May 1, 2014
by Jeanette Hoeksema
"All thoughts of defeat and failure were gone"
Believe it or not, I walked my first two half marathons at or over 300 pounds! My experience with those races, though, would be described as defeat, pain, and absolute shame. I felt I was the heaviest person in each race and may have been! I had entered both races with friends, feeling it would get me in shape, yet I did not do the work with the training or my diet to even begin to prepare me for 13.1 miles and because I was not prepared, I felt the consequences of this with each step.
At mile 11 of my second race, I was limping, exhausted, nauseous, and tearful. A sweet friend had chosen to stay back with me to help me complete the race. I had just told her I did not think I could finish. At that point, the marathoners were passing us and were on mile 20 of their race. A slender young girl ran by, and to our surprise, after a couple of blocks, turned around, and ran back to us! She began to walk beside me, explained she was at the weight I was two years ago, she was now running a marathon, and she knew that I could do it, too. She then ran off and finished her race. My friend and I both wept at this thought of hope for me.
Five months later, I was nearly at my highest weight again (which had previously topped out at about 365 pounds). I had a period of two weeks I could not sleep much at all and wept every night, and I felt during this, God kept telling me clearly to ask Jeff, a good physician friend, for help to get my weight off. In my mind, it was something all I could do was fail at, there was no hope of anything but defeat, and getting to 400 pounds was the most likely next step in my future. I felt like I was successful in many areas of my life but asking for Jeff's help in an area I had failed at my whole life honestly felt humiliating. Yet, I could not get this prompting out of my head, so I eventually asked Jeff if he would help. That was September, 2011. He set me up on a strict plan of calorie counting, weigh ins, 90-120 minutes of exercise five times a week, lots of water, and told me at our first meeting I was signing up for another half marathon. His wife, Cris, one of my best friends, became my accountability partner in this, and with their help, I lost over 200 pounds in 20 months with diet and exercise.
In November, 2012, I ran the Monumental half as my first half I have ever run. My friends, Jeff and Cris, also ran this race, along with two other amazing friends who have been a huge part of my support system. At the end of this race, I thought about this year's Monumental marking my two year anniversary of my weight loss journey and about the young lady who encouraged me with her own story of going from obesity to a marathon in two years and wondered if that, too, could be me. Well, in 2013, I completed the Monumental full marathon! As I crossed the finish line, all thoughts of defeat and failure were gone; I thought of two years of success with weight loss and discipline, losing over 200 pounds, running 26.2 miles, and having more support in this than I could ever dream of through Jeff, Cris, and many other friends. I am hoping it is the first marathon of many, and I will forever cherish the memory of running my first marathon at the Monumental.
I've been asked to speak about my weight loss journey on several occasions, and I plan on running a 10K in July and a half-marathon in September to gear up for the Monumental - my second full marathon - again in November!