June’s Featured Plus Size Athlete - Johanna, Runner & Triathlete

Have you ever wonder what it would take to complete back-to-back races?  I’m not talking about back to back weekends, but DAYS!  I have but haven’t pulled the trigger yet.  But you know who did?  Johanna, our June Featured Plus Size Athlete.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Johanna, Born To Reign Athletic’s June Featured Plus Size Athlete

Johanna is a 39 year old athlete,  based in Raleigh, North Carolina.  While she prefers the swimming overall when it comes to a triathlon race, this highly motivated athlete can’t resist the running bling. In one weekend, she picked up 3 medals doing back-to-back races participating in the 2015 Dolphin Challenge as part of the Anthem Sharmock Half Marathon weekend (she walked 8 km on Saturday, followed by 21km on Sunday), and now she has her eyes set on doing the Diva 1/2 Marathon in Puerto Rico.

Johanna’s athletic lifestyle started back in 2008, and along the way, what support she has received, she’s given back to the community, as a volunteer mentor with the North Carolina Roadrunners Club (a beginner running program) and currently a mentor with Tri It For Life (TIFL).

1. When did you get started into running/walking/triathlon, and how did you get involved?  Did you belong to a group, have a coach etc?

My running career stated in 2008 with North Carolina’s Roadrunner’s Club (NCRC) Women’s Beginner Running Group (WBRG) as a beginner runner. Their target race was Women’s Distance Festival. This marked my 2nd 5K.  I found out about WBRG after seeing a shirt on a lady in TOPS (Taking Off Pounds Sensibly) weight loss support group. My triathlon career started in 2014 as an athlete with Tri It For Life (TIFL) Raleigh. I trained for my 1st sprint Triathlon, Ramblin’ Rose Raleigh. I was first introduced to TIFL by a few ladies from TIFL-Charlotte as we were riding together on the SAG wagon at Diva North Myrtle Beach.

2. What have you learned about yourself from embracing the athletic lifestyle?  And how has that changed the way you care for yourself now?

I have discovered that I can do anything I put my mind to even when my body wants to quit and call a taxi. I have learned that recovery is just as important as training. After any big race, I am always going to see my chiropractor and get a massage.

3. Has your self-talk around body love and body image changed at all, since becoming involved in athletics?

I am not obsessed with the fact that I don’t look like the “traditional” athlete. A 5 minute mile is still the same as my 20+ minute mile.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Johanna, after crossing the finish line at the Ramblin’ Rose Triathlon

4. The thought of being last in a race because one is plus size and slower, is enough for people not to want to get out there and participate.  Fear of judgement.  Did you ever go through that experience and if so, how did you overcome it?

Most races I am Dead Last (DL). Over the 7 years I have been in this race world, I have embraced being DL. I love having my own personal escort aka the police sweeper. I participated in a local Saint Patrick’s Day 8K. The sweeper and I were just making away on the course. Majority of the runners were heading back to the finish, one runner made a comment “Are you sweeping the slow people” The sweeper replied” No I’m sweeping the fast runners who get injured” I told him “nice response.” As a friend of mine has told me “Your race, your pace” That’s what I firmly believe.

5  What made you decide to do back-to-back races such as the Dolphin Challenge, and how did that impact your training compared to if you were just doing the stand-a-lone half marathon?  What training advice do you have for others who want to do something similar?

I had heard about the Shamrock race from my fellow runners and triathletes. I knew about the Dolphin Challenge from researching the race in 2013. When I first read about the challenge, they only offered a pin, there was no challenge medal. One of my fellow TIFL sisters who is from Charlotte had posted pictures from the 2014 race on facebook. Friends of mine were thinking about doing the half marathon. I have been introduced to a term called FOMO (fear of missing out) so of course I was going to do the race as well. I had received an email about doing something special by fundraising with the LIVESTRONG foundation for the shamrock race. For the first time I I signed up to fundraise for a race. After signing up, I became obsessed with the 3 medals you received for the challenge. I contacted the LIVESTRONG foundation about changing my registration. I was told once I met my $500 fundraising commitment I would be able to register for the Dolphin challenge. For me the Dolphin challenge was about challenging myself to do something I’ve never done before, back to back races of an 8K and a half marathon. On the weekend of March 20-22 I completed the dolphin challenge.

I didn’t really change up my training. My race day plan was to take it nice and slow and walk the 8K on Saturday. For the half-marathon I would do my 30/30 intervals that I had been training with.

For anyone who is contemplating back to back races, I would recommend consistent training to build up your endurance, strength training to make you stronger and proper recovery. Recovery is just as important as training.

6. What criteria do you consider before signing up for a race, to ensure a positive race experience?

I need to know what the time limits are if it’s a running race particular for any half marathons I am considering. I have had the pleasure of being picked up a few times by the SAG wagon. I prefer to do half marathons that also have a full marathon happening at the same time. When I make it to the finish line, I am coming in with the marathoners.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Johanna, celebrating her first triathlon with Tri It For Life sisters at the 2014 Ramblin’ Rose Triathlon

7. Your blog (http://johannashealthandwellnesslifestyle.blogspot.in/ ) contains lots of pics of you and your fellow athletes, we assume from the Tri It For Life community. When people ask us how to get started in any sport, one of the key points we recommend is finding support. Maybe a coach, a training group etc. Beyond the structured training plan that is provided, what valuable role has your fellow triathletes played in your success?

My TIFL family provided me the support system I needed to do complete my first triathlon. At every race, we wait for all of our TIFL sisters to cross the finish line. We also wait until the last person finishes. Everyone deserves to have someone cheer for them at the finish line. When I started on the run course, one of my TIFL sisters came up to me to cheer me on. After the swim and the bike, that was just what I needed to push me through through the last leg. When I crossed the finish line, one of my TIFL sisters was there to put my medal on me. My #TriTribe was there to cheer me on as I became a triathlete.

Johanna, thank you so much for sharing your story and your positive attitude of just getting out there and doing it.    You have our full support especially as you go for the Diva 1/2 Marathon.  We see a Tutu in your future.

About the Author:

Krista is the Founder of Born to Reign Athletics, a blog + portal website dedicated to motivating, educating and celebrating plus size women who unleash their inner athlete as a means of living a healthy life.  She is an award-winning multi-sport athlete in triathlon and indoor rowing, and is recognized as a global leader in plus size fitness and athletics.

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6 Responses to June’s Featured Plus Size Athlete - Johanna, Runner & Triathlete

  1. Liis June 24, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    Great piece! Loved reading about Johanna and her race journey. Grinning at my computer right now over so many points :)

  2. Samantha June 24, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    Wow! That is so awesome! So inspiring!

  3. Pamela June 24, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Way to go! I miss my running days, but can no longer do it because of my knees. I know all of the hard work and training you have put in. Even though I can no longer run, I have become a cycling fanatic. You are an inspiration to all of us girls! I love your attitude!

  4. Jessica L. June 24, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    This is so inspiring! I’ve told myself I can’t do back to back weekends, and now I don’t think I can let myself use that excuse.
    Congratulations on your accomplishments!

  5. Merlin June 24, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    I love hearing about the accomplishments of the featured athletes. It is so inspiring and motivating. I wish some of the support groups I see listed were in my area. Maybe I’ll start one. Congratulations Johanna!!!

    • Krista H. June 24, 2015 at 9:19 am #

      What area is that?

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