The Vegas Strip rocked ‘n’ rolled as the From Fat to Finish Line running tribe showed up to run alongside 40,000 participants at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.
The weather was perfect, the crowds were out in full force, and our team proudly showed up and showed off.
Though not an official FFTFL event, team members came from as far away as Atlanta, and the Northwest Territory of Canada to run with their From Fat to Finish Line teammates!
When it was 5K time on Saturday night, the non-running teammates excitedly cheered running tribe members across the finish line.
On Sunday it was showtime and they don’t call this the Rock N Roll race series for nothing! Team FFTFL arrived and kicked off the night by taking in the pre-race Snoop Dog concert. Soon after, the marathoners and half marathoners were off to their corrals and ready to start their races.
Team members Jason and Amy Clark came from the Dallas area with a few momentous goals ahead. This was not only Amy’s first half marathon but they decided to renew their vows as part of the Run-Through Wedding Ceremony on the course! Only in Vegas!
Amy and Jason Clark ready to race and renew vows!
Kudos to teammates Teri Brown and Deborah Moe who ran their first official half marathons. Congratulations to Colin Jackson who returned to tackle all 26.2 miles of the full marathon course.
A special shout out to Shawn Gallagher who ran FOUR races in two states, including two half marathons!
Wish you could run with running tribe, From Fat to Finish Line, in Las Vegas, you can! Mark your calendar for November 2017 because next year we are making it an official event. Stay tuned for details, dish and discounts in the months ahead.
Want to learn more about our running tribe? Make sure to sign up for our newsletter and join our Facebook group.
Recently I toed the starting line to the TCS New York City Marathon. The morning of the race, I arrive less trained than I would like but I know my Jersey Women Strong and FFTFL running tribes are behind me and I am excited and determined to get to the finish line. Although nervous about what the day might bring, I can’t help but feel a swell of appreciation for it all. To start with, I am grateful for the support that so many friends and family has shown by donating a combined $3100 to the autism organization I am running for.
THE START LINE
I feel lucky that I am healthy and strong and that I am going to run the greatest city in the world again. And I am fortunate to randomly run into a brand new From Fat to Finish Line running tribe member, Walter, on the bus to the starting line. So far so good!
Jen and Walter pre-race still dark and early!
As the morning goes on, the sun comes up and friends arrive to the runner’s village. My running buddy Ann, our friend Megan and I run into the one and only Meb! It’s a good sign from the running Gods that today is a good day to run a race.
Ann, fellow FFTFL running tribe member Dominic and I wait around for our wave to start and finally we are off! The first few miles are glorious, we feel strong and the crowds are amazing. Ann soon breaks off and Dominic and I decide to stick together.
My legs become pretty angry at me early on. The weaknesses in my training (including the lack of hill work) shows up sooner than expected. By mile 8 my legs feel tight, which is worrisome considering I have 18 more miles to go! Hurting, negative thoughts begin to creep up. This is nothing new – if you saw me during my second Ragnar Relay leg in the movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Luckily just as the first wave of potentially undermining thoughts threatens to undo me, I see my old friend Joe, his family and this giant sign! How can you possibly feel bad after seeing that!?
So, I carry on. By now I’m smart enough to know that any negative thoughts will not be healthy or helpful. I have learned that the power of the mind is incredible. Maybe I can’t control how my legs are feeling but I can (kinda) control my thoughts. I think of mantras and focus on my breathing.
HALF WAY THERE
Around mile 13 Dominic and I catch up with his younger brother, Tim. This is both of their first marathons and they are happy to find one another out there. They pick up the pace but my own pace dwindles. I struggle to keep up and fall behind. Around mile 17 or so I make a decision to let them go. I need to finish this race at my pace. I need to dig deep for me.
Dominic, his brother Tim and I stopping for a quick picture
As Dominic and his brother fade off in the distance I find myself needing a little TLC. I am freezing. I look up to see a Dollar Tree store right there in front of me. It may be unconventional, but since my time makes no difference at this point, I run off course and into the store. The warmth of the store envelopes me like a pair of fuzzy slippers. I feel instantly better and grateful for the break! I quickly find a pair of fleece gloves, pay for them and am back on my way. It’s just me, my gloves, 16% of battery life on my phone and nine more miles.
I put my head down and get to work. I play a few songs that make me happy. One of the songs is, “Raise You Up” from the Broadway Musical, Kinky Boots. There is a line in that song that always resonates with me, “You change your world when you change your mind.” And I decide it is time to change my mind. This is a hard but epic day. There is just one way home and that is through the finish line. I could drag my butt and psyche myself out or I could psyche myself up.
