My Jesus, Family & Running Journey – Katie Shepherd – Lucedale, Mississippi

We got a treat for you. We have our good friend in the house, Katie Shepherd. Better know as “Sole Sister Katie“. I always look forward to her encouraging post. Had the opportunity to meet her back in July in Hattiesburg. Hope you’ll be bless by her story. Enjoy! — Rod
“It took her awhile to figure out she could run, but when she did… It changed her life.”

I started my running journey on February 7, 2013 using the Couch to 5k program.  I had been a member of our local wellness center for a little over a year and saw fliers on the counter for the Hippity Hop for your Heart 5k benefiting the American Heart Association.  George Regional Hospital would be having it on March 30, 2013 and I simply said to myself “I think I want to run that.”  I had a lot of trouble losing my baby weight after my third child was born on March 4, 2011.  I joined the gym when he turned a year old in 2012 and took classes which helped me get back in shape.  The next year I saw a couple of people post about the Couch to 5k program and I decided I would give it a try to prepare for my first 5k race.  I remember Day One of the program like it was yesterday.  I took my daughter to dance and tried to run and walk at the park in Hurley, Mississippi.  My chest started hurting and I had palpitations.  It was like my body went into shock, like “what are you doing to me??”  Needless to say, I only made it through 15 minutes of Day One.  Even though I had been taking classes for a year, I had not been doing enough cardio. I had never been a runner even though I played soccer in high school. I couldn’t even run the whole two miles required for tryouts back then.  I was diagnosed with a heart valve problem called Mitral Valve Prolapse in 2004 that kept me from exercising for many years because I had so many issues with palpitations.  Any time my heart rate would go up, my heart would jump out of rhythm.  I didn’t want to give up, so I tried Day One of the C25k program the next day and was able to finish!  I have such humble beginnings because I would run up and down my driveway which is .2 miles to the mailbox and back.  I remember the moment in week 5 of the program when I ran 20 minutes straight.  I will never forget that feeling.  It felt amazing!  I ran my first 5k with my family waiting for me at the finish line with a time of 34:36.  I was so happy! After that race, I was hooked!

In 2013, I ran several 5k’s and won many age group awards, one 10k, and I ran my very first half marathon.  It was the Kaiser Realty Half Marathon in Orange Beach, Alabama November 30, 2013.  I had a running coach and training partner for that half and finished with a time of 2:18:56.

My family and I had the best time in Orange Beach that weekend.  Not only did I finish my first half marathon, Auburn beat Alabama that very same day!!  It was the most perfect day.

Shortly after my first half marathon, I injured my right knee. It was an IT Band injury because it hurt on the outside of my right knee.  I had planned to run the Rock and Roll New Orleans Half Marathon in 2014 and could not due to injury.  I ran on a hurt knee for over a month before heading to an Orthopedic doctor.  He told me no running for 3 weeks and after that time was up, I could start walking, then walking and running.  Then while I was injured and not able to run, I was diagnosed with Melanoma skin cancer February 19, 2014.

I will never forget that phone call.  I was so devastated and felt like I had been given a death sentence.  My sweet husband had bought me a treadmill that month and I remember walking and running on it after my 3 weeks were up.  I am so thankful for praying family and friends during that time.  I received good news on March 11, 2014 that the melanoma had not spread!  Praise the Lord!  I am still so thankful for God’s healing power.  I celebrated by running a 5k the next weekend and I had lost a lot of my speed.  I had built up to running 3 miles in a little over 26 minutes and I dropped back to about 30-31 minutes.

I would go on to run 4 more half marathons in 2014 and even attempted a running streak.  Wouldn’t you know I got injured again!  This time it was the back of my left knee which started in September and eventually turned into runner’s knee.  The pain shifted to hurting all over my knee cap and it was very painful to run by mid March.  My most memorable 2014 race was running the St. Jude Half Marathon December 4, 2014 in honor of Jaxon Schoenberger, a 6 year old boy who passed away on October 31, 2014 from D.I.P.G.  Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas are brain tumors that are highly aggressive and difficult to treat.  Our team had several fundraisers for him and raised over $11,000 for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

I met Jaxon’s parents at a wedding several years ago and did get to meet Jaxon in person at our Newk’s fundraiser before his health started to deteriorate.  My two daughters and I put on a fundraiser at our family owned restaurant, Rocky Creek Catfish Cottage, for him also after he passed.  I will never forget that time in my life.  It was the first time I felt like I was making a difference by raising awareness for childhood cancer and teaching my kids the importance of raising money and running for a cause.

I ran two half marathons to start off the year 2015!  My knee had slightly improved, but I ran the Mississippi Blues Half with a knee brace, then the Sea Turtle Half in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  One of my favorite moments of this year happened at the Gulf Coast Half Marathon in Gulf Shores, Alabama March 1, 2015.  I PR’d the Sea Turtle Half by a few seconds finally beating my time from my very first half marathon.  However, I had a HUGE PR at Gulf Coast merely a week after Sea Turtle of 2:14:50!  Nearly a FOUR minute personal record.  That meant the world to me!  I had worked so hard and overcome two knee injuries and melanoma skin cancer!  Of course, my sweet family was waiting for me at mile 11 holding signs and then raced to the finish line to wait for me there.  I can’t say enough about my husband and three beautiful children.  They are my number one fans and support me in everything I do.

Next up was to train for my very first marathon which was the St. Jude Country Music Marathon in Nashville, April 25, 2015.  I ran so many half marathons from November to March, I had a great 13 mile base and built my mileage from there.  I ran my first 16 mile training run way too fast and my slightly injured left knee turned into a full blown runner’s knee injury.  I ran another half marathon as a training run at the end of March and made it 17 miles total.  I crossed that finish line in a whole lot of pain and I was limping.

