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From Obesity to Marathon Running

The inspiring story of a woman determined to lose weight. Faith helped her succeed…and run a marathon.

By Rosemarie Jeanpierre, Los Angeles, California

As appeared in

My feet pounded the pavement, still moving in a steady rhythm though my legs were starting to feel heavy. The warm southern California air seared my lungs.

Up ahead, tall palm trees flanked the road. I couldn’t see where the road ended, but what I did see made me breathe a little harder. A sign with big letters: Mile 18.

I was running the L.A. Marathon—my first race ever—and I dreaded what was coming. The wall. That point of utter exhaustion around mile 20 when the body reaches its limits of endurance.

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My niece Ruby-Ann and her husband, Fernand, who had talked me into signing up for this race, had warned me about it. And I’d read plenty about it online. When you hit the wall, it’s like your body and brain quit on you and you just cannot summon the energy and will to go on.

What if that happens to me? I worried. What if I can’t make it to the finish line?

I thought back to where this all started, that day two years earlier when my doctor gave me a talking-to. I knew my 220 pounds were too much for my five-foot-two frame, but even though I’m a nurse and had seen the toll obesity took on my patients’ health, I wasn’t prepared for the test results from my own physical.

“You have borderline diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol,” my doctor told me. “If you don’t lose weight—soon—we might lose you.”

His words jolted me. It was the first anniversary of my father’s death. He’d died of a heart attack. Was I headed for the same fate? I wasn’t even 40 years old!

I had to admit, my lifestyle wasn’t healthy. After a long shift at the hospital, I’d go to the drive-through or grab a few candy bars. And exercise…who had energy for that? All I wanted to do when I got home was snuggle on the sofa with my husband, Kenneth, and watch TV. I knew I needed to change my habits big time. The question was, how?

I turned to the first place I would turn to in any crisis, to the faith my mother instilled in me back when I was growing up in the Philippines. God, I want to live, I prayed. Show me how to change.

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I went to the library and checked out a stack of diet and fitness books. The more you know, the better you do, right? On the way home, I joined the gym in our apartment complex.

That evening I told Kenneth my plan: I would lose weight and get healthy the sensible way, by eating right and exercising regularly. I even found a journal to keep track of my progress. I would start with a walk the following morning.

The next day my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. Stifling a groan, I rolled out of bed, pulled on an old T-shirt and sweats, and headed down the block toward the gym. A few minutes in, I was winded. That’s what decades of zero physical activity will do to you. I asked a trainer at the gym for help.

“Start out slowly,” she told me. She put me on the treadmill. Even on the lowest setting, my calves ached. By the time I got to the weight machines, my muscles were on fire. I couldn’t believe that some people actually enjoyed all of this!

I sat down to a breakfast of oatmeal and fresh fruit. My stomach growled in protest. I packed my lunch: tuna on whole-wheat and an apple for dessert. That entire meal turned out to be about as filling as an M&M. At the end of my shift, it took all of my self-control to drive by instead of drive-through my favorite fast-food joint.

This was so much harder than I first thought! But I stuck with it. Sometimes, though, I would sit down to dinner with Kenneth, take a look at my plate with its carefully measured portions of lean protein and vegetables, and sigh. What I really wanted was a large pizza with everything on it!