Almost at the finish line
As I run, I think, “Sure this is hard, but Autism is harder and that’s what you’re here for.” I think about how lucky I am to have love and support. I think of my Weight Watcher friends, my Jersey Women Strong team, my family and my From Fat to Finish Line running tribe all tracking me. Knowing that I have all of these people watching my progress on the TCS New York City Marathon app, watching for updates and cheering me on from afar truly keeps me going. I am not out here alone – I am out here with all of you. (And Taylor Swift, who’s “Welcome to New York” song may or may have not been played a few times).
THE FINISH LINE
The ugly cry is on. The finish line is straight ahead.
As I near the finish line, I choke up. This is happening. I ran 26.2 miles and I got there because of love, support, family and friends. From my running buddies who were with me through training, to those who supported my charity, to Walter, Ann and Dominic there the day of the race and all the people following my journey at home – it really takes a village to get to the finish line.
Crossing the Finish Line
It took me more than seven hours and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I am so very thankful.
If you are looking for a great running tribe to help you get to your next finish line, find us here! Share your running journey and tell us what you’re thankful for.
From Fat to Finish Line 5K finishers pose for a boozy post-race photo-op
The hills were alive with the sound of running in Fountain Hills, AZ when team From Fat to Finish Line showed up in force to take on the final Road Runner Sports Craft Classic race of the season.
It may have been hilly and hot but with the promise of beer at the finish line the team was ready for the challenge. Once again FFTFL teammates showed up from all over the country to run and support one another across the finish line.
After being inspired by the From Fat to Finish Line documentary film and finding the group, Janet Simonson-Fekete decided to travel all the way from Montgomery, New York to run with the team! She started her day at 2:30 AM and flew stand-by on three different flights only to arrive in Las Vegas, NV and still hours away! Janet didn’t let that stop her. She rented a car and drove through the night to join the team at the expo. Despite some tricky and uncertain travel, Janet went on to rock her 5K and finish her race strong.
Janet Simonson-Fekete runs strong.
Carolyn Train, who found the team at the Atlanta Craft Classic, traveled from Georgia so she could support the team and volunteer all weekend. Carolyn was a welcomed sight at the finish line! She not only celebrated the victories pouring in but offered up post race support by providing snacks and some icy-cold bandanas to cool down hot runners. Carolyn credits finding team From Fat to Finish Line for re-inspiring her on her quest for health and weight loss.
Quick pic of some of the team pre-race – Carolyn Train (far right) made the trek from Georgia to offer support at the finish line
Finally, we were thrilled to meet our Craft Classic Grand Prize winner, Kevin Laufer from West Allis, WI! Kevin was selected amongst thousands of entrants to win a trip for two to run Phoenix with the team! Kevin’s fitness goals include running a different half marathon each month so this prize was perfect for him! In addition to winning free airfare, hotel accommodations and race entry fees, Road Runner Sports hooked Kevin up with some pretty sweet Adidas Supernova running shoes, as well as R-Gear, socks and custom insoles.
Kevin enjoying his From Fat to Finish Line victory
We came, we saw and we conquered the hills!
While Phoenix was the last ‘official’ team race for 2016, team members are showing up all over the country in races everywhere. There will be a big From Fat to Finish Line gathering at the Rock N’ Roll Vegas races in November. If you’re running Vegas, join this group to connect with the team.
Want to join in on the fun? Find us on Facebook to make friends, share your finish line stories and hear about upcoming events!
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of fun and running as team From Fat to Finish Line traveled the East Coast for team events.
First stop was Old Orchard Beach, Maine for the Rev 3 triathlon series. While there we caught up with Jen Small (one of the original members of the FFTFL Ragnar team featured in the film) and also rooted on FFTFL team members Sarah Charette and Michele Anderson who both participated in triathlon events.
Michele triathlon ready in Maine
Next we took on hurricane Hermine the weekend of the Rock N Roll Virginia Beach 5K and half marathon. After a very stormy start to the weekend, the hurricane cleared out and left us with near-perfect running weather for the races.
From Fat to Finish Line founders Angela and Jen alongside teammates Jarmilla, Tracy, Colleen and Ken
Finally, we landed in Atlanta, GA to take part in the Road Runner Sports Craft Classic race series.
Teammates Kim, Nora and Tracy at the Road Runner Sports Atlanta Craft Classic expo
Team member Tracy Davison flew all the way from upper Canada near the Arctic Circle to run the half marathon in Virginia Beach and then run the 5K in Atlanta and rocked them both!
It was exciting to connect with our teammates as well as meet new running friends at the expos. We heard stories about how running and walking have impacted and changed their lives. Some of the race entrants started running as a way to manage diabetes, stress, and age-related weight gain. Others had been runners but got sidelined by life events and are now returning to an active lifestyle.
Join us when we run the Road Runner Sports Craft Classic race in Phoenix on October 16, 2016! If you haven’t already, enter to win a trip to run in this race – airfare, accommodations, and race entry as well as shoes and swag from Road Runner Sports!.