I tried to run my 20 mile training run two weeks later and only made it 3 miles.  I threw in the towel that day, but I’m so thankful for the support of my Facebook friends, Joanna from Races For Awareness text me a lot that sad day.  I also got some great advice from Gelcys from Runner Unleashed on how to tape my knee with KT Tape.  I used it on a couple of short runs and didn’t have any pain.  I rested until it was time for the BIG SHOW.  I also ran my first marathon as a St. Jude Hero and raised another $1000 for the hospital.  My husband and two daughters made the long trip to Nashville the Friday before the race.

I can’t say enough about Nashville and running my first marathon there.  The crowd was amazing!

I assigned one person to pray for each mile for 26 miles and the last .2 was for me.  Praying for a certain person during each mile helped take my mind off what I was actually doing and focus on that person.  I got sick after running 8 miles and felt nauseated.  I’m thankful that feeling eventually went away, but after finishing half of the race, I was tired.  My husband and girls met me with cold Gatorade and water and a mini Snickers bar.  It was wonderful.  My taped up knee barely hurt me the entire race.  I believe it was not only the tape that helped, but a true miracle from God.  My knee hurt so badly during training in March and April, there is no other way to explain how I didn’t have much pain at all during the marathon.  I could tell my training was lacking because of how tired I felt from miles 14-26.  I ran and walked most of the second half.  A blister popped at mile 20 and I had to stop and take off my shoe to see what was going on!

That had never happened before, ever.  By the grace of God I made it close to the finish line when I saw my precious husband and my two daughters crawled under the fence to run and cross the finish line with me.

This went down as one of the best moments of my life aside from my wedding day and the day that each of my children were born.  My girls will always remember crossing that finish line with me and it’s a special moment that no one can ever take away.  I’m so thankful I got to share that with them.  It makes me wonder how many more finish lines we will cross together.

I am now training for half marathons number 9 and 10.  I plan on running the St. Jude Half again in December.  I originally planned to run the full, but I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma and had to have two more surgeries, one on my forehead and unfortunately one on my leg.

My surgery forced me to sit out from running a week and slow down training.  I didn’t train for three weeks so I had to drop to the half.  After all of my knee injuries, I believe it was the smart thing to do.

So we are a Jesus loving family of runners!  All five of us took part in our local 5k, the Dancing Martin 5k in Leakesville, MS recently on October 3, 2015.  My husband and I ran the 5k and all three kids ran the fun run!  I gave my son my bib and he was so proud.

Oh, my heart just completely spilled over watching him!  I managed to finally get a 5k PR after TWO years of trying to beat my long standing time of 27:26.  I finished this 5k with a time of 26:51!  I was so excited!  It felt like I had made a major comeback after being diagnosed with skin cancer again!  My husband finished with a time of 35:02 and he doesn’t run very much at all.  I thought that was amazing.  I was so proud of him.  We both won first place in our age groups and all five of us brought home medals that day.

It truly was a perfect day!  We’ve done a lot of color runs and local races together but this was the first race all 5 of us participated in.  Sweet sweet memories.

I am so thankful to God and my family and this gift of running.  All of this would have never happened if it hadn’t been for that day at the Wellness Center when I saw those fliers on the counter for the Hippity Hop 5k two and a half years ago.  My husband probably will never be a distance runner, but I think I have three little running partners who may want to run half marathons or even marathons with me one day.  I wonder which one it will be?  I can’t wait for them to ask one day in the future, “Momma will you train me to run a half marathon with you?”  and my answer will be “Yes baby, I sure will. Now which one would you like to run?”

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Posted in 10k, 5k, fitness, halfmarathon, marathon, melanoma, Mississippi, Running, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Run – Mandy Shows – Laurel, Mississippi

Happy Sunday! I done a 10k race back in July in Hattiesburg. I saw this lady doing the race. Didn’t get a chance to speak with her at the race, but I knew she had a  story to share. We’ll her story will tell you why she run. Enjoy! ~ Rod
Hey!  My name is Mandy Shows, I’m a 36 years old wife and mother of 2 precious kids. I’ve been married to Brian Shows for 17 years  and we have a daughter, Tylee who is 12 years old (going on 21) and we have son Regan who is 8 years old. Regan has a speech disorder, ADHD, and was recently diagnosed with Autism. I am also an amputee, I lost my left arm a little above the elbow in a car accident 18 years ago. By the grace of God he spared me that night because I was on death’s door step and should not be sitting here typing this but I am here for a reason.
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 After my accident, I didn’t have any time to sit around and feel sorry for myself, I had to finish high school. I graduated in 98 with highest honors and graduated from Jones Junior College with an Associates Degree in applied Sciences. I was also a member of the Maroon Typhoon where I was on the flag core. I had never twirled anything in my life and I was twirling and dancing with one arm. I absolutely loved it!!!  As you can imagine, as a teenager I never stopped, and never slowed down so I think my depression and acceptance of the loss of my arm came much later, or maybe it’s just a process. I still to this day have good days and bad days…You would think after 18 years I would be over it, but I will be honest, I still struggle with it. It’s okay to struggle, but you have to pick yourself up. You have to refuse to stay in the struggle and move on with your life. At one point in my life, I was so depressed that all I did was sleep and lay in bed which is not a good thing when you have little ones. One day, I just got tired of feeling that way and started to make small changes in my life. I started eating better, and  going to the gym. I lost 30lbs, and started running on the treadmill. I would set small goals to meet each week.  My first goal was run one mile without stopping then 2 miles and so on. Then, a friend mentioned a 5k and I was like sure why not…. I think I finished in 45 minutes and some seconds but I finished! After that I was hooked!!!
 Running started out as a way to loose weight, but ended up helping me get off antidepressants and nerve medicine my physician had prescribed me because of the depression. During everything I was going through as a person, trying to accept the fact I  have one arm, I also have a son that requires a lot of special attention and help with simple every day task. His Autism is moderate but at times can be very difficult. So here I am,  I have no clue what’s going on with me emotionally or mentally and I feel like things are falling apart,  but I have to keep it together for my son and family because they need me. God has always been with me, but I needed a positive way to express myself. I go to Him in prayer and pleading to understand, but I had to get the negative thoughts and stress out of my head. So, I run to clear my mind and release stress. Running helps me not only physically but mentally. Running started out as a weight loss adventure that has turned into a way of living for me. Running keeps me grounded, and helps me push myself towards the next goal but more importantly running helps me keep calm, cool, and collected among my many challenges I face on a daily basis. Running allows me to be a better person for the people I love. Running has also been a great way for me to meet and make new friends. The running community of friends are great encouragers and that helps me so much to keep moving forward. So thank you for that smile or thumbs up!
I know there are others in this world dealing with difficult circumstances, and my message to them would be DO NOT GIVE UP! Seek  God first then find a way you can express yourself in a positive way to help you release all the negative thoughts and energy. Most of the time you can’t change your situation, but you can make the best out of your situation. I love running and Versus (CrossFit type workout) because it allows me to physically release stress. It also gives me goals in life! I would love to one day complete a marathon… I have completed a half marathon but 26.2 miles is my goal. My first half marathon was the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. I did it with a group of friends in January of this year, and it was a great first experience. My ultimate goal is that I will eventually become personal trainer or coach in CrossFit and compete which could motivate others missing limbs. I am just a beginner in running and CrossFit, and I hope to become better, and stronger, and a little bit faster because I want to help other people that are missing limbs be active.
I hope that with physical challenges I face, but I still pursue running and CrossFit,  that someone might get some type of encouragement or motivation that they too can do it. We all face different challenges in life and we all can overcome those challenges because we are fighters! We are overcomers! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! DO NOT LET THE CHALLENGE STOP!!! I hope with the courage I am finding on a daily basis that one day I could encourage someone that is facing a challenge in their life.
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Give It All You Got – Lezlie McCoy – Brandon, Mississippi

