February 21 2018
Karen Lyons started running to escape hardship–and couldn’t stop.
PORT VUE, PENN.
I started gaining weight in the fifth grade. I’m not sure what the trigger was, but after age 10, I grew heavier and heavier. At one point, I was gaining 60 pounds per year. Kids bullied me at school. This made me feel worthless, and I’d cope by eating even more.
In April of 2009, I was watching The Biggest Loser when something clicked. At 230 pounds, I saw myself in the contestants. If they can do it, I thought, why can’t I? I realized if I wanted to enjoy my life, I had to make some major changes.
I traded junk food for fruits and vegetables. Within 12 months, I’d lost 110 pounds. I was thin—but I still wasn’t happy. I became obsessive with my eating habits and saw calories as the enemy. My weight dropped to an unhealthy number and my family became concerned. I didn’t feel like myself at all. The lack of nutrition made me constantly irritable and tired.
That year, I met a runner who would do crazy ultra-marathons. I had never understood running and I was curious. How could he enjoy this so much? His passion ignited something in me. I jumped on a treadmill to see how far I could go. It wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t want to stop. It took me nearly one month to reach two miles.
After my first 5k, I started to fall in love with the sport. The more I ran, the hungrier I felt. I stopped seeing food as either comforting or evil. Instead, I understood it was fuel for my body.
Last year, after intense training, I finished my first full marathon. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I pictured my old self and saw how far I’d come physically and, more importantly, emotionally, over the last few years. Crossing the line, I stomped every hang-up I had to the ground.