May 15 2018
Kathrine Switzer delivered the 2018 commencement address at her alma mater, Syracuse University on May 13, 2018.
POUNDS LOST: 126
Growing up, I thought I was destined to be chubby. I was always a bit heavier than my friends, and over the years, my weight turned into a health problem. In college, I gained the freshman 15, which quickly turned into 25. After getting married and having two children, I’d put on more than 100 pounds.
It was my job that finally motivated me to change my life forever. As a nurse, I saw patients come into the ICU every day with life-threatening conditions that were a product of the same unhealthy habits I had at the time.
After trying weight-loss programs and prescription medications, I decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery in September 2010. This wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I had seen patients die from this surgery. At the time, however, I felt it was my only option.
The procedure was successful, but I knew I couldn’t take it for granted. I needed to work hard to change my life. After losing the weight (126 pounds!), I knew it was up to me to keep it off.
In January 2011, I stepped on a treadmill and never looked back. It took me almost three months to work up to running one mile without stopping, but I loved setting goals and seeing myself progress.
In June, I ran my first 5k, and the sense of accomplishment thrilled me. Immediately, I wanted to do something even bigger. On November 5, shivering at a cold start line at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon, I set small goals to get me through the whole race without stopping. I finished in 2:14. The very next year, I ran my first full marathon.
It’s important for me to prove to myself I am a runner, and I’m grateful for the health and self-confidence I’ve gained from the sport. My surgery may have helped me lose 126 pounds—but it did not run a marathon. I did that all on my own.