To join our community or learn more about From Fat to Finish Line, find us on Facebook.
Part Two of Team SHINanigans Midwest Ragnar adventure as told by FFTFL member Melissa Clarke! Read Part One.
The Great River Relay was tough. It’s a beautiful but very hilly course. The nighttime runs were scary since our runners ran on country roads and it was pitch black. Cloud cover took away any chance of moonlight. It all just added to the adventure. A few rain showers and occasionally having to run on gravel surfaces also created some challenges.
Although the team was divided into 3 vans, we offered support to each other whenever we could. We kept in touch during the race and shared messages, videos, and photos. We cheered each other at the van exchanges and offered runner support whenever possible.
Doing a Ragnar brings people closer than you can ever imagined. You get to see your teammates at their best and at their worst. You have discussions about fitness and nutrition. You also discuss pooping, insect phobias, and other various odd topics. Sleep is limited to say the least. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. It is also one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever hope to have.
Meet Team SHINanigans – VAN 2
Van 2 was made up of some FFTFL members and others who joined through other running groups.
Runner #7: Tammy Holmer. Tammy has always loved running and has run 3 marathons. Tammy took a break from running when other things in life became more important and she focused on new adventures. Two summers ago, Tammy returned to running. Then, on August 14, 2014, Tammy was diagnosed with breast cancer. This put her running on hold. Tammy did not let cancer sideline her for long. On August 13, 2016, just two years after finding out she had breast cancer, Tammy completed her first Ragnar Relay with Team SHINanigans.
Runner #8: Vicky Douglas. Eight years ago, Vicky wanted to help her son get ready for the football season by running with him. She was surprised how hard it was. Vicky wanted to be able to run with 2 of her friends who were runners so she began secretly running. She was so excited when she finally ran her first mile. Unfortunately, six years ago, she had to have her ACL replaced. As soon as she was able, she began walking and then running again. Then, one of her running friends encouraged her to sign up for a couple of races. Tammy (Runner #7) got her to join in a “streaking” challenge, running one mile every day. When Tammy was diagnosed, Vicky ran a mile for each of them until the day Tammy came home from the hospital. Vicky has continued running and will complete her third Medtronic 10-miler in October and 6 days later, she will run her first half marathon.
Runner #9: Mark Fotsch. Mark was the only male on the team. He joined the team not knowing anything about the other runners, other than the fact that they were all female. He was brave. Since grade school, Mark has run marathons, triathlons, obstacle runs, and endurance runs. His biggest challenge, however, was surviving the Ragnar with his beautiful teammates.
Runner #10: Rachael Julson. Rachael has been a distance runner since high school cross country. About 5 years ago, she developed a heart condition that prevented her from running for several months. During that time, Rachael gained 20 lbs and she lost her running fitness. She signed up for a Ragnar in order to get back into shape. While training for the Ragnar, Rachael decided that running wasn’t for her and that she wouldn’t run again after Ragnar. That changed after she spent a weekend with 6 new friends, crammed in the SHINanigans Van 2. She’s now set a goal of running a marathon before she turns 40.
Runner #11: Heather Gehrke. At age 39, Heather set a goal to complete five 5Ks before she turned 40. She completed that and the following year she completed ten 5ks. This year, her goal was to run a Ragnar. She is already planning to run Ragnar Northwoods in 2017. Heather runs as a way to stay active.
Runner #13: Amber Robinson. Amber began running almost a year ago when her sister asked her to run the Yeti Challenge at the Polar Dash. A couple days after completing it, while her body was still in pain, she decided running wasn’t for her. Then her sister (Runner #10 / Rachael) asked her to sign up for the Ragnar Relay, so she did. Just before completing her third and final leg, Amber wrote off ever running again. She was physically and mentally exhausted and knew she didn’t want to run anymore. The last 1/10 mile of her run changed that. As she approached the finish line, she saw her teammates waiting for her. They were forming a cheer tunnel for her to run through. At that moment, it hit her: Running is about more than fitness. It’s about friendships. Friendships that challenge you, motivate you, and inspire you.
Says Melissa Clarke, “Crossing a Ragnar Relay finish line is more than just completing a race. As I ran through the finish line with my team, I realized the running part is just a small part of what a Ragnar Relay is about. It is about pushing yourself beyond your limits. It is about working together to achieve something amazing. It is about friendship and forming a bond with your teammates. It is the ultimate example of teamwork.”
Thank you to Team SHINanigans and Melissa Clarke for sharing your story!
Do you have Finish Line Success Story to Share? Tell us!
Our From Fat to Finish Line Ragnar story, submitted by Melissa Clarke.
