“Running changed my life – and helped me half my body weight”

After going on her first diet age 17, Tracey has been on a weight loss rollercoaster for 25 years – until now. 

Picture: Supplied. Tracey before and after.

I have always had the heart of a runner. As a youngster, I enjoyed that feeling of pushing myself with heart racing and my little legs pumping as fast as they could go around the sports fields.

Unfortunately, my speed was unable to match my enthusiasm, and on race days I would always find myself far behind the ‘real’ runners, yet well in front of the kids that were reluctantly forced to participate. It was a lonely position to be in, and eventually the lack of encouragement for non-competitive participants, along with peer pressure, saw my sporting activities slowly dwindle away during my high school years.

My first dieting attempt was at the age of 17. A few kilos had snuck on in my later teens, so I tried a new diet of cutting out all fat. It worked. But I started to get sick and on my doctor’s advice, I stopped the diet. Quickly, those kilos came back, along with a few extra for good measure. Thus began the weight loss and gain rollercoaster that would define much of my adult life.

By my early 40’s, I reached my heaviest weight of 120kg. My job involved long hours and was often stressful, and I knew my weight was affecting my ability to cope. And yet I couldn’t face starting yet another diet. At the age of 42, I decided to have a gastric sleeve.

It was my surgeon’s holistic approach to weight loss that proved to be my defining moment. He made sure I understood this was a tool, not a miracle solution.

I was given long-term access to a dietitian, and also a support group that included counselling and workshops. Then there was one sentence from my surgeon that struck a chord: “Those that embrace exercise are the people that maintain their weight successfully long-term”.

I wanted to be one of those success stories

As soon as I could after surgery, I started walking. I was also getting incredible tailor-made nutritional advice from my dietitian, and counselling helped me deal with issues of self-esteem and confidence. A semi-meditative visualisation with my counsellor was a particularly profound experience. I had to imagine the person I wanted to be in 12 months’ time. The image was so overpowering I could only describe what I felt: fit, healthy, strong and confident. And I was wearing running clothes!

It was on a walk with a friend that I casually mentioned I would like to run a marathon. Unfazed, she said, “We’d better see if you can run then!” And so, for the first time in many years, I ran… for about 50m, at which point I thought I was dying from lack of oxygen and with my legs wondering what the hell had just happened! But it was my start.

I gave myself a full 12 months to train, and set my sights on the Gold Coast Marathon in July 2016. As part of my preparation, I completed a couple of local fun runs in late 2015, and decided next major goal was a half marathon.

With my son Hayden and daughter Bayley beside me (and my husband and Number One supporter Dave cheering from the sidelines) I toed the start line at my first half marathon in March. All three of us made it through the 21.1km, and while my time of 2hrs 41mins was far from record-breaking – the sense of achievement was amazing. I finally saw that fit, strong and confident version of myself I had visualised all those months ago.

Before I knew it, my son and I were lined up at the start of the Gold Coast marathon, with me nervously awaiting one of the biggest challenges I had faced. I was terrified I wouldn’t make the 6hrs 40mins cut off, and it wasn’t pretty, but I crossed the line in 6:07.

When someone called out “Congrats Tracey, you’re a marathoner!” I sprinted to the finish line, gasping for air because I was a blubbering, happy, relieved mess. To cheer my son across the line, who only ran a marathon to support his crazy mother – it was magic.

Since then, I have run many other half and full marathons. My most recent race was the Sunshine Coast Marathon where I smashed my PB with a time of 4:30:59. And now I am training for the 100km trail race at the Blackall100 in October. Life is good.

If I could offer any advice, it would be…

– Find a dietician or professional that can help you with an individualised eating plan.

– Always have a goal, and make a plan on how to get there.

– Find a form of exercise or sport you enjoy and make it a regular part of your life.

– Encourage any children in your life to participate in sport and exercise for enjoyment and health – not just to compete.

– Find likeminded positive people to support you. This is friends, family, running groups, a coach, Facebook groups, Running Heroes, wherever.

So, mission accomplished: I reached my goal weight of 59kg and have maintained it for the last 18 months. I have finally found my own personal key to maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. I have a runner’s heart; I just had to learn to listen to it.

Tracey swears by Running Heroes, the first reward platform for runners with 500,000 members worldwide and counting. Your activities are turned into rewards, coupons, and each week our partners are here to motivate to you conquer challenges.

All the colour, action, thrills and spills at the Gold Coast Marathon 2017

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fitness | body+soul