My name is Lezlie McCoy and I am 38 years old and a resident of Brandon, Mississippi.  I am the mother of two handsome Jack Russell Terriers, Milo and Bandit.  This is my story of how I came to be a passionate runner.

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Christopher and I moved into the Pinebrook subdivision in July of 2011, which was conveniently located next to the popular “Rez Loop”, an 11 mile loop around the Pelahatchie Bay area of the Ross Barnett Reservoir.  I suggested to Christopher that we should get bikes and introduce a fun way to get more cardio into our fitness routine.  We started out with mountain bikes and soon graduated to road bikes.

Then I came up with the great idea to sign up for the Color Me Rad 5K in March of 2013.  We did the race with a few of our friends and had an absolutely fabulous time.  However, we had no idea what we were doing as far as running went.  We’d sprint until we wore ourselves out, then would walk for bit.  Rinsed and repeated this method throughout the entire race.  I believe we finished at around 45 minutes.  The next day, as we rested our aching bodies, the decision was made to try another 5K, but this time proper training would be involved and a goal was set to be able to run the entire 3.1 miles.

The Color Run in July was the target race.  We began training at the gym on treadmills using the free app, Couch to 5K.  We didn’t play around on this one and reached our goal to run the entire race.  A new discovery was made:  running on a treadmill did not prepare our feet and ankles for running outside.  So the next goal was set:  a 10K and outside run training with an actual training plan!

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So we were still cycling all this time in addition to run training. One of our pals had begun coming out to cycle with us since everything is more fun with friends.  He was really working us over to sign up to do a triathlon with him.  I was completely uninterested, but Christopher eventually decided he would like to try one out, the Tri4Life triathlon.  On the morning of August 10, 2013, our lives changed forever – for the better!  I was immediately caught up in the action and excitement, but more importantly, I wanted to DO it too!

Lucky for me, I found a beginner triathlon, Give it A Tri, the following month.  It was the most exciting thing I had ever been a part of.  I was terrible at it, but I had so much fun.  The best part was the other athletes – they were encouraging one another, whether it was a friend or a complete stranger.  I had never experienced anything like it.  There weren’t any other triathlons that year since it was the end of the season, so I began training for the next year.

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Before I knew it, I was eating better, and cleaner.  I was drinking more water and could feel a huge difference in how my body felt.  I was cutting out all kinds of bad habits and getting the best sleep of my life.  I had a complete season of triathlon fun in 2014 and checked several goals off of my list.  My two major ones were my first Olympic distance triathlon at Memphis in May and my first half Ironman in Augusta, Georgia.

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Once the triathlon season came to a close and the colder months began, I started training for my first marathon.  Lots of things happened:  I began placing in running races in my age group and I learned what my number one passion was:  Running.  I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, but running stopped being a chore.  I started out doing it because it was part of triathlon, but somewhere it became the thing I loved doing the most.  I was using a marathon training plan by Matt Fitzgerald on Training Peaks and it changed my whole outlook on running.  It taught me how to train properly and how to be more efficient and get the most out of my body.  It was a lot of hard work, but the pay off was great.

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Fast forward to 2015 and I now have a slew of 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and even a couple marathons under my belt!  I became a member of the Mississippi Track Club and I’m still training and setting a new goal every time I achieve the current one.  Becoming a runner has been the one of the best things to ever happen to me.  Running has done so much for me:  it relieves any ounce of stress I may have, it allows me to enjoy the great outdoors, it keeps me healthy and I get to be part of the most loving community that exists.  I honestly have to say that the best part about running is other runners.  I have never been a part of a sport where the competitors encouraged one another like this one.  I will cross the finish line at a race, grab a water and go right back to the finish line to cheer on other runners coming in.  There is no better feeling in the world than to put a smile on someone’s face as they cross that line.

I love being able to inspire others to live healthier and become more active.  There is nothing more rewarding than being asked to run with a friend as they do their first 5K or 10K.  I look forward to many more years of events and new friends to add to my ever growing running family!

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Running My Way To Recovery – Christina Crum – Corinth, Mississippi

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In my quest for freedom from drug addiction God led me to running where I truly found myself and a huge community of encouragers! I struggled with a severe drug addiction which began at ae 22 and quickly progressed to daily use of intravenous drugs. My life from 1997-2011 was full of darkness, despair, and hopelessness. I was a self-destructive tornado that brought nothing but pain and disappointment to everyone in my path. I lost a nursing career, destroyed relationships, spent a lot of time in jails and treatment facilities, and lost all hope of a future. I was broken mentally, physically, and spiritually. But God had a plan for redemption, restoration, and to provide me with the privilege of “running the race” both spiritually and physically.


