As every runner toes the start line, within them resides the story that carried them there. Those stories are made up of moments that culminate in milestones.
The history of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is made of moments and milestones created by runners just like you. In honor of our 20th anniversary celebration, we invite runners to share their most memorable running moments with us.
This is the story of Heather L. from New Orleans, LA.
Woman Returns Home to Run New Orleans After Weight-Loss Journey
The vacation pictures served as the final motivational straw for Heather Lowry to turn her life around. After earning a master’s degree in July 2014, Lowry was treated to a Cancun holiday by her mother.
The photos didn’t lie. At 5-feet-2, she weighed 237 pounds.
“Seeing those pictures after I graduated,” said Lowry, 38, who lives in Louisville, KY, “I realized how big I was.”
Then she literally hit the ground running and Lowry lost 93 pounds. She’s gone from a size 18 to a 6. At the 2017 Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans, Lowry was among the thousands taking to The Big Easy streets.
It was a homecoming for Lowry, who lived in New Orleans in her youth more than 30 years ago. After stepping off the plane Friday morning and heading to Bourbon Street, the memories flooded home.
Lowry’s mother and stepfather married in New Orleans. She came along for the party and remembers standing on a Bourbon Street balcony as a child, tossing beads on the street during Mardi Gras.
Friday of race weekend, she enjoyed oysters for lunch and reveled in listening to a street musician blast the saxophone.
Her weight problems began when she was about 17, when she worked at a fast-food eatery and started packing on some pounds. By 21, she had her first child. By 23, she had her second.
“For a while, you use that as an excuse,” Lowry said. “’Oh, I had a baby.’”
She got comfortable in her marriage. Then came a divorce in 2008 and the stress of being a single mother.
“After (the divorce), I became an emotional eater,” Lowry said.
There were alarm sirens, clamoring for Lowry to make changes. Her father died of a heart attack six years ago at 55. At the funeral, Lowry met a half-sister who was only a couple years older. The woman had already suffered two heart attacks, and weeks ago had suffered a third.
Lowry, who is a social worker, was on cholesterol medication and diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Walking to her car from the office was exhausting. Her ankles painfully swelled on flights.
During her flight to New Orleans, Lowry wistfully reached down and touched those same ankles.
“I honestly wanted to cry,” she said.
She had tried jogging when she was obese, making it to a nearby park. “Respiratory wise, I thought I was going to die.” The shin splints felt like someone stabbing her in the legs.
But after looking at those summer 2014 vacation pictures, “I gave myself the greatest gift. I had weight-loss surgery,” she said.
Lowry underwent a gastric sleeve, a procedure where the stomach is drastically shrunk. She lost 17 pounds from the surgery. Four months later, in January 2015, Lowry began dating a man who ran road races.
In April, after cheering him on at events, Lowry and her boyfriend stopped on the way home after one of his races and bought her a $100 pair of running shoes. A week later she signed up for a 5K. She knocked off the first 5K in May, another in June, and stepped up to a 10K in October – by which time she had lost 93 pounds.
In October 2015, she ran her first half-marathon.
The 2017 Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon was her first 26.2-miler. Her half marathon personal best is 2 hours, 28 minutes.
“I say that running is cheaper than therapy,” said Lowry. “I’m able to go out the door for an hour and be OK. I take my pain to the pavement. It is nice to have an outlet that has such a positive outcome.”
“I know where our country is, we’re not healthy,” she added. “Maybe I can inspire people, let them know they can get their health back.”
Every runner has a story. Share your favorite moments or memories from running with Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.