By Paula Katinas
When Kristen Finneran runs in her first a half-marathon race on Sunday, she hopes to do more than just cross the finish line. She hopes she can serve as an inspiration to others. She has come a long way in her personal journey and wants others to know that they can do it, too.
For most of her life, Finneran was obese. At one point, she weighed more than 300 pounds. Buckling her seatbelt on a plane or squeezing herself into a seat at a movie theater was a struggle. “From the age of two on, I was overweight,” the Fort Greene resident told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “When I was growing up, I tried everything – Weight Watcher, personal trainers, nutritionists. But the weight always came back,” she recalled.
Nine years ago, she switched doctors and started seeing a new general practitioner who encouraged her to undergo gastric bypass surgery. “The doctor thought I was a perfect candidate for it,” she said. The operation changed her life. Agreeing to the surgery meant becoming a more disciplined person. “You have to show that you are a determined person in order for them to even do the surgery. You have to undergo counseling. And you have to lose 10 percent of your body weight,” Finneran said.
She underwent the surgery at the age of 22. She continued to tap into her inner reserves of determination after the operation. She began living a healthier lifestyle in which she made better food choices. She also became more physically active. “For the first couple of years after the surgery, my physical activity consisted of walking and working with elliptical weights. About two or three years after the surgery, I started running. One of my friends told me that I could,” Finneran said.
Her friend’s faith in her made her want to do it, she said. “I started out sort of half-jogging, half-running. I would do a loop around my neighborhood, about two miles. Then someone encouraged me to run a longer distance,” she said. “I also heard about Run Like A Mother, it’s a group in Connecticut that has a training program and I began to train with them,” she said.
Finneran, who works as a bereavement counselor in Calvary Hospital in Brooklyn, said she also runs to cope with the emotional effects of her job. She directs support groups for people who have lost loved ones.
Gradually, Finneran ran longer and longer distances, “In October, I ran a 10K race, a distance of six miles. It occurred to me that I could run a half-marathon,” she said.
So she signed up for the most famous half-marathon of them all, the NYC Half, a race sponsored by the New York Road Runners Club. The distance is 13.1 miles.
The Eighth Annual NYC Half will take place on March 17. The race is expected to draw 15,000 runners of all ranks, everyone from recreational runners to Olympians. Participants race through Central Park to Times Square, along the Hudson River waterfront to finish in lower Manhattan.
The theme of this year's race is “More Than A Run,” according to New York Road Runners officials, who said the event offers runners and their families, friends, and fans ways to get involved, give back, and have fun.
Finneran will be running on behalf of Team for Kids, a group of adult runners who raise funds to provide free or low-cost health and fitness programs to kids who have little or no access to regular physical activity. “They teach the importance of having a healthy lifestyle,” Finneran said.
Her goal in the race? “It’s just about finishing the race for me,” she said. “If I can run it in two and a half hours, I’ll be happy. But it really is about finishing. Running is hard work for me. It does not come naturally,” she said.
Her advice to people who are overweight is to find ways to get more physically active. “You don’t have to run a half-marathon. Start with little things. Walk up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator. Don’t take the train. Walk to your destination if