I Lost 80 Pounds…And Ran My 1st Marathon

26.2 in the happiest place on earth left Jenn Heist feeling stronger than ever.


jen heist

Jenn Heist
Age: 43
Little Rock, AR

I ran my first marathon after losing 80 pounds!

Standing in one of the last corrals at the start of the Walt Disney World Marathon this January, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Not only had I lost 80 pounds in the past year, but I was about to begin my first marathon in my favorite place on earth.

As I watched the fireworks explode over the line, I felt butterflies dance in my stomach. My coach, Tara Costa, a contestant on the seventh season of “The Biggest Loser,” sent me a text message minutes before I set off saying, “Just remember, you love to run.” And with those perfect words, I took the fi rst step of my 26.2-mile journey.

I crossed the start line and headed down Main Street in the park, still with disbelief that I was running in Disney. Just 12 months prior, I could never have imagined I would be capable of running. I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed I could run a marathon.

The first few miles went by in a blur—I was awestruck by the experience. As a Disney fanatic, I made sure to bring my phone so I could take pictures with the characters at every mile.

Related: How One Runner Ditched More Than 100 Pounds

I made it to mile 13, weaving through the Animal Kingdom Park, where I found two of my friends who had come to cheer me on. Seeing my girlfriends made a big difference and gave me a boost of energy to keep going. Not long after leaving my friends, I decided it was best to continue the race walking instead of running.

I’d received a diagnosis of compartment syndrome in both my knees eight weeks prior to race day. Though I never questioned I would finish the marathon, I knew that I would have to adjust my expectations.

Keeping a quick walking pace, I sent my coach a text message at mile 16 saying, “I can’t wait to come back and run this race next year.” Though my injury made it impossible to run for the entire course, I knew that it wouldn’t be the last time I’d  tackle this event.

Along the way, I met other runners and walkers as we shared our stories of running and how we each ended up sharing this experience.

After passing the 20-mile marker, I turned to a newfound friend and said, “We only have 10K to go!” We laughed at the thought that 6 miles somehow seemed short and knew it wouldn’t be long before that finish line was ours.

Related: Former Fitness Competitor Shares Her Body Love Tips

As I rounded the corner of the final stretch, I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to complete a marathon. I was so proud of myself for sticking to my goal. I crossed the finish line, collected my medal and for the first time, I realized that I’m full of grit and can accomplish physically hard things.

I can’t wait to get back to Disney in 2016 and see what magical running adventures lie ahead.

Running my first marathon taught me that I am mentally and physically stronger than I ever imagined. Though my injury caused me to doubt my ability, I battled through shaken confidence by believing that I can do difficult things. I made it to the finish line by channeling my inner strength and I can