     I had made attempts to stop using but today I know simply taking destructive habits out of my life was not enough. I had to replace them with healthy habits. October 2011 was the last time I sat in jail and this is when I allowed God to begin His process of restoration. I entered my last treatment facility 10/28/2011 and by the grace of God have been clean and sober every since. Something happened inside me this time and I began to listen, learn, and became willing to change. When I left treatment I went to work on my mind and spirit through daily prayer, meditation, journaling, and participating in 12 step program. But soon I realized I was gaining weight and replacing drugs with food so I started applying the steps of my recovery program to eating and started praying asking God to give me self-control with food and discipline with exercise. He did not magically instill these things but rather brought the people in my life that would help guide and encourage me.

Fitness had once been important part of my life but something I had allowed drugs to steal from me. Through years of addiction my body was weak, I was out of shape, and I had suffered an infection in my back that had destroyed a disc and left a collapsed vertebrae (so from a medical stand point I would always be on pain medications and would never be able to participate in high impact exercises). Although running was something I had never tried and the doctors warned me against, I still chose to start couch to 5k program with my sister and a friend from church thinking…”it is collapsed how much worse can it get, I will stop if it hurts”


     Summer 2012 I set a lofty goal to run a 5k. My 1st race would be Corinth Rotary 5k in October 2012 (ironically one year from my last jail visit). After this race I was hooked and set out to improve. I quickly saw the benefits of running to mental, physical, and spiritual health. The determination, discipline, and dedication built through running also deepens my walk with Christ, my relationships, and my recovery. It is impossible to put into words everything that running has added to my life. God heard my prayers and led me to someone right in my own church who was long distance runner & lived only a few miles down the road from me; she became a dear friend & incredible training partner. She introduced me to our local running club “Team Corinth” where I met a wonderful man & mentor (Koach) Kenneth Williams and a whole community of support through local runners. It amazes me how God sees our need and provides a way and choses to use something like running to accomplish this.


      In 2013 I ran 2 5k’s, 2 10k’s, 5 half marathons (marking my 1 yr milestone of running with Corinth Rotary 5k and PR of 3 minutes). It was an eventful year of running. I also got into the gym and completed 2 boot camps and started cross training with weights and spin class. 2014 did not start out great, I endured some knee problems, got discouraged with seemingly lack of improvement, and actually considered quitting long distance running. Thankfully God reminded me of all the friendships I gave gained through running, the life lessons it has taught, and the character God has developed within me throughout this process. I can always look back at where I have come from and share this journey with others to gain some perspective. I enjoy sharing how God uses running in my life and I have a passion for encouraging others to give it a try. I am so glad I stuck with this; 2014 has been pretty amazing. God has allowed some improvements with PRs in 5k, 10k, and half marathon times. I also completed my 1st triathlon in August and ran my 1st full marathon in November. But most importantly God continues to strengthen me spiritually and provide valuable insight through the privilege of running His race! 15 years of drug addiction and numerous jail incarcerations to triathlete and long distance runner can only be GOD!


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Beating The Odds – Jaci Mize – Gulfport, Mississippi.

Jaci M 3It is hard to know what to write for a blog like this so let me just start from the beginning. I am Jaci Mize. I am currently 33 years old. I had always considered myself a decently active person and competitive person. I played fast pitch softball in high school, took dance and loved any adventurous outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, white water rafting and climbing. Then while in college in 2001, I broke my neck in a diving accident (pool). I had to be airlifted to another hospital with a level I trauma capability as the nearest hospital was ill-equipped to handle my level of injury. I broke C6 and was initially paralyzed from the neck down. I decided surgery would be my very last resort and opted to wear a halo (yup, just like the one the dude from Office Space wore). My life changed very dramatically forever. I was mad at everything and miserable. I went from being 20 years old and knowing everything to 20 years old, not knowing if I could even walk again. Almost everything came back except feeling on my left side and paralysis in my right hand and leg, textbook Brown – Sequard Syndrome. I gained TONS of weight, slipped into depression and allowed myself to become sedentary. At least I was around to say that this sucked! Finally, after the birth of my second daughter, I stepped on a scale and almost fainted. I vowed right then and there to do something about it!! I started working out at the gym. I missed being outside and I missed taking off on adventures. I needed more motivation.

In March 2012, I decided to take a chance and sign up for my first ever 5k. I had zero idea what I was getting into or why I even thought to sign up for a 5k. None of my friends at the time ran. It just sounded like a different type of adventure. (Little did I know what kind of adventure and joy that this one random thought would grow into.) The only previous running I did was after I hit the ball. I used to joke that the only running I would do is around bases and if someone or something were chasing me. A friend I talked into doing it with me only had to call me once to see if the ambulance that they heard was picking me up…lol NOPE!! I was slow but coming in STRONG! She waited up for me then I sprinted ahead. HAHA! My first and last time to beat her…by 1 second! We laughed so hard all the way to the nearest water. I learned a few things with that first run. 1) TRAIN next time and 2) YES, there will be a next time, I didn’t die and I had a blast!

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I finally found my motivation. Being outside and around groups of people of all abilities, having a blast no matter what their time ended up being. I joined every running club and group I could find. I had a new healthy addiction. After two years I ended up losing about 150 pounds, gaining confidence, and so many great and supportive friends. I was around such motivating and uplifting people that I wanted to be motivating and uplifting too. No one judged me for my size (when I started) and my disabilities. I wanted to share this joy with as many people as possible. The old saying is correct, “The more the merrier.”

