPeople to get lots of advice. Then if possible, find a mentor, either local, online or through SparkPeople who can help you get through those times when you ask, “Why am I doing this?” Finally, believe you can do it and then go prove it to all the doubters and more importantly, to yourself. Who knows maybe we will end up doing a race together.
Betty: Anyone can do what I am doing – start small and build - keep moving. Change the target and keep aiming. Set a goal and start working to achieve it – make it a challenge and always believe that you can do it – it may look different than what you had first pictured – but, it may also look better!
Do these members inspire you to consider walking a half-marathon or marathon in the future?
More From SparkPeople