To say that running saved my life is, well, an understatement.

In July 2009, I weighed 271 pounds and was well on my way to any number of health problems: diabetes, heart disease, you name it. What’s more, this “I-love-kids” woman suffered from very irregular periods and there was a good chance that she might never have kids of her own. I was sad. And felt like so much was out of my control.

And then I sat on a toilet seat that cracked and latched itself onto my bare bootie. Embarrassing. And a wake-up call.

It was then that I decided to take control of my life. I started with Weight Watchers and baby steps — walking, slowly at first, one foot in front of another. Until I worked myself up to running my first-ever-in-my-life mile without stopping. It was slow. But I did it. And I cried.

Fast-forward to January 2013. I weigh almost 100 pounds less than I did in 2009. I’ve run countless races, including the Metro Health Grand Rapids full marathon, several half marathons and countless races of all distances from a 5k to 26.2 miles. In 2011, my “year of races,” I ran 24 races and served as a Fitness Ambassador for Gov. Snyder at the Mackinac Bridge Labor Day Run. And then in 2012, I rediscovered running for the sake (and the love) of running, and received recognition from the Michigan Fitness Foundation for my efforts to lose weight, get fit and share my story.

Running isn’t something that came naturally to me. After a few years as “a runner,” it still isn’t something my body is naturally inclined to do. But, golly, if it doesn’t make me happy. And strong. And in control of my life.

No matter the weather, I’m out there running — rain, shine, snow, wind. People ask me how I can do it, why I run. My response? Because I can. Running is my safe place, my therapy and my self-improvement book. Running is about being able to do things I wasn’t able to do before because I didn’t take care of my (whole) self. Running is about making myself better, healthier, happier.

I run so I can live.