From obesity to half marathon day. The picture on the left was taken on Mother’s Day 2013. The picture on the right was taken on April 16, 2016, 120 pounds lighter and wearing her pink Team Princess Warrior T-shirt
Editor’s Note: Linda Melendez currently serves as board member of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey (NFBNJ)and chairperson of the NJ Sports and Recreation Committee. I have done 40-yard dashes, but never half-marathon running! What follows is Linda’s presentation on being a half-marathon runner during the 2016 NFBNJ State Convention regarding various recreational activities.
Getting into the game of life began for me November of 2013. My mom had passed away On June 8th 2013 and I was devastated. My only son was leaving for basic training. I was a mess mentally, emotionally and physically. In a desperate attempt to help me my son asked if I would work out with him while he got ready for basic training. To be honest, I had no desire to work out. I was morbidly obsess weighing 280 pounds and did not think I could participate in any type of exercise or recreation program.
To my surprise I was wrong. I began slowly and saw results almost immediately because I stayed focused, dedicated and determined. I worked out 4 days a week and lost 120 pounds in 15 months. During this time I evolved into the healthy woman I am today and became a Warrior Princess. I actually fell in love with working out and for the first time in my life I made myself a priority. I was also forming a healthy relationship with food by tracking my food daily and learning about calories eaten and calories burnt. With this new lifestyle I became a participant in my life as opposed to being a spectator. This new lifestyle was empowering for me. On a personal level I had never felt so strong and accomplished.
To help maintain my weight loss I wanted to incorporate a regular cardio regiment that I could enjoy besides going to the gym. I took a running class for beginners and absolutely fell in love with running. I was doing 5K’s runs on a regular basis and the head coach pulled me aside at the end of the six week course to tell me that I could run a half marathon. Doing a half marathon was on my physical fitness bucket list so I was excited when an accomplished runner/trainer saw this potential in me. This coach also voted me class valedictorian.
Three months later I took a 15 week half marathon training class that meet every Saturday in Asbury Park for weekly long group runs. We ran no matter what the weather was from January until April. We were given a schedule of other runs to do during the week so we could build up for our weekly long runs. Each week the runs got longer until we built up to 12 miles. At the end of this training class I ran my first half marathon. It took me 2 hours and 52 minutes but I completed it. Also, in June of 2016 I joined the Jersey Shore Running Club “JSRC” to strengthen and solidify my relationship and commitment to running.
Everyone was amazed that a legally blind person could achieve this. I was not amazed because I knew I had it in me. The other runners who run by me week after week would always ask “if I was ok”. My slogan became “I got this!” You see for the past three years since embarking on this journey I have been living the life I want. I continue to exercise regularly, eat healthy and run 2 – 3 times a week. I also sign up for any races that I can get a ride too or Access Link will bring me too. I am raising the expectations and awareness of everyone around me and this motivates me even more. I want to show others that being blind will not put limitations on me and dictate what I can or cannot do and accomplish.
Since becoming healthy every January I make a physical fitness bucket list of goals and activities I want to achieve that yeah. In 2017 I will complete another half marathon after knee replacement surgery. In 2018 I will begin my training to run a marathon in 2018. We need to get into the game of life by raising our own expectations. We are stronger than we think we are! We need to set reasonable goals. We need to be dedicated, determined and focused on meeting them. Let’s all start living the life we want by getting out of our comfort zone. Let’s be a participant in our lives! You got this! Embark on your journey and get into the game of LIFE!
If you wish to learn more about being a blind half-marathon runner, or about Linda’s story, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.