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Then one night at a running group, friends talked me into doing my first duathlon. After borrowing a mountain bike to do Woolmarket #3 I decided somewhere along the course that I needed a road bike. After that my natural progression was to try a tri. I needed to overcome my fear of swimming and getting my face back in the water. I hadn’t really swam or been in the water much since my accident. So since this “crazy, let’s think of something you’d never thought of doing before” process seemed to work so well with the running thing,  I signed up for the Brett Robinson Alabama Coastal Tri-it-On and decided to toughen up buttercup! Check, survived that too, then hey let’s do a Spartan! (what the what?!?!) Several Tri’s, Du’s, and OCR’s later, the rest is history!

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I still may not run as much, as fast, as far as others, but it doesn’t matter! I’m getting there and loving every step along the way. I am still learning to embrace setbacks and celebrate the hard lessons learned as much as the PRs. The running community saved me from myself. Saved me mind, body and soul. I have been supported in ways many of ya’ll out there reading this will never know how much ya’ll mean to me or what you have done for me. I just hope that I can do for one person what so many of you have done for me. Support, uplift, encourage and motivate me. For that, I can’t thank ya’ll enough! See you on the next run and if you don’t run, come join us…you’ll never regret stepping out of the box and taking a chance.

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Running My Life – Tracy Holland – Fulton, Mississippi

Thanks Rod for asking me to share my running story. I feel that my story isn’t the most exciting one out there, such as weight loss, or qualifying for the Boston Marathon for examples, but it is truly mine, and hopefully everyone will enjoy it!

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I am Tracy Holland from Fulton, MS. I’m married to Eric Holland and we have 2 children, Callie and Sam. I work at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo as a Medical Technologist . I have been employed there for 19 years and I have worked all shifts. My life is busy with the daily demands of life, such as homework, ballgames, cheerleading, church, and anything else that may come my way. Running has become an outlet for me, sometimes a moment to escape, and it certainly balances out my life.

Running somehow became a hobby of mine. It didn’t take long for me to good hooked. I have not always been a runner. You see, for many years I devoted myself entirely to tennis. My dad, Don Christian taught me how to play. He started the tennis program at Shannon High School. In fact he was a very successful coach, claiming 7 State titles through the years. I started on the tennis team playing mixed doubles as an 8th grader and then moved onto girls singles the next 4 years. My senior year I made it to the State finals, but lost my final match. But my tennis career wasn’t over there. I went on to play tennis at Blue Mountain College for another great coach, Bill Dowdy. I had a great experience there as well, even though I didn’t win as many matches as I did in high school. I played league tennis as well while I was in college. Most of my days went like this – eat, sleep, study, and play tennis. But I loved it.

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After college, I started working for the hospital on the 3-11 shift, and married soon thereafter. I played league tennis for another couple of years, but it was hard to practice or make the matches, due to my work schedule. Tennis soon became a fond pastime for me. I had my first child, Callie, and then Sam came along 5 years later. My hobby during this period of my life was scrapbooking! I felt that my new goal in life was to capture all of my kid’s birthdays, holidays, and special moments by taking a picture and creating beautiful scrapbooks. I have several scrapbooks, which I am sure my kids will appreciate someday. During this time, I did work out some such as Curves and the gym at Itawamba Community College, but nothing of any consistency.

After Sam was born, I knew I had some extra baby weight to get rid of. My neighbor, Missi Chatham, had just had a baby also, so we began walking at night. The Itawamba School Complex is next to our subdivision and it’s a safe place to walk. Gradually we added running to our walking routine. I can remember the first time we ran the whole distance without stopping. Missi was throwing up at the water hose, and my face was red as a beet! We were so proud of ourselves, and committed to running a 5K. We ran in Race For The Cure in 30 minutes. More 5K’s and a couple of 10K’s followed, and then we thought we were ready to train for a Half Marathon.

Missi and I signed up for the Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon. Training went well, and we ran the race side-by-side, finishing under the balloons in the Red Birds Stadium. The running bug had bit me. Next, we did the Nashville Half Marathon. Our time improved by 9 minutes, despite the fact that it was a hillier course.

When I first started running, I never envisioned myself running marathons. So far I have finished 7 marathons and lots of half marathons. I also have been to a running camp, Active at Altitude, in beautiful Estes Park, CO. The altitude was certainly a challenge for me as I dealt with altitude sickness. The camp was motivating, and I realized how awesome it was to run trails. Also, I have completed 3 triathlons. Swimming and biking are great exercises when dealing with an injury, which I have had plenty of. I do enjoy triathlons, but they are tough! It’s an awesome feeling to pass people on the run portion of the triathlon.

Tracy H Tri Pic

I enjoy running by myself as well with others. When I run at home, my dog Daisy joins me, and any other neighborhood dog that wants to tag along. Daisy followed me home from a run one Labor Day, and she was about 3 months old. She is a Lab-Pyrenees mix and is probably one of the best dogs I have ever had. We recently got a miniature Australian Shepherd. Time will tell if she be a good running partner. I believe a dog can truly be one of the best running buddies you will ever find.

Tracy H Pic 3

This year I have been fortunate to run a couple of destination races. Our family went on vacation to Oahu, Hawaii in May. When I booked the vacation, I searched for races in Hawaii, and I was lucky to find out that I could run the Hibiscus Half Marathon at the end of our trip. The course had quite a climb, but once I reached the top, the view was incredible, with hundreds of surfers trying to catch a wave. The weather was warm and very humid. The road kill along the course was huge bullfrogs! (Not the typical armadillo or raccoon we see here in Northeast Mississippi. ) My second destination race was the San Francisco Marathon which took place the end of July. I went there with a couple of running friends, Elizabeth Kelly and Kim Wilson. Let me say it is not easy training for a summer marathon where we live, dealing with the heat and humidity. Our training runs started at 4 am or earlier. That is the only way to get a long run in and avoid dehydration. Also, I love to sleep, and I despise getting up that early, but since I didn’t want to die, and because I really wanted to visit San Francisco, I did it. Our visit was a blast, and we did so much sightseeing the days before the race. My legs were sore just from walking those hills! The race course was absolutely beautiful, and now I an say I have run over the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tracy H Pic 5

The San Francisco Marathon was not my best race. I was disappointed in my time, finishing 30 minutes slower than what I had set my goal as. However, I feel that I learned a few things while running that marathon. I learned that no matter how prepared you are, the unexpected situations will try to stop you in you tracks. Pain hit me at mile 17, causing me to walk. I felt like crying and giving up. I vowed to never run a marathon again. But I kept pushing forward, running when I felt like it, and walking when I couldn’t run anymore. I also learned that the two ladies who I went with are amazing runners. Elizabeth had trained like a beast, running over 200 miles during the month of July. Kim had just been diagnosed with MS the week before the marathon, yet it never gave her a reason to stop running. People like these ladies inspire me.