From Fat to Finish Line (FFTFL) has created an amazing community and spirit of camaraderie. The group has brought people from all over the world together. And like the original team from the documentary, often members take on the challenge to run a Ragnar Relay Race! In 2015, a FFTFL member had an idea and reached out to the FFTFL Facebook group. That member created not just one, but two teams to run the Great River Ragnar Relay on August 12-13, 2016. Twenty-three people undertook the 2-day adventure that began in Winona, MN, crossed the Mississippi river into Wisconsin, continued up the western side of Wisconsin, and then finally traversed back over the river to Minnesota, and to reach the finish line in Minneapolis! All in the dead of summer.
Here’s a little bit about the adventures of one of those teams. Meet Ragnar team SHINanigans. Keep in mind, no one on the team had ever run a Ragnar before.
The Great River Ragnar Relay was quite the experience. Things started off rocky. A few days before the event, the team captain for Van 2 got a call from the car rental agency telling them the van they had reserved would not be available. After a day and a half of phone calls and stress, another 15 passenger van was located. Then, the day before the event, the captains of Van 1 went to pick up their van and were told by the rental company that the van they reserved 5 months ago and confirmed the week before was not available. The only solution was two 7-passenger mini-vans. While not ideal, there was no choice. The team decided that this was just the universe saying our team had so much awesomeness that several vehicles were needed to transport it!
Once the vehicle situation was resolved, we headed over to race registration. It was there we learned that due to flooding, runners 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 could not run their first legs. The solution was to have those runners run with teammates to get their miles in and then wait while a 4.5-hour hold would be imposed between the van exchanges. This unexpected twist actually worked in our favor. Teammates got to enjoy running together which made the time go by quickly. The big drawback, however, was that the flooding also took away the chance for Van 1 to get showers in after their run. Good thing for wet wipes! (Refreshing baby wipe, anyone?!) Unfortunately, it also meant our van didn’t get the opportunity to head to the designated sleeping spot – a gym floor. Sleeping now had to take place on the grass in a park and, and when the park didn’t work out because of rain, we ultimately wound up stuck in the vans. So much for sleep.
Meet Team SHINanigans – VAN 1
Van 1 consisted of FFTFL members who had met and run together at Rock N Roll Las Vegas in November 2015.
Runner #1: Bex Streeper. Bex had dabbled in running throughout her life and ran her first half marathon in 2009. After having two more children she found herself with unwanted weight gain. In 2014, she decided to get healthy. She lost her parents to various health issues and decided to take action. Since then, Bex has lost 80 lbs through making better food choices, running, and by participating in various fitness classes. She is currently training for her first full marathon.
Runner #2: Mia Cogliantry. Mia started running 2 years ago and along the way has lost nearly 100 pounds. She runs for both physical and mental health benefits. She has made some of her closest friends through running. Mia will soon be running her 8th half marathon. Looking back on the Ragnar experience, Mia mused, “We supported each other. We laughed, we cried, and we made dirty jokes. I am going to love these girls forever.”
Runner #3: Jarmila Carrie (Isha to her teammates). Isha started her marathon journey 16 years ago. Three years ago, she met Martha Kaiser, who suggested she join the FFTFL group. In order for her to succeed, Isha learned that she needs to surround herself with like minded people which is why the FFTFL group has been so important to her. She went into the Ragnar thinking it was ‘just a race’ but she learned it was so much more. It was about connecting with her “tribe.” At age 60, she is strong and shows us all that it’s never too late to live a healthy lifestyle.
Runner #4: Sarah Ward. Sarah has been an athlete since the age of 5 and she got involved in every sport possible, except running. Running felt like a punishment. Even as an athlete, Sarah was always overweight. As she got older and her activity level decreased, she gained even more weight. Then she came across a blog written by Katie Foster from the original FFTFL Ragnar team. Sarah was inspired to run and wanted to run a Ragnar. Sarah began training for a 5K, then a 10K, and then a half marathon. When the opportunity arose to join and run on a Ragnar team, she didn’t hesitate. She has learned that her running journey is about so much more than just weight loss.
Runner #5: Cindy Freeman. Cindy began her journey a year and a half ago. Since then, she has lost 57 lbs. Running and diet have been at the core of her success. The motivation she gets from the FFTFL group has helped her in her journey. When Cindy isn’t running, she can be found swimming with her beautiful dog or riding motorcycles with her wonderful husband.
Runner #6: Melissa Clarke. Melissa began running 3 years ago, at age 43. After a few 5Ks, she stopped due to the cold Iowa winters. In 2014, Melissa’s cousin convinced her to sign up for a half marathon. She had never run more than 3 miles prior to that race. In October 2014, she completed her first half marathon and was hooked on running. Since then, she has completed 5 half marathons and several 5Ks. She is currently training for her first full marathon. Running has shown Melissa that she is stronger than she realized. It has also brought so many wonderful people into her life. Through running, she has found another family.
Next week, meet Van 2 and learn how the rest of team SHINanigans Ragnar ran to the finish line!