©2019 by Runaway Redhead. 

Celebrating my Tribe: How I became a runner because of From Fat to Finish Line

Aktualisiert: 7. März 2019

written for From Fat to Finish Line

Running Would Change My Life

Little did I know that my life would completely, irreversibly change from one little decision that I made in winter 2013. When I decided to participate in a marathon relay with the company I was working with, I didn’t do it to lose weight or because I wanted to become a runner. I did it because I was wildly unhappy in my life. I couldn’t change anything about a job that made me miserable or a life that didn’t feel like the right fit for me anymore, so I took this opportunity because it would at least change my daily routine.

I started my training without any support and any knowledge about what I would have to do. Desperate for information on how to get started, I Googled everything I could about running but all the resources out there were either confusing, contradicting, or downright frightening, especially for an overweight girl that used to associate running with horrific school memories.

Trying to do this in Germany – a country that seems to only nurture a very elite running community, I felt utterly and completely alone on this path. I probably did everything wrong – except for buying running shoes and even that took me several months.

Finding From Fat to Finish Line

About a month before the race, my friend sent me the trailer to a documentary called “From Fat to Finish Line.” After watching it, I felt like I had a revelation. In those few minutes, I suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone. Other chubby and overweight people ran? It was a feeling I will never forget because it made me feel like I might actually be able to do this. Until that moment, I was doubtful that I would be able to actually run my race. Seeing other overweight runners like me made me hopeful.

I looked for the movie but soon realized that it hadn’t been released yet. However, I found the Facebook movie page and immediately sent a message. The wonderful Rik Akey, a runner in the movie and now our head coach, answered me and did his typical Rik thing: he made me believe that I could do it.

What I didn’t know was that he also spoke to the rest of the team behind the movie to let them know how many people were actually asking for help, looking for support and sending messages every day. It wasn’t just me. Every day, more and more people sought out the movie page seeking help on their journey. Now, even people from across the ocean were asking them for help.

A Community is Formed

The team behind the From Fat to Finish Line documentary decided they wanted to give all those people what they really needed – a community. And so, the team created and launched a Facebook group March 21, 2014. I was their first member from Day 1. I was also their first and only German and European member.

In the beginning, the community consisted of a couple hundred people who quickly became a tight-knit group. Friendships were built that went beyond sharing struggles and achievements about their individual running journeys. Over the course of the following year, all of us became even closer friends. Milestones for our members were reached.

I crossed my first finish line in April 2014. Despite vowing that I would only do this one race to show myself and the world that I could do it and then stop, I continued on my running journey. Because of my first successful race, I started dreaming of things that I never even would have considered before I met other people in the FFTFL community who literally walked in my shoes.

This community so quickly became the source of my motivation, my inspiration and also my second family. We started becoming a tribe.

Meanwhile, our numbers grew steadily even though the movie had yet to be released. It became apparent that there are many people like us in the community – those who struggle with their weight and want to run. Overweight runners are definitely not a minority within the running community. We are a strong group of people that are slowly but steadily changing how the world perceives us.

Almost exactly a year after I joined the From Fat to Finish Line community and started becoming more and more this person that was always hovering on the inside, I made a personal change that was long overdue. I quit my job at the end of March 2015. Back then, my job was the No. 1 source for everything that was poisoning my life and creating stress.

With the support of my FFTFL tribe, I cut this bitter part out of my life. I didn’t have anything new waiting for me. Instead, I wanted to really find myself. Being with the tribe for a year and becoming a runner showed me how I was truly lost for a long time. I didn’t know what I wanted my life to look like.

The Trip of a Lifetime

I made the decision to go on a trip – a trip of self-discovery. I made a post in the From Fat to Finish Line community that I wanted to finally fulfill a life-long dream to travel and see America. I asked the members if anyone would be interested in having me visit them. I expected maybe five people (of whom I was closest) to be willing and welcome me into their homes. After all, we were still strangers on the Internet even though we spent a lot of virtual time together in this Facebook community. I underestimated these wonderful people. What was originally planned as a four-week trip to a few places turned out to be a three-month journey through 23 U.S. states.

This community opened their houses, their lives and their families for me. Only four weeks after I quit my job, I was on a plane to America. I didn’t just stay with members. I made sure to meet as many other members as possible. I will never forget this amazing experience. Each and every person that I met tried to make my time with them the best time in the world. On this trip, I learned that I actually love working out. I tried new workouts other than running. I hiked through national parks, went whitewater rafting, made road trips, experienced major cities, visited Disney world, ran races, went paddle boarding, celebrated American holidays and created the memories of a lifetime.

FFTFL Community Blossoms

Not only did I make lifelong friends, but I also started a new chapter of my life. While visiting Angela Lee in Los Angeles, she told me about plans to expand From Fat to Finish Line from a documentary into a business. Angela and the team envisioned creating resources and building a platform so that struggling and overweight runners everywhere could find the support and anything else they need for their journey. They wanted to continue to nurture the tribe that was growing and growing, and invited me to be a part of it. Needless to say, I was beyond excited and completely on board with this plan.

We quickly started planning our first get-together and chose the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas race in 2015 to be our first, big offline meeting – or should I say, it chose us. Many of the original tribe members wanted to meet in person and thought Vegas would be a good place to do it.

Soon, more than 300 members decided to travel to Vegas to meet and run. We quickly recognized this was something important to the tribe and made it our first official event. I went back home to Germany only to come back a few months later to run my first half marathon with the tribe. Our first Vegas event was everything we ever imagined. We ran, walked, laughed and celebrated together. Not only did we have several people there who ran all distances of the race but we also had members run their first half marathon and first 5K. It was one big, emotional. and amazing celebration for all of us.

In early 2016, the business team got to work building the business to support our members. We developed training plans, such as our Run your First Mile training program, partnered with other brands to bring resources like discounts and challenges to the tribe, organized several events and our members started local Meetups all over North America.

With the release of the From Fat to Finish Line documentary on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon, our community has grown tremendously.

Since our first Vegas event, the tribe has come together for several different races in different states and even different countries. We had our first big International race in Dublin, Ireland, in 2017. Members from a whopping four different countries came together for a FFTFL race vacation.

From Fat to Finish Line’s history is so integrated into my own journey, that it was only natural to take over leading the community. I was there for most of our events, met so many of our members that I can truly say that FFTFL is a big part of my life. It’s my second family.

Since then, I have worked hard on becoming an expert in community management. And everyone on the leadership team and those behind the scenes are working feverishly on making From Fat to Finish Line the No. 1 place for runners who are struggling with weight. We have all been on the same journey as our members. We know what it’s like. We know many people think they are alone on this journey and how important and life-changing it is for them once they find a community that understands.

I can’t believe that it’s already been four years since the From Fat to Finish Line community was founded.

It has been a wild ride with many inspirational, life-affirming, emotional, wonderful memories. Deciding to run my first race was one tiny decision that created a domino effect in my life. I believe that making these types of little decisions make an impact in the lives of others, too. I know that many of our members feel the same way about our tribe, that the connections, decisions and moments found with one another have positively changed them. This tribe has transformed many lives and I know it will continue to do so.

I can’t wait for the next four years. I can’t wait to meet more members, run more races, have more deep and defining discussions in our tribe, and build many more programs for our members.