When we picture marathoners, we tend to imagine svelte, muscular specimens of humanity, people who look as if they’ve been natural-born athletes their entire lives. But one woman in Melbourne, Australia is proving that runners come in all shapes and sizes.
Jessica Hay, a 34-year-old mother of two, decided way back in 2016 that—in order to shed some pounds and improve her health—she would take up running. To that end, Hay found a local group called Parkrun, in which people from the community came together on a weekly basis to run a 5K together. She signed up for the program. And then…she didn’t go. Weeks went by. She still didn’t attend.
The thing is, Hay was 436 pounds, and the sport had never come easy to her. In fact, she admitted to Runner’s World that she was “anti-running,” even jokingly comparing herself to Fat Amy in “Pitch Perfect” during that scene where Amy runs horizontally.
But then something amazing happened: Hay mentioned on Instagram that she wanted to join Parkrun, but was a bit frightened. Soon, runners from all over the world were responding to her message with encouragement and advice, giving her the much-needed push she needed to get out there and start running. “I was met with such encouragement,” Hay told Runner’s World. “From that moment on, I knew within myself that I could do this.”
That doesn’t mean the first run was easy. Hay says she was teary-eyed as she dressed for the run, and she even needed her husband’s help to lace her shoes. Her eyes continued to water on the drive to Albert Park, but she didn’t turn around.
And then it was time to begin. Within the time it took Hay to walk just half a mile, numerous runners lapped her and Hay began to feel incredibly embarrassed and discouraged. Sensing this, a couple of her fellow runners slowed their pace and began to run beside her, offering her kind words and keeping her smiling even through the pain.
In 2017 alone, Hay completed 30 Parkruns. She has also set and achieved several other goals, including running in the Fitness Sake Challenge (50kms in 10 days) and 5kms at the YMCA Father’s Day Fun Run.
And how’s this for motivation? She even completed a 5.5kms race at The Harvest Run…on the hottest Melbourne day in months and when she was recovering from pneumonia!
Hay says that she doesn’t weigh herself, so she doesn’t know exactly how many pounds she has lost. Instead, her focus is on gaining strength and adding years to her life. And another big one: She wants to run a marathon someday.
“I wanted to set a goal that wasn’t necessarily weight-loss oriented,” she says. “The journey is going to be long, but I know I will get there. I’m proud that my children will get to witness Mommy achieving a goal she worked so hard for.”
Wow. What an inspiring story. It just goes to show that with a little faith (and a little encouragement), all things are possible. Keep up the good work, mama!
[h/t: Women’s Health Magazine]