Real-life expert: "I'm a marathoner!"

How do you go from being told you can't run to crossing the finish line of a marathon? Ask a woman who's been there. Roni is the author of many blogs, including Roni's Weigh, a chronicle not only of her 26-mile triumph, but also of how she learned that the way to feel good about yourself isn't the quest to be skinny, it's to set a goal and achieve it.

Why did you decide to run a marathon?

My entire life I thought I couldn't run. At a young age I was told I couldn't run. I was told I was fat. That I would be "pretty if" and that "if I just lost a few pounds," I'd be perfect.

I fell into that perfect trap for years. Yo-yo dieting and punishing myself by starving and then binge eating. It was a vicious cycle I know many get stuck in, and for me, I consistently gained more and more weight and felt more and more hopeless.

But things started to drastically change for me when I had my son 5 years ago. I started to work on accepting my body. I learned how to eat and balance my meals instead of yo-yo dieting. I lost the excess weight and I started working out. Then a friend asked me to run a 5k with her. I was terrified. After all, I can't run!

Or could I? I finished that 5K in 32:40, and I was hooked! The energy level and sense of accomplishment was contagious. I soon signed up for more and more events and set goals the next year to run a 10 miler, a half-marathon and then the full. I thrive on goals. There is nothing more confidence-building then to set, work on and then achieve a goal. No matter what it is. I knew that if I ran the marathon I would prove to myself that I could do anything. So that's exactly what I did.

What did training for such a test of endurance teach you about your strength (not only as an athlete, but as a person)?

The year I ran my marathon was a tough one for me. I moved, started a new job and lost my Dad. I didn't use any of that as an excuse. I could have, believe me, I thought about it. But that's what "Old Roni" would have done. You know, the "Oh, I had a piece of cake, might as well give up on eating healthy" mentality. Yeah that was "Old Roni." "New Roni" knows there is no such thing as perfection. There are just goals, choices and experiences. My training severely suffered because of these life stresses but what I learned about myself was invaluable. I am stronger then I give myself credit for. No matter what is going in my life I must take care of myself. And most importantly, I learned that you do not need to be perfect to achieve a goal. Any goal.

You talk in your blog about moving from the desire to be thin to the desire to be healthy. How did the marathon play a role in that?

For years my only goal was to "be thin." That was it. That was all I wanted out of life. But how do you really measure "thin?" When is "thin" thin enough? It's a loaded question and the pursuit of that thinness made me do really unhealthy things.

However, setting goals like climbing a rock wall, accomplishing a pull up, or running a marathon are attainable, measurable goals that I feel are much healthier. I hope I inspire people to break out of the "thin" mindset and focus on these types of goals instead.

Any advice you have for people setting out on the journey of their first marathon?

If you ever run in a race, any race: Wear you name on your shirt. People are amazingly supportive. People I didn't know cheering me on with encouraging words made a huge difference. I would get motivated and give a few encouraging words to those around me that were also struggling. This is when I started to get emotional. And let me tell you, holding back tears while running your 22-24 mile is not fun. It was the only time I felt out of breath. But my four year old son witnessed his mom accomplish something special and that means more to me then anything.

Read more from Roni on her blogs Roni's Weigh, Green Lite Bites, and her community sites and Fit BlogginBlog to Lose.

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