When Lucy Del Gaudio crossed the finish line of the all-women New York Mini 10K in 2017—her first race ever—she knew she had crossed into a better way of life.
“[That race] kickstarted something in me,” says Del Gaudio, 49, who is set to run Saturday in the New York Mini 10K, which will return to Central Park with 3,000 expected finishers after being canceled last year due to the pandemic. “It feels good that I’m going to be doing it again. Running has become part of my healing process.”
The U.S. Army veteran and mother of four says for years she suffered in silence with the trauma of being sexually assaulted in 1992 by a military superior.
After Del Gaudio left the Army in 1998, she struggled with weight and developed high blood pressure. In 2014, she finally spoke openly about her sexual assault and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She was put on what she calls “a cocktail of meds,” which made her gain more weight.
“At the end of 2016, they told me I would become diabetic, and I said, ‘Oh no, I can’t do this,’” she recalls. “I took the plunge and started to run.”
After years of declaring running wasn’t for her, Del Gaudio became a runner at age 46. Since then, Del Gaudio, who lives in Belleville, New Jersey, and works as an engagement and culture manager for Prudential Financial, completed the New York City and Marine Corps marathons and dozens of other races.
“She had to be ready, and one day it clicked,” says friend and fellow U.S. Army veteran Petri Martinez, who ran with Del Gaudio in that first Mini 10K. “She was determined to get the weight off and keep it off.”
Not only has she lost 131 pounds, Del Gaudio has turned to running for her PTSD, as it makes her feel calmer and happier and cope with her past trauma. Almost every morning, she wakes up at 5:30, puts on her running shoes, and heads out the door.
“That first mile I do is my meditative mile. It helps me breathe. It makes me feel very positive about where the day is going to take me,” she says.
It also gives her an opportunity to reflect on how she can help others. In addition to raising $15,000 for veterans’ causes and $3,000 for multiple sclerosis through running, Del Gaudio has become an advocate for women in the military who have suffered abuse.
Drawing from her own horrific experience, Del Guadio testified last July to The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel on problems with the military’s sexual harassment and misconduct reporting system. Just weeks earlier, the remains of missing Fort Hood soldier Vanessa Guillen were recovered. Authorities believe she was killed by another base soldier, Army Spc. Aaron Robinson, who later died by suicide.
On the morning of her testimony, Del Gaudio prepared by rising early and hitting the streets of Washington, D.C.
“That run felt different for me because I was testifying on behalf of Vanessa Guillen. She was a runner as well, and I felt the connection,” she recalls. “I felt like I had to be a voice for her. It was one of those crying runs.”
Although Del Gaudio will turn 50 this year and soon become a grandmother, her life as a runner is still taking off.
This fall, she plans to run her second NYC Marathon and will use the race to raise money for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit for military families known as T.A.P.S. And she continues to share a powerful message with other women about surviving and thriving.
“It’s never too late to heal,” she says. “It’s never too late to take care of yourself. It’s never too late to love yourself.”