Flying Pig Half Marathon: My Brother’s Weight Loss Journey

There’s quite a few things I feel the need to share with you so that you can fully grasp the magnitude of the race that was The Flying Pig 1/2 Marathon. If you recall, I signed up for this race for the sole purpose of seeing my brother run it.

I never, ever, ever, ever thought my brother would run a half marathon. It requires a lot of discipline, self-motivation, and commitment–all words I never associated with him.

My brother growing up was always in trouble. He was in trouble in school, at home, in his life and for as long as I can remember, he was always in some kind of mess.

It was difficult seeing my brother live his life this way but it was something we kinda just accepted. That was how he was.

He’d always been overweight, using food and alcohol as a means of comfort when there really wasn’t anything positive in his life. Eating and drinking made him happy. There were many times when I became concerned about his health; at 6’2, 300+ pounds, I knew there was no way he was healthy.

And then a few years ago, on his own, he began to change. He left behind old habits and found a good, steady job and was finally doing well. It was what we had all been waiting for. But it seemed maybe to cope and maybe even compensate for no longer having his previous vices, he turned to eating–even more. He visited me last Christmas and he was the heaviest I had ever seen him. He was happy–but it was difficult for him to move around, to get up off the couch, to walk short distances. I was worried when I saw him but it was another one of those things where I felt like even if I said something, it needed to come from him. He wouldn’t change if he didn’t want to change.

My brother's before pic

The “before” pic

I”m not sure if it was a combination of New Year’s, his birthday (it’s in early January), or something else all together, but he decided 2015 would be the year of change. It was finally coming from him. He signed up for a gym membership and began with walking on the treadmill and spending a few minutes on the elliptical. He’d send me a picture every few days of his workouts, “2 miles on the treadmill!” “30 minutes on the elliptical!” “I finally ran outside today!” and each text would make my day.



He ran a 5k on St. Patrick’s day and was excited to gauge his progress (he’d run one last year–his first race–without any training). He blew us away killing his previous time and finishing with a 27:58!! Yes, you read that right. At that point, he had lost about 35 pounds and was proud of himself for how far he’d come. But he said he wasn’t finished.

With my sister after the 5k--they both PRd!

With my sister after the 5k–they both PRd!

Having done so well and maybe even perhaps still on his race high, he decided to sign up for the Flying Pig Half Marathon. I was so excited for him and knew having this goal would only help motivate him further.

But what he did next took me by complete surprise.

He got a training plan and committed himself to it entirely, sometimes even doing double workouts on days he was feeling good. He’d send me pictures of his mileage, “My first run over 5 miles!” “I did this all with the treadmill inclined!” He would send me post workout pics and on each one he’d have a huge smile, a proud workout done. He began sharing his journey on Facebook and his friends applauded his change–(that seemed to motivate him too, his friends seeing him do something positive for himself).

On of his double days

One of his double days

I remember showing my husband one of my brother’s pics and telling him how proud I was of my brother and how I wished I could be there to join him on his first half marathon. I rarely make it to Ohio as traveling with 2 small children isn’t exactly ideal both financially and mentally lol!

But my husband said, “You should be there!” and purchased a ticket for only me to go. He’d stay behind with our kids.

I was so grateful and so ridiculously excited that I would be able to witness firsthand and share that special day with my brother. At first, I wanted it to be a surprise and told my sister such as we planned out logistics. But as usual with surprises, they’re tough to keep and my brother soon knew that I would be there that day. He was so thankful and said that that would help him to train even harder knowing that I’d be there.

The day he ran his 10 miler, his first double digit run, I cried. I just couldn’t believe it. Who was this man who had transformed himself in such a short period of time? He was a dedicated, disciplined, motivated, definitely NOT lazy man who was working very hard to reach a goal. And doing it all on his own.


This text. All the emotions.

He was ready. The day of the race he was 60 pounds lighter. Sixty. This was a different person toeing the start line. A completely different person.

And man, I couldn’t wait to see him cross the finish !!!

The "after" pic (for now :) )

And the “after” pic … (for now 🙂 )

Part II of my brother’s weightless journey to his first half marathon will be up soon. Let me just say, he crushed that race–I can’t wait to share it with you!!

❤ , helly


Back on the Marathon Train-ing!!

I know, I know. I just ran a marathon.

Lemme ‘splain.

When I put my name in the Marine Corps Marathon Lottery, I really had NO idea I’d get picked the first time I tried. So I signed up for Phoenix Marathon (Feb. 28) thinking I’d at least have that marathon to train for if I didn’t get in. Yeah, you know what

I took an entire full week off post Marine Corps. No running, no cross training, no nothing except for indulging in all things food and soda (and surprising, I didn’t drink that much!). Then the following week I started to ease back in.