Tracy H Pic 6 San Fan Ca

Running has shown me how mentally tough I really am. I feel that I’ve had this mental strength inside of me my whole entire life. I’ve won tennis matches against people who were much better than me. The key to winning a tennis match is quite simple – keep the ball in play one more time than your opponent. Win the point, game, set, and match. Running is somewhat of the same concept. Keep moving forward, one step at a time, one mile at a time, until you reach the finish line. Hard work, determination, and mental strength can get you to finish line. I look forward to crossing many more.

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My Transformation Story – Noah Bourdeu – Carriere, Mississippi

 Noah B 1

My transformation story began in November of 2013, when I reached my heaviest weight of 297lbs.  At 6’ tall, I managed to carry the weight better than some people, but my joints, back, and blood work had a different story to tell.  I was only 29 and already on high cholesterol medicine and also taking propranolol, a heart medication for my tachycardia or rapid heart rate due to my excessive weight.  This was a scary situation seeing as how my father passed away at the age of 45 due to a massive heart attack.  He was also overweight and actually for the first time in my life I was nearly the same weight as he weighed when he passed away.  I loved my father very much and it was very hard to lose him and I didn’t want my family to suffer the same fate with myself.

    I knew it was time for a change, so I began to take my health and fitness as serious; I spend time endlessly researching weight loss methods, the psychology of weight loss, and positive thinking philosophies.  I began to discover the ever growing community of Youtubers who used video journaling or Vlogs as a way to document their weight loss and fitness journeys. These were average people going through the same journey as I was and I learned a wealth of information by watching their videos.

            Noah B 3

    Once I acquired all the information I needed I made a simple workout split and began my journey.  I relied heavily on cardio in the beginning stages of my journey.  The elliptical and stationary bikes were both nice because they were easier on my joints and less jarring to my body.  I gradually began to jog and then transition into weight lifting.  I cut my calories to around 1,800 per day, which allowed me to lose around 2lbs per week.  Soon I had already lost around 40lbs, much to my surprise.  I also began incorporating Intermittent Fasting as part of my eating habit.  Soon the weight was literally falling off of me and after 7 months of hard work I arrived at the weight of 208lbs with a body fat percentage of 19.6. 

    I soon found myself becoming comfortable with my weight loss progress and I was worried that I would revert back into my old eating habits and inactivity.  So it occurred to me that I needed a new challenge, one that would push me to my limits.  I decided to set the ambitious goal of competing in the NPC Novice Men’s Physique Contest in 2015.  Now I feel that I have recaptured my initial excitement for fitness and I am hungrier than ever to chase down my dreams.  I even started my own Vlog as a way to inspire others the way so many Youtubers inspired me.  I started a Vlog call Physique Competitor Noah to help keep myself accountable for the lofty goals I have set for myself.    

Noah B 5

    Being overweight and obese for the majority of my life taught me many life lessons.  I learned that people can be very inconsiderate and rude to overweight individuals, even though their intentions are sometimes not meant to be hurtful.  So people think that by making fun of overweight people that they will feel the need to make a change a lose weight. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is true.  When an obese person feels bad about their weight, they will usually seek comfort in food as I would often do.  Friends and family might have the best intentions, but their comments and criticism is both hurtful and counterproductive.  My goal is to inspire at least one other person that they can make a change and turn their life around. They have the power to change their lives.  By making positive choices and healthy lifestyle changes, they can be around for many years to come, spending precious time with their loved ones.

Starting Weight 297lbs Current Weight 208lbs BodyFat% 19.6






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Staying The Course – Mark Keller – Carriere, Mississippi

mk 6

What can a 47 year old man that’s quit exercising almost as much as he stays active share with you. Hmmm, let’s start with me. I am now a masters division runner, married to my high school sweetheart for 29 years and a father of 2, and currently expecting my first grandchild this Thanksgiving. I played sports in high school but it was during my first tour in the USAF that I believe I actually worked on becoming athletic. Karate, running, weights, nutrition. I immersed myself in an active lifestyle. It was here that I was my fastest running a sub 20 minute 5K pace.

MK 1

Then we had children and life happened and I grew sedentary and I grew in size. Fast forward 5 years and I was miserable. Weighing in at 237, not tolerating activity and not enjoying life. At this point I met a young man that was a runner and I was so envious I decided to make the change again. I ran one time with him and after I got smoked, I got mad at myself and then I got serious. Back to running, weights, nutrition. I committed to a marathon. 4 months later I ran with my friend again, on a very hilly course, and the outcome was gloriously significantly different. I completed my marathon, found my speed again and then inexplicably, after 4 years of regular exercise, shut down again. Gained 70 pounds, developed Hyperlipidemia, hypertension, herniated cervical vertebrae and again was miserable.

MK 2


So I climbed back on the bus and attacked again. Dropped the weight, got the BP under control, and rehabbed the neck through hard work and tears. There was a difference this time. My wife Mignon had decided to join me and we attacked life together. I was somewhere around the level of a recreational runner.

