February 21 2018
Karen Lyons started running to escape hardship–and couldn’t stop.
Hometown: Bronx, NY
Yes, it was cold and dark outside, but on the inside, I was filled with joy and light. I was standing at the start line of my first half marathon, the 2015 New York City Half—a race I never thought I would have the opportunity to run.
Months earlier, at the urging of my Black Girls Run group friends, I submitted an entry to the race lottery and, to my surprise, I was selected. Feeling like this race was meant to be, I trained hard to run/walk to the finish. I just wanted to soak in every moment.
When the gun sounded the beginning of my wave, I set off determined to complete what I had started. Several years ago, when I was at my heaviest weight, I never imagined I’d be a runner. At 115 pounds lighter, I was on the final leg of my journey to earn the title of half-marathon finisher.
The freezing wind presented a challenge from the very start, but I knew that wouldn’t stop my legs from moving. After hitting the 5K mark, I told myself that with one more 5K I’d be headed out of Central Park and into Times Square.
As I came out of the park I heard someone say, “Here come the slow people.” I thought to myself, Who cares if you think I’m slow? I just ran half this race while you’re on the sidelines. Watch me keep going.
Entering Times Square, I looked around to take in the sights. Privileged to be there without the usual hustle and bustle, I felt like a real runner as I listened to my peers pound the pavement by my side. I pushed forward, looking for the next landmark on my list and hoping to make it to the West Side without seeing the sweeper truck.
Continuing on, I reached the 10-mile point, where I celebrated internally. Only 3 miles left to go!
It was at mile 12 when I saw my brother, who had braved the cold weather and woke up at the crack of dawn solely to cheer me on. I got an adrenaline boost to carry me through the final mile of the race.
At one point, I even started to cry because I knew finishing was in my future, but I told myself to hold back the tears until the line.
I willed my tired, sore legs forward until they entered autopilot mode as I ran through the final tunnel, screaming with joy all the way through the finish.
Celebrating my accomplishment with my brother and friends, I felt a peaceful happiness run through my body. I wore my finisher’s medal proudly and asked myself, What race will you do next?
Since that half, I have gone on to complete 23 more races for a grand total of 30 to date!
Running taught me the importance of consistently training to reach my goals. There are a lot of things in life that people want, but if they aren’t willing to work for it, they won’t achieve it. I was able to finally become the runner I always wanted to be, because I took the time to improve my health and fitness. By investing in myself, I not only lost weight—130 pounds in total—but also I found a happier me.