13.1 Miles, Done and Done!

Looking pretty good for running 13.1 miles!

I did it!  I DID IT! Woohoo! OK, I just had to get that out of my system.

As you all know I have had major butterflies leading up to the big race last weekend. I went through the training program, had the usual ups and downs and the morning of the race I’ll admit I was down-right scared! I know it sounds really silly, but there are still times where my inner overweight girl tells me I won’t be able to do it. Thank goodness I had FITNESS’ very own Jenna Autuori-Dedić there cheering me on.  She literally looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, you totally got this!” Sometimes a simple encouraging word is all you need to give you that little push. By the time I got to the starting line I was ready to attack this challenge. My game plan was to really pace myself and keep a consistent speed the entire race.

So many people told me that I would want to book it in the beginning because of the excitement and adrenaline and boy, were they right! I wanted to sprint all out in the beginning, the excitement from the crowd and the runners was electric! Despite my desire to break the world record, I started off with a pace I knew I could sustain. I felt very strong for the first seven miles, they seemed to fly by. Around mile eight I hit my first wall. I was so thankful that I programmed some funny music on my playlist because right when I needed a boost RuPaul’s “Cover Girl” came through my headphones. It really made me laugh and was just the boost I needed.

There were multiple times throughout the race that I was very emotional. It was a little over a year ago that I was 261 lb, unhealthy and unhappy. Fast forward and I am running (running!) a half-marathon. This is what life is about! I have never been so proud of myself. To be honest I don’t really even remember miles 11 to 13, I was so fixated on finishing! As I crossed the finish line I fell into a huge puddle of tears. I did it and I ran every step. It was just another moment in my life where I was overwhelmed with thankfulness. The Biggest Loser not only helped me lose weight, they introduced me to my inner athlete. And I’ll tell you, she’s pretty cool.

I am so thankful for the FITNESS Magazine team. I can’t tell you how amazing the entire staff is! They truly care about people and helping us all become well-rounded, healthy individuals. I am thrilled to have had this experience and the opportunity to share my journey with its readers.

Health & Happiness,

Olivia Ward

Winner, Season 11 The Biggest Loser

A Beautiful Day for a PR

Finish line here I come! (And thanks to my cheerleader sister for snapping this pic!)

And that’s a wrap! As tired and cranky as I often was the past ten weeks with what I like to call my “big girl” training schedule, all the miles logged and workouts six days a week really did pay off. I soared through the finish line this past weekend at 1:50:27 (8:26-minute-mile pace), a full 30 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race and a PR for the course!

This was the first time in my racing career that I have really thought of myself as a more advanced runner. I knew what kind of energy gels I wanted, when to take them, how often to stop for water and how to preserve my energy to last the entire course. I still had some pre-race jitters and night before nerves, but I don’t think those ever really go away and to be honest, I wouldn’t want them to!

Sunday morning I joined the rest of the FITNESS team, including Olivia in Central Park before heading off to our corrals. Even though it was a tad early (7 a.m.!), it was super inspiring to see tons of women pouring into the park to pound out some asphalt together. Over 7,000 women finished and despite a few raindrops just before the start, the weather managed to hold out–whew! Looping around the park twice gave me a great chance to check out everyone’s signs and costumes. My personal favorite was a guy holding a sign for his girlfriend that read, “You run better than the MTA!” A+ for creativity for you, sir.

Next week I’m rewarding my legs with a trip to Mexico!  When I come back I’ll do a short training stint to get ready for the ten mile Blue Cross Broad Street Run in Philadelphia and after that, who knows!

For all the runners that ran this past weekend, I hope you enjoyed the race as much as I did. Time to set some new summer racing goals!

Ready for the Starting Line

Staying hydrated during the race clearly won't be a problem! (Photo courtesy of John Herr)

It’s the final countdown! Who is excited? I know this girl is! I can’t wait to run with everyone on Saturday, we are going to have a blast. Even though I am at the end of my training program, there are a few goals I set for myself in this last leg.

First, I want to up my water intake every day this week. I don’t want to have any hydration issues the day of the race, so by going into race day well hydrated I’ll be in great shape.

Second, I want to really take the time to enjoy my runs this week. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed them all, but there was always an agenda behind them. This week I just want to enjoy the ride and all my hard work. I feel like this is the point in training where you really relax a little. There shouldn’t be anything you need to change up at this point, so when I run I’m going to just take in each moment.

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Resting Up for Race Day

Seeing family and friends on the course helps to keep me going. Here, I think I'm reaching for a banana. (Thanks, Mom!)