MK 4

Just about the time I was about to cycle down again, 2 wonderful things happened to me. The first is when my now grown daughter talked me into taking a personal trainer course (to keep me honest) and the second was I found the MS Mud Pirates (MMP). We are motivated by different things. For instance I have always been competitive. And the MMP filled that to a “T”. Specifically the Cap’n (Nate Smith) and The king of smack talk (Will Rouse). Not to take away from the other pirates. You will never meet a more supportive and encouraging group. But with a lot of smack talk and pushing. I fell back in love with longer distance running. Managed to complete 12 consecutive months of a minimum of 100 miles, picked up the nickname of “the Terminator” (which is appropriate somewhere in-between just keeping the streak up, to stopping and then coming back, or just continually terminating any dream Will ever had of beating me – HA- I couldn’t resist Will), and happily found a little speed again.

mk 7

So the future is bright. I have stayed the course longer than I ever have, and I’m still having fun attacking life. A fellow pirate gave me credit for a quote during one of my philosophical rants. I took it to heart though and I’m going to try to live by it. It goes like this, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but today I see each day as a gift and every step as a drug…, and I want to stay as high as I can for as long as I Can”. – Me

Stay salty my friends,

Your First Mate – Mark

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Fit Mom In Training – Michelle Lawrence – Oxford, Mississippi.

Before & After

In July 2010 at the age of 40, I was lucky enough to marry the love of my life.  Like most brides, I was obsessed with the whole pre-wedding diet ritual.  At 5’8″ I dieted down to an acceptable 129 pounds, but certainly not by incorporating exercise.  I didn’t have a bit of muscle tone, it was all about starving myself so I could fit into the dress and look thin.  After the wedding we had a fabulous and relaxing honeymoon in the Dominican Republic at a beautiful all-inclusive resort.  We enjoyed all the food and beverages our hearts desired.  By the time we returned home and I stepped on the scale, I had gained 5 pounds … in one week!  That was only the beginning. Over the course of the next 2 years, I gained an additional 29 pounds.  Like most newlyweds, we were busy blending our families, enjoying each other, and certainly not thinking the least about eating healthy or being active.

In March 2012, a friend told me about the “AJ Kick Yo’ Booty Boot Camp” class that would be starting in April and asked me to consider joining.  My first thought was, when am I going to find the time to exercise???  I work full-time, have a household to run, and two boys to chauffeur around to extra curricular activities.  Then I saw a picture of myself and realized I didn’t just feel unhealthy, I looked unhealthy.  But I knew I needed to just quit making excuses and find the time.  I started the 12 week boot camp class on Monday, April 5, 2012.  That day changed my life forever.  (Thanks AJ!)  The trainer was an intimidating 6’+ towering bundle of muscles … but he started and ended every class with a prayer.  And he had rules: don’t diet, instead change your lifestyle, give it your all, build each other up, and don’t you dare say the “f” [fat] or the “c” [can’t] words.  I’m not going to sugar coat it.  It was rough.  I sweated, hyperventilated, I even felt like I was going to throw up a few times, and was sore almost every day but I kept showing up and working hard.  Before I knew it (and even though I had 15-20 years on most of my other classmates) I found myself being called upon to demonstrate the “correct form” for the exercises.  When I started seeing my body respond to all my hard work, I wanted more.  I began to incorporate clean eating and additional days of training to my schedule.  The weight continued to come off, and the muscle tone continued to increase.  By the end of the 12 week class, I had lost 8 pounds and was feeling so much better.  I knew I still had a long way to go, but I also had found the will and determination from inside myself that I knew would get me there.

Tallahatchie River Run

Just a few months later in August 2012, a group of us from class decided to sign up for the Tallahatchie Riverfest 5K which was coming up in September.  I never would have done this, had there not been a lot of peer pressure because I hadn’t run a 5K since high school … 25 years ago!  The first day I started to train, I could barely make it a quarter of a mile before I had to stop.  But we stuck with it and we finished the race!  I guess you could say that is when I was bitten by the running bug.

St. Jude

Fresh from the high of the 5K, a couple of my girlfriends and I got a wild hair and decided we wanted to train for the St. Jude half marathon in December 2012.  It probably isn’t the smartest or well thought out thing I’ve ever done but I ran my first half marathon before the end of 2012.  It was grueling but at the same time exhilarating.  I was hooked!  I ran the Mississippi River half marathon and the New Orleans Rock & Roll half marathons pretty much back to back in February 2013.  Unfortunately, I injured my knee during the New Orleans race, and it side-lined me for about 6 months.  I never knew how much I enjoyed, needed, and missed running until I couldn’t run.  After rehab, surgery, and more rehab, I was finally back on track in September 2013 and begin training again for the St. Jude 2013 half marathon.  Even though the race was officially cancelled due to ice/snow, I ran the entire 13.1 with the other runners I had trained with, including my 13 year old son.  He had started running earlier in the Fall and had joined the Jr. High cross-country team.  When he was getting his physical, the doctor asked him what had gotten him into running and his response was “my mom!”  Anyone who has a teen knows that you don’t get a compliment like that from your teenager very often.  It was an emotional and proud moment for me and one which started me thinking about how much of a positive influence someone can be on others just by living a healthy lifestyle.  What a great feeling!

MS River Half Marathon

I have recently incorporated weight training and cycling into my fitness regime and along with boot camp and running, I strive to get in 6 days a week of exercise.  With 5 half marathons under my belt, my next goal is to train and run the St. Jude full marathon this December (2014).  It’s a little daunting when I stop to think about it but one that I intend to conquer, none the less.

NO Rock & Roll

Two years ago when I started this journey, I never would have imagined that I would be where I am today.  At 44, I’ve lost a total of 30 pounds and I am quite possibly in the best physical shape of my life.  It’s been a lot of hard work and determination, but worth every minute of it.  The next part of my journey is to inspire others by example to take control of their health and fitness, not only for themselves but for those they love.  It’s not just about diet and exercise, it’s about changing your lifestyle … eating clean and fueling your body to get the results you desire.  Want to join me?  You’ll find me on Facebook as “Fit Mom In Training”

 Total Body 5K

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Experiencing God’s Gifts, One Mile at a Time – Allison Nooe – Brandon, Mississippi


From the time I was old enough to start making decisions, I made it clear that I was going to make bad decisions. I spent my teenage years and most of my 20’s trying to fill a void with anything and everything I could think of, all extremely self-destructive. I didn’t realize the consequences of my actions because I kept masking the emptiness and lack of self-worth with more substances and bad decisions.