But this week starts the first week of official Phoenix Marathon Training!
Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 7.38.56 AM I’ve decided to go back to Hal on this one and do a modified Higdon plan. I still need to recap Run Less, Run Faster and really stress how my experience with it really shouldn’t be taken with much confidence as I was pretty terrible at following it 😦 but more on that later.

For Phoenix, I’m on a mission. I’m going to lay it out there.

I want a sub 4:30.

I really, really do. Last year, I finished at 4:44 and I really think I got it in me to nail a big PR like that. I was 7 months post pregnancy when I did my first marathon, I have a lot more training under my belt, and I simply have more some okay, two marathons of experience. Plus, this race is in my hometown, so no traveling (I think that’s a big point there) and I can’t neglect to mention the elevation course: Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 8.08.56 AM Which leads me to this: I was talking to a girl about how I wanted to get a sub 4:30 and when I said I was hoping to do it at Phoenix she scoffed and said, “Yeah, that’s all downhill so you’re lucky. Should be easy to get it.”

Ummm, I didn’t get it when I ran the marathon the first time, missy (it sure as hell wasn’t easy either!) And neither did thousands of people who ran it that day. Huumpf!!!

I just don’t get how runners can be so negative to other runners. Runners are known for being such nice people and it’s those handful out there, like the girl I was talking to, who are blemishing our reputation. So if I do get my sub 4:30 do I have to put a little asterisk saying I did it at Phoenix, a course known for being fast?? If someone BQs do they have to add a disclaimer that it was done on a downhill course? I mean, really?

Get off my marathon train-ing. Guh-bye!

–What do you guys think? Does someone need to explain their PR or BQ?

I hope you all have a good week! To those in the U.S., Happy Veteran’s Day!!–make sure to tip your hat to those who served 🙂

I’m Officially a Marathoner!

Boy, oh boy…..

That was without a doubt the hardest, most fun thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I’ll start at the beginning 🙂

You guys knew that I was dreading the inclement weather…not even so much the rain, it was more the wind that was making me nervous.

And it was definitely windy.

My husband dropped me off at the bus pick-up around 4 a.m. It actually wasn’t tough waking up so early and I actually felt like I slept despite my jitters.

The bus ride was about 20 minutes long. I sat next to a complete stranger who happened to be an Ironman (I found this out after some small talking). He offered some good advice, “Don’t start out fast.” “Trust your training.” etc., and even gave me an extra trash bag to protect myself from the rain. This would be really helpful later.

I wore shorts and my run club shirt. I debated wearing pants because I absolutely hate being cold but didn’t want to risk running in wet, soggy pants. That wouldn’t be fun. In the end, I am very, very glad I wore shorts.

I took with me an old sweater to keep warm and toss later. When we reached the drop off point, way out in the middle of nowhere, you felt the cold immediately. You also felt the wind immediately. People were huddled against walls to try and escape it and others found old junk cars to sit in (we were at a shooting range out in the desert). I found my run club in a great spot, a little area with three walls that helped break off the wind. As soon as I got there, I threw on the garbage bag. It sure helped.

oh it's just me in a big deal :)

oh it’s just me in a bag…no big deal 🙂

It was an hour til go time so we just hung out and tried to keep loose. At about 15 til, we started to make our way to the start line.

I had a few things on my mind as far as what I wanted to accomplish with my first marathon. First and foremost, I wanted to finish. I had an ambitious lofty goal of finishing around the 4:30 mark (if I was feeling like all the stars were aligning) and I had a more realistic goal of wanting to finish under 5:00. Lastly, I wanted this to be something I’d look back and remember and it be a memory that would always make me happy. I didn’t want to be disappointed with any part of the experience because it was my first marathon and that in of itself is already something huge. I kept that thought in my head throughout the entire race and especially when things started to get tough.

At go time, the wind was going and everyone was standing waiting for the gun. There were no corrals so you pretty much chose where you wanted to begin. I noticed near where I was the 4:25 pacer and decided right then and there that I’d try and stick with him as long as I could. My “goal” was 4:30 so if I stayed with him I’d make it and if I had to slow down, I’d have a cushion built to still leave me with a shot.

How long could I hang with this guy??

How long could I hang with this guy??

