Name: Dawn Desarmeau
Location: Trenton, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Financial Management Clerk
Start Weight: 284 pounds
End Weight: 184 pounds
Time Running: 10 years
Growing up, I stayed active by being involved in team sports. But once I had children, I had a hard time losing weight, and I became less active. After I had my second child in 1999, my weight ballooned to close to 300 pounds; I was very lethargic and had no motivation.
At this point, I decided to have my first weight-loss surgery. It was a success in the beginning, but ultimately I needed to have two more procedures. In 2010, when I was 40 years old, I was fortunate to travel to the United States to have revision surgery, which helped me lose 144 pounds. Now, 11 years post-op, I am still maintaining a 100-pound loss.
I started running in 2011 because I knew I needed to exercise in order to lose weight. I followed inspiring and motivating runners on social media, and I knew this was something I needed to at least try. One day I decided to run outside at night so no one could see me. I ran from street light to street light because it was all I could do. But once I felt comfortable, I joined a gym and ran every day on the treadmill, followed by weights.
I ran five times a week in the gym before work for 30 minutes at a time, and I would try to run a 5K in that time frame. In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing and never followed a plan. But I ran my first half marathon in 2012 and trained solely on the treadmill.
These three tips helped make my running journey a success.
Tip 1: Run the mile you are in. Do not focus on how long the run is or your pace—just focus on each mile at a time. Runners can overthink the run, so just break it down mile by mile.
Tip 2: It is okay to walk. You are no less a runner if you take walk breaks. There is no way I would have finished a 50-miler in warm weather without multiple walk breaks. Even if you walk, you are still a runner, and each time your foot makes contact with the ground is getting you closer to the finish.
Tip 3: Your race, your pace. Do not compare yourself to anyone other than the person you see in the mirror. That is your only competition. Do not think of yourself as a lesser runner because you do not run elite paces.
Before starting my weight-loss journey, my diet was atrocious. Fast food, soda, donuts and chocolate were daily staples. I also loved donuts, and I remember one time buying six donuts and eating them in my car before my shift at work.
When I underwent revision surgery, I went vegetarian/vegan, and stayed with that diet for about four years. I started adding in more animal protein, and now I consider myself “plant-centered,” since most of my diet is plant-based. My favorite meal is rice and beans, and if I really want to carb it up, I throw that in a wrap for a burrito.
Dawn’s Must-Have Running Gear
→ Hoka One One Running Shoes: I own probably 10 pairs and rotate them to keep them fresh and extend their life.
→ Alter Ego Running Hat: These are by far the best hats for running. The laser-cut design is breathable and so comfy.
→ Orange Mud Hydration Packs: I am a very salty, sweaty runner, and I carry hydration when it’s hot and humid. If I am running a short distance (up to five miles), I will typically just use a handheld bottle. If I’m going longer, I use a vest.
→ Garmin Watch: I need my running watch. It is an obsession. I like to know how far I am, what my current pace is, but most importantly, my heart rate (HR). If I am running too fast and my HR is elevated, I know to slow myself down and get into a better zone. I like HR training and getting into a comfortable rhythm when running. Running does not always have to be about distance or pace.
Right now, I am training for the Boston Virtual Half and Full Marathon. I am using the Hal Higdon Novice 1 training plan and modifying it to suit me. I turned 50 years old this past year, and my goal was to run a 100k, which I achieved! I love the Yeti challenges, and they had a 100k option where you ran every four hours for 48 hours to get to the 100k distance. I participated in that race this past April, and I did it all on the treadmill for safety reasons. It was a much more mental experience than anything. Physically it was hard, but running 100k on a treadmill is a different experience!
I have maintained a 100-pound weight loss for 11 years. Running and revision surgery saved me. I wake up now looking forward to putting on my shoes and knowing my body has not failed me. When I weighed 284 pounds, I would never get up at 5 a.m. to run double-digit miles on the weekend, but that is something about which I’m now excited. I am proud of all my accomplishments, especially having run distances from 5K all the way up to 100K. For a 50-year-old, I am a pretty badass runner.
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