An Interview With Ultra Runner (and rock star) Melinda Howard

Heifers! I'm SUPER excited have a new feature here on the Run, Heifer, Run blog! I'm going to be interviewing people - inspirational people - mostly runners - and several fitness enthusiasts, as well as people who have lost weight, kept it off, people who are currently struggling, people who have overcome, etc.....  Everyone has a story and everyone has something valuable to share and contribute to our community.  If you have something you'd like to share, and would like to be considered for an interview, email us

I wanted to kick off my FIRST interview ever on video -- but I'm stuck in 2004 when it comes to technology, so while I wait on Amazon to drop my webcam into my front yard via drone (that's a thing now, right?)  this first interview is being done via email questions and answers, with the help of some fab amazing photos from Melinda.  She's really quite amazing - sit back, grab a cuppa cawfee, and check this out:

I "met" Melinda online.  I use Twitter (for a good time call @MelissaKahn7 - or something like that...er....ummm...anyway...)  I connected with her because we share a love of running.  But her love of running is crazy-awesome (whereas mine is really just kind of crazy).  After reading her tweets for a while, it became obvious that she's no ordinary runner.  She's got some serious goals, and she knows how to crush them.  Y'all, she's a role model.  Without further adieu.... let's talk with Melinda:

MooLissa:  You lost a significant amount of weight.  How much did you lose?

MooLinda: You asked how much weight I've lost.  First off, I think my height should be added here because my weight might not seem as significant to a person who is 6'.  I am 4'11" and at my peak weight, I weighed in at 275 pounds.  This pic is about 50 pounds shy of my 275 pounds.  I wouldn't let anybody near me with a camera by that point.

Melinda at about 225 pounds

Melinda at about 225 pounds

I ended up losing 170 pounds over a 3.5 year period.

MooLissa: Were you overweight your whole life? If not, what was the reason you gained weight to begin with?

MooLinda: Most of my adult life, I was on the thin side.  I had been an aerobics teacher and a certified personal trainer.  I had also been a youth director at the local "Y." My life had been that of lots of activity.  Even after my kids were born, I left the hospital in regular jeans.  No maternity clothes after the babies were born.  I was soooo sick of my maternity clothes by then, I couldn't bear the thought of wearing them one more day! LOL!!

MooLissa: What made you decide to get healthy?

MooLinda: (backstory): We had moved to Colorado and were living at about 8,000' elevation.  That elevation got to me and I became sick.  Couldn't breathe.  It was pretty awful.  The doctors put me on bunches of different medications and as a result, I gained all that weight.  A lot of it was from the medication, but after you gain 100+ pounds and you're still eating healthy, you get to the place where you say, "What's the point?" and just eat whatever.  It was discouraging.

After 10 years, we moved down "to the valley." This meant 5,600' elevation. It wasn't enough.  We had waited too long to move, so after 2 years, we made the move to Mississippi (215' elevation). My sister and her family live in Mississippi, and we thought it would be fun to be close to her for a while.

The move turned out to be the best thing ever.  I found a new doctor who gradually weaned me off of all those meds and gave me a new lease on life.

What made me decide to get healthy?  Well, while I was being weaned off the meds, we didn't pay close enough attention to my blood levels on certain meds.  I went toxic on one and almost died.  I forgot how to eat.  I didn't know who MFH (My Favorite Husband) was.  I remember thinking, "What a nice man. He's kind of cute, too!" I would look at pics of my kids when they were little and think, "what cute little kids! I wonder whose they are?"

By the time I came out of that terrible fog, I realized I had lost 30 pounds.  I thought to mysel, "Sweet!" It was at that point I thought that maybe there was hpe and I could get back to being thin-ish and healthy again.

MFH and I went to the bookstore and bought cookbooks.  Diabetic cookbooks. I knew that a diabetic diet was supposed to be healthy and I didn't want to cut corners.  My goal was to do this the "right way." We brought the cookbooks home and I started cooking.

With the help of those books, I learned how to use herbs and spices to flavor food instead of relying on fats and salt.  I learned portion control.   Those cookbooks were great!

I also joined MyFitnessPal at this time.   Here I logged every single bite I put in my mouth.  I learned about hidden calories. I learned about balance.  I learned about forgiveness because we all have days where we mess up an don't eat as we should.  I made friends! I'm still friends with some of those people today! Terrific people on MFP.
 

MooLissa: Were your friends supportive of your effort to lose weight as you became more and more successful? How did those relationships change?

MooLinda: MFH (My Favorite Husband) is my rock. He is my cheerleader.  He supports me. Always.  They broke the mold when they made this guy. Iam blessed! My friends on MFP were supportive! The rest of my family (meaning my parents) were very much not supportive.  I think there was jealousy there. Jealousy that I was actually losing the weight and sticking to the plan. They didn't like it at all.  This still makes me sad.  I guess that's why the support and encouragement from MFH is such a blessing. I can always count on him.

MooLissa: What type of program or exercise routine did you stick to in order to lose your excess weight?