Over the years I had “run” (jogged and tried not to die is more like it)†in a couple of 5ks here and there to support the beneficiary of the race. I never put up any decent times but I would always gut the race out without stopping to walk. This was a miracle in itself because I ranged from 20-75 lbs. overweight in my early adult years along with the terrible smoking habit I pretended to only socially have. †A friend of mine and I decided out of nowhere that we were going to give up alcohol for a month in an attempt to lose some lbs. We discussed this plan out loud but never once in my head did I really think this was something I would actually do. The first day, day número uno, I will never forget the feeling that God has placed over me. It was done. The 12 year nonstop party, the only life I ever knew, it was over. I shook with fear upon realizing that I would not, could not continue this life I’ve lived so long.†

After about a two week rest, I just started running. I am not really sure how I knew to do so because I had never given it much thought in the past. Maybe I remember always feeling the sense of accomplishment after busting out a 5k run out of nowhere. It was something, one of the only things I knew at this point I was somewhat capable of doing. It wasn’t long before I found my release, my new sense of life. There was nothing like the feeling running provided me. I ran on my own and ran in local races as much as I could. When I actually started placing in some of them I had a random thought to see if any of the colleges around would take me on to run for them. Did they even let older students do that?!? Yep! I soon signed with Belhaven University as the old lady on the cross country team. I will never forget telling my mom, the first woman in the state of Mississippi to receive a track scholarship, and dad that I received a small scholarship for it. I never ever thought I would have the opportunity to see the pride I experienced in their eyes as I relayed the news. I almost felt as if I was lying, or dreaming.  Certainly I felt undeserving.


Training with an organized racing team was so different than anything I’d experienced before.  There was a bit of self-inflicted pressure at first because I felt like fit the first time I had so many others watching me. Several of us on the women’s XC team were really competitive with each other which was great because it pushed us to really nail our workouts as we prepared for the season. Coach Barber had us running several speed workouts and several easy distance runs a week. There are times I thought I wouldn’t make it through but each time I did I gained a little more confidence and belief that I deserved to be there. As my first racing season approached I ended up suffering an injury that kept me out of racing. It was devastating at the time but I now look back and see the blessings in it all. I was still able to travel with the team and took on an assistant coaching position that allowed me to keep my scholarship and continue training as my injury healed.  We raced a lot of non-school related road races together.  The experiences allotted to us in traveling together and competing together were invaluable.



The great thing about a team of distance runners is the level of commitment necessary just to make it through practice was so high that at the end of the day, every athlete that was there had a huge passion and desire to succeed. We traveled to some beautiful places to run. Berry College in Rome Georgia stole my heart. As we arrived on the 4,000 acre campus just at sunset, the grounds were covered with deer. The morning of the race was just as beautiful. No deer, but lush cross country trails covered in autumn stained leaves. South Carolina had a pretty course, the Sandshark Invitational. It was a favorite because it was so flat and near the end of the season so runners were likely to PR. And then of course Choctaw Trails. Our home course, shared with MC. Sorry Starkvegas, THIS is God’s country. If you’ve never gone out to Butts Park and gotten lost trail running the spider webs, it’s a must on your runners bucket list. The trails of the course are absolutely breathtaking. I remember running out there practice after practice and looking around thinking, I can’t believe I get to do this. The races out at Choctaw were the best.  The finish consists of about 200 meters of uphill battle, literally. Some amazing moments happen across that finish line every meet.


It was cool experiencing the growth as a runner under Coach Barbers training. We all come In as relatively young runners, regardless of our age. Our experience levels were low. I ran the Hal & Mals St. Paddys day race in around 28 minutes in 2011. In 2012, just a couple of months into my training with Belhaven, I ran it in under 23 minutes. My 5K time continued to improve race after race. I finally snagged an overall female win at the Run for the Roses in Prentiss. Awe man, there are no words… I had the pleasure of watching my fellow teammates figure out who they were as runners, helping to develop who we were as people. Coach would have us set goals, even some that made us uncomfortable. But that’s what made that PR so sweet. We were all constantly being pushed way outside of our comfort zones therefore watching those zones expand at rapid paces.


As I settled into my assistant coaching role I was able to really appreciate our runner’s hard work and dedication without the stress of performing for them as well. God blessed our team with precious individuals I am privileged to call friends. They became my biggest supporters as I continued to train under Coach Barber for different tasks such as my first full marathon. I trained hard and finished the MS. River marathon in February of this year. I gained incredible memories, confidence as a runner and a coach, and some lifelong friends during my years with the Belhaven Cross country team. I know in 10 and 20 years from now I’ll be taking long runs with Coach Barber while home visiting. She and some of our runners will always be a phone call away to meet up for a race somewhere in the middle of where we’ll all end up.



 God used my time at Belhaven in a completely different way than I thought. It is here that I received an education and developed a true relationship with Christ. He has a way of showing us that his plans are generally totally different than ours, but far superior. I received some of the best training under head coach Christie Barber and even got to serve as a student assistant coach. Through running I have met some of the most wonderful, dedicated people. I have developed relationships with people that have only our love for running in common, yet I cherish our friendships immensely.



God has used running to show me that I am capable of far more than I ever dreamed. I have won races, finished second to some of my running idols, of course had some terrible ones, but I have always finished. To know that I can jump up and run a half marathon, that I have gained that much control over my health and well-being, and by God’s grace know that I am worth the time it takes to invest in this, well, it’s priceless. One of my favorite things IN this world is experiencing a new runner wild with excitement and accomplishment.  It’s amazing the lessons and values that can be learned and gained with every step pounded on the pavement.


I’ve been asked (or accused) “well haven’t you just replaced your addictions for a new one?”  To which I gladly reply “No, I replaced my emptiness with Jesus. He gifted me with the love for running to show me I’m much stronger mentally and physically than I ever knew.”  None of that is due credit to me on my own. It is all God-given. And for that, I’m a forever grateful. Ready, set…..


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