The rain came down it seemed as soon as the skies heard the gun shot and lasted for two miles. The first 4 miles were a downhill you could feel. I was glad that I was with the pacer because I knew I would’ve gone out too fast. The first four miles I was right around the 9:30 pace. (Which in retrospect, I think that was on the fast side.)

The fifth mile was the lone hill of the race and again, I was glad I was with the pacer because I might have gone a lot slower than the 10:43 that I did. It wasn’t a tough hill but more of a long incline.

The wind and rain had let and the weather was actually cool and very, very pleasing. It was overcast and I felt like I was breathing fresh air. The roads were wet but not slippery; I did make sure to avoid the road strips though–those were def slippery as I saw several people stumble 😦

I was feeling pretty good and moving along just fine. My husband met me at mile 11 and I told him that I was glad I decided to wear my hydration pack and glad with other last minute decisions I’d made–to wear a hat, go with shorts instead of pants. He left me and I knew I’d see him again around mile 16ish.

I was literally at the hip of the pacer. I knew that if I fell even the slightest behind him that I’d lose him. Others around him struck up conversation and when I ended up next to him all I said was, “I’m sorry. I’m pretty boring. I don’t talk when I run.” He just laughed and said that was smart. Conserve energy.

We passed the 13.1 mark and had our pictures taken–if you could, you’d see that I was right there next to my new best friend. I stayed glued to him up to mile 15 when I finally said a few more words.

“This is getting hard.”

The girl to my right said breathlessly, “Yeah.”

The pacer encouraged us with, “Keep going. Stay strong. You’re more than halfway done.”

I drudged along.

My husband reached me at mile 16 with a big smile. I knew he was happy to see me still with the pacer. But I had to break it to him that our newfound friendship wasn’t going to last much longer. I was struggling. Bad.

He stayed with me for a little over a mile and told me to try and make it to twenty. I already had that number in my head. Helly, make it twenty. Just make it twenty.

I made it to 19.

I lost it. I slowly started to fade back from the 4:25 group and as the seconds ticked, I saw my buddy get smaller and smaller and smaller til I could no longer see him.

My head began to rain negativity. Couldn’t you have made it one more freaking mile? You’re so close to slow down now! What the hell is going on?

I texted my husband at mile 20 that I needed him. I had slowed down considerably and could feel my legs burning, screaming in pain. They seemed to have become a separate entity, no longer part of me but its own person with its own needs and desires. They wanted to stop. My head, and my heart, didn’t.

Miles 20-25 were horrible. Absolutely horrible. I became emotional and even shed a few tears. Okay, a lot. I had been doing so good and had lasted so long that I couldn’t believe I couldn’t make myself keep going.

When my husband reached me at mile 22, I began to walk. I unclipped my water pack and handed it to him. He knew that talking was not something I wanted to do at the moment.

We walked for a few minutes until he said, “Let’s jog to that sign over there.”

We reached the sign and then began walking.

After about a minute or so, “See that bus stop?”

We went on like that for miles 22-25. I love that he didn’t pressure me to do anything more. That he didn’t say anything about me walking. That he stuck with me those awful miles when I felt like an absolute failure.

And I’ll never ever forget mile 25 when he said to me, “This is the last mile of your first marathon. Finish strong.”

It was one of my fastest miles of the race.

I didn’t meet my 4:30 goal and like I had hoped, when I crossed the finish line it didn’t matter. I was a marathoner! My 4:44:12 time made me so incredibly, ridiculously happy that I felt my smile couldn’t get any wider. I think I had the most cheesiest grin for my photo finish! (I’ll have to post it when they release them lol!)

My husband stayed with me til the very end and took this pic of me approaching the finish line (running!) 🙂

Crossing that finish line=best feeling ever

Crossing that finish line=best feeling ever

I was handed my medal, my new favorite accessory, and my body immediately swelled with pride.

Seriously, how beautiful is this medal??

Seriously, how beautiful is this medal??

I was herded to the finisher’s photo area where again, my husband took this awesome shot of me trying my hardest to smile and not collapse.

Yep, I'm a finisher!

Yep, I’m a finisher!

I then took advantage of the free post race massages they were having. Oh, you bet I did. Afterwards, I couldn’t even stand up. I told my husband to get the car; I was ready to go.

On our way home, I began thinking back on the race. I said to myself, “Next time, I’m going to…”

Yes, I said next time. There will definitely be a next time. 🙂

–No questions today but I want to thank all of you for your kind words of encouragement and support the last couple of days. I’ve been resting and recuperating and reading your comments on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook has been the best ever. Thank you for following my journey; however, this is not the end. I have so much fun stuff coming up that I can’t wait to share with you!