Moolinda: When I first started to clean up my diet, I joined a gym and began doing water aerobics.  The women in the class were so much fun! I really enjoyed the water classes.  After a while, I added a little bit of weight training to the water aerobics classes. By eating healthy and doing these classes, I dropped about 80 pounds.

MooLissa: How did you start running?

MooLinda: It was all of 2011 and my sister asked me to do the C25k program with her.  Mississippi State University was offering the program and she didn't want to do it by herself. Bear in mind, I had been exercising three days as week at the pool so I didn't think C25K would be all that hard.

HA!!!!

I about died.  Hahahaha!!! C25K turned out to be one of the most difficult and challenging things I have ever done. I was just a few pounds under 200 pounds at this point, so I was still a pretty hefty short person and here I was trying to run.  Seeing as I had made a promise to my sister to do the program, I trudged through the program and ran the celebratory 5K at the end of the program.  That 5K took me 58 minutes! I'm the short lady in the middle:

Melinda, in the middle

Melinda, in the middle

It was a hilly course and I thought i was going to die. MFH ran it with me and he was awesome! When I got tired, he would sing the Hawaii 5-0 song. He would hula dance up the hills to take my mind off the fact that it was a BIG hill. When that song didn't work anymore, he would switch to the Rocky theme song. I give him all the credit for that first 5K.

When I finally crossed that finish line, I was soooo hooked!!! I knew I HAD to do it again. That was five years ago and now I"m training for my first 100 mile race. That race is my birthday present for my 55th birthday this coming February.

MooLissa: How many days in the gym do you spend cross-training now?

MooLinda: When I first started running, I was still doing a lot of lifting.  As I began training or my first marathon, I just physically couldn't do it all anymore.  My husband kindly said I should probably choose one or the other.  I chose running.  Now my cross training is cleaning house and mowing.  Whee? I do planks a lot to keep my core strong.

MooLissa: Did you hire a running coach to improve your form?

MooLinda: Yes, I did! I'm with a great coach that is training by my HR (Heart Rate) and Time.  That's what we did for my training for this fall's Berlin Marathon.  Now that I'm training for a 100Miler, we're still training by heart rate but also by distance and time.  So far, so good!

MooLissa: What's been your biggest challenge in maintaining your weight loss?

MooLinda: Wow, I can think of more than one! Age is probably my number one challenge.  Let's face it, leaning on 55 yeas old, I'm not a spring chicken.  At least not in the goals I have. I love the longer distances. Speed is not my friend so I need to go where my strengths are my assets.  Ultra running is the logical choice.  I can run a long, long time...just not very fast.  I'm kind of like the little Energizer Bunny.

That being said, at 55, I don't have a lot of years where I can keep running these distances so I'm trying to squeeze in as many great races as I can.  I'm having so much fun doing it, too!

Because I'm running a lot of miles, I get tired.  Plain and simple.  My rest days are sacred.  Don't mess with my rest days!!! I need them.  My house? Holy cow!!!

 

We can all relate, MooLinda, we can all relate! LOL

We can all relate, MooLinda, we can all relate! LOL

MooLissa: How long have you been running?

MooLinda: I've only been running 5 years.  I don't claim to be an expert. I'm not a nutritionist. I'm just a middle aged housewife in rural Mississippi who likes to run.

MooLissa: If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting to run, what would that be?

MooLinda: If somebody asked my advice on getting started I would without hesitation, recommend C25K.  Even though it was super-hard, I firmly believe it's the best way to get started

The other thing I would most strongly recommend is to get fitted for running shoes...immediately! Stay current on those shoes! They'll still look "pretty" but if your knees/shins/hips are talking to you, time to replace them no matter how new they look!

Women, get a sports bra. Take the time to find one that doesn't pinch or let you bounce. Nobody wants to be sporting black eyes from their girls bouncing.  Replace your sports bra when you replace your shoes.  Your sports bras lose their effectiveness, too!

If you're a long time runner wanting to take it to the next level...sign up for the race! Once they have your money, you're committed. ind a program or a coach and start training! It'll be a challenge but once you succeed? BOOM!!!  You'll be oozing awesomeness all over the place!! Do it! Do It! Do it! Do it! Do it!!!! Who knows? Maybe you'll reach Chuck Norris' level of awesomeness!

DO IT!

DO IT!

MooLinda: here's a few current pics of me:

 

This is a friend of mine I met for the first time "IRL" (in real life) at the Berlin Marathon! What a fun day!

This is a friend of mine I met for the first time "IRL" (in real life) at the Berlin Marathon! What a fun day!

...and of course, every training and race is all for my iRun4 buddy, Aiden. #IRun4Aiden!

...and of course, every training and race is all for my iRun4 buddy, Aiden. #IRun4Aiden!

Aiden

Aiden

WOW!!!! If Melinda hasn't inspired you, you might be a couch potato.  THANK YOU so much, Melinda, for being an amazing inspiration and role model to so many people who might be struggling right now, either to start, or to take things to the next level!  You, my friend, are amazing!

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