Well here we are – race week! I’ve put in the miles and now I have to let myself taper, stretch and rest before the big day. Last week’s training started to slowly decrease mileage, and this week will be a big change, running only 4 to 5 miles a few times before the big 13.1.

Saturday morning I laced up my sneakers for my second NYRR run this month – the Scotland Run 10K. Not only was it fun to see everyone sporting their Scottish pride by wearing kilts and flags, they had bagpipers at every mile mark playing for the crowds!

After the race I needed to tack on an extra 4 miles to complete my long run, but instead I cut it short and went home. The past two weeks I have been feeling achier than usual and often exhausted, which is most likely from overtraining (yes, that is a bad thing!). By committing to a more difficult training schedule than you are used to you can risk doing too much, which then leads to injury. Getting injured the week of the half-marathon is something I would be none too pleased about should it happen. Here are some warning signs I’ve noticed that I was starting to overtrain:

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Speeding Up and Staying Safe

My GoSportID bands–the easiest way to sweat safely! (Photo courtesy of GoSportID)

I can’t believe we are less than two weeks away from the big run! I remember when I started training it seemed so far away. Now it feels like the time has just breezed by! Like most of you I’ve been trucking along logging these miles the past few weeks. And I can’t lie the long runs are hard. I pretty much feel like I’m going to die toward the end, but you know what? When I finish I feel like a million bucks and can’t believe I can actually run that long. It’s such a huge accomplishment for me.

My IT band still keeps me on my feet, but everything else this week was pretty smooth. I really have been trying to concentrate on my hydration (or lack thereof). I have a bad habit of not getting enough water before my run, and then during I am so thirsty. My goal is to up my water intake during the day when I’m not running, so that when it’s time to run I’m not chasing my hydration. Based on what I have read dehydration is something many long distance runners struggle with. Not only will being hydrated help me in running, the health benefits of getting enough water are huge! Who doesn’t want beautiful skin, hair and nails while running your race? Not only will we be speedy, but we’ll look good too!

Another thing I wanted to quickly share with you is in regards to safety. It is so important to have identification on you at all times while running, or working out in general. When I run I don’t like to carry a bunch of stuff. I know there are nifty fuel belts with pockets and all that jazz, but I like to run light. Thankfully, I came across a company called GoSportID when I left The Biggest Loser. They make these awesome safety bracelets that you can engrave your personal mantra on the front and all your emergency contact information on the back. The plate on the bracelet is made of surgical stainless steel and comes with tons of colorful bands you can switch out. Now when I go on my training runs I don’t have to worry about carrying ID and emergency contact info. It’s all right there on my arm! To grab one of your own, check out

Let the countdown begin!

Overcoming My Injury Fears

Keep your legs injury-free by taking time the time to stretch. (Photo courtesy of Laura Doss)

Since the beginning of my training I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. While I was at The Biggest Loser Ranch I seriously injured my IT band. I have mentioned this before, which is why all the icing and foam rolling has been crucial to my training. Up until this point I haven’t had any issues, but in the back of my mind I have been counting the minutes for this issue to flare up, and this week the other shoe finally dropped. It wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past, but that nagging knee pain was there toward the end of my long runs. I’m thankful it’s something I can work through, but it is disappointing at the same time.

I’m writing about all of this because it really got me thinking. I remember when I was on the ranch and Jillian Michaels told us that what you fear the most has a way of materializing. Interesting, right? I think it’s not just what you fear, but also what you focus on. At the risk of getting too philosophical, I think that in the back of my mind I was so fixated on waiting for my IT band to flare up that it finally did. Perhaps it would have flared up regardless, but it is still something to think about.

I’m sharing this with you because I’m hoping it will bring you some encouragement. I could have taken this situation as defeat and given up, or I could choose to move forward, learn something and do my best. I choose to overcome my fear. Does that mean that my IT band will stop acting up? Probably not, but it does mean that I can choose to not live in fear of that happening!

Can you believe we are getting so close? I can’t wait to see you all on the big day and run together! How has your training been going? Tell me about it in the comments below!

The Half-Marathon Diaries Are Back!

running shoes and sneakers hanging

Photo by Brian Maranan Pineda.

The annual More/Fitness Women’s Half-Marathon is April 15, and will once again be featuring the personal stories of two women training for race day. There will be a novice runner, as well as an advanced runner…and, well, we don’t want to say too much…but you’ve seen one of them on your television before. (!!)

You can get more details about the half-marathon at, @morefitnesshalf on Twitter, or /morefitnesshalf on Facebook.

Check back soon to follow our runners’ tales of training!