Losing 170lbs and gaining a passion

“Sometimes people say I inspire them because of a quote, a picture I post or after reading about one of my runs – but it is the runners I meet and profile who inspire me.”

Melinda Howard is someone I noticed and connected with on Twitter – I found out her story and asked her if she wanted to share. I hope you find her as inspiring and interesting as I did.

Meet Melinda

Melinda was born in 1962 as the oldest of 2 children in Des Moines, Iowa. She went to high school, then college and got married and had 2 children – and did not run.

She says the running thing started in 2011. She wanted to lose a bit of weight and when her sister asked her to join a “couch to 5k” running program, she simply saw it as a way to lose weight faster —she never knew it would change her life.

She completed the 5k and was soon invited by friends to run a 12k race (a distance she would never have imagined possible not that long before). She finished the 12k and made running friends she says she still has to this day.

The running continued and soon Melinda was finding that 5ks and 10ks were fun but she wanted to see how far she could go. In 2012, a year after starting running she ran a half-marathon. Her first marathon came not long after and she ran the Mt. Desert Island marathon with friends and found herself head over heels in love with running.

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From runner to ultramarathoner

Believe it or not, before she had even finished her first marathon she had already registered for a 50-mile race. She was hooked and had a desire to see how far she could go. Back from the marathon she was soon out training for her first ultra.

Perhaps with too much running too soon and as a new runner she had pushed too hard and soon found herself injured. She ended up limping around on crutches for the winter of 2013. But she was as determined as ever.

She got back to running, got a coach and since her injury in 2013 has 12 marathons and 4 Ultra Marathons plus lots of HM’s and shorter distance races. She says she loves to run.

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Melinda’s Running

Holds the 10 Mile Mississippi State Record for 53 year old women
2nd AG 50-55 Tanglefoot Half Marathon 2014
2nd AG 50-55 Pilgrimage Half Marathon 2015
1st AG 50-55 Tanglefoot Half Marathon 2015
2nd AG 50-59 Green Street Mile 2015

50M PR: Brazos Bend 50M (12:46:56) 7th
50K PR: MS50 Trail Run (7:04:15) 9th overall Female
Marathon PR: Mississippi River Marathon. (5:05:15)
Half Marathon PR: Viking Half Marathon. (2:15:00)

What was the hardest hurdle going from non runner and overweight to runner and how did you overcome it?
“Well, when I first started running, MFH (My Favorite Husband) ran with me every single training run and every single race. On Saturday mornings, we would go to our local running club. Our club has some elite level runners (for real elites!) and I was incredibly intimidated by them. Truth be told, I’m still intimidated by them!!! They seem to glide over the road. It’s a beautiful thing to see. That being said, I’m very well aware of my limitations and some of them I feel like I’m being judged. I’ve seen this group welcome many, MANY runners of different shapes and sizes so I know it’s just me.”
“You asked how I overcame it? Instead of comparing myself to them (some of them I was old enough to be their mom), I discovered my own strengths and focused on those. I found out that I stink at 5K’s but do pretty well at Ultra’s. I began to build a solid mileage base so I could do the long stuff.”
“At the beginning, as an overweight runner, I worked hard to eat smart, run smart and continue to trim up and drop weight. After 3.5 years of this, I wasn’t an overweight runner anymore! I still, sometimes, have a hard time not seeing myself as an overweight runner. Isn’t that crazy? We’re so hard on ourselves.”
How does running make you feel and have you learned anything about yourself from it?
“Running makes me feel free. It helps me be confident. I never knew I could be confident. I had often been made to feel inferior so this was something alien to me. Over time I’ve learned that there’s a lot more grit and determination in me to succeed than I never knew I had.”
How do ultras differ from “normal” races and why do you run beyond 26.2 miles?

How do ultras differ. This made me giggle. Ultras are a totally different creature. They’re much more laid back. They’re still competitive but you don’t live and die by your time on the clock. You want to finish. You’d like to finish well but you really want to finish.

Most ultra runners I’ve met don’t ask you your finishing time. They will ask, “Did you finish?” That’s what counts! Did you have what it took to grind out the miles? There’s respect if you can do that! If somebody asks you your finishing time, I’d be willing to bet that they’re new to Ultras and are there to see what Ultra running is all about. I’d also bet you they’re a marathoner. LOL!!!

Why do I run beyond 26.2~Because nine times out of ten, I’m one of the oldest women on the course. There’s not many women my age out there running 50M or trying 100M. It makes me feel badass. Is it wrong to admit that? LOL!!! I have a great deal of respect and admiration for women my age and older who are out there on the trails pounding out the miles. It’s not easy but it’s totally awesome!!!

Any advice to someone considering lacing up?

“Advice? Lace up those shoes and get moving!!! If I can drop 170lbs by eating smart and moving more, anybody can do it! I was on oxygen 24/7 and couldn’t tie my own shoes. I had to have one of my children or my husband do that kind of stuff for me. Walking across a room was a major ordeal. You just have to set your mind to it. Grind your teeth and get started…and stick with it! As much as I dislike this phrase, it’s true: Patience is a virtue.

Someday you’ll realize that you can see your feet again! Someday it’ll dawn on you that you just bet over and tied your own shoes! Do you know what you’ll do next? You’ll do the Happy Dance because you’re making progress! Celebrate the little victories because they eventually add up to big victories!!!”

“I wish those starting the best of luck.”
o here we are, February of 2017. I just DNF’d my first race ever, a 100 Miler. I’m a sad panda about that BUT I know it was smart. With the races I have pending the rest of the year, it was a good call. The rest of 2017 will see me running the London Marathon, the Chicago Marathon and trying again for a 100 Miler in December.
Want to hear Melinda? Check her podcast chat with fellow running dad and podcaster Denny Krahe: https://soundcloud.com/dizrunswith/260-melinda-howard
Find Melinda on Twitter: @MelindaHoward4
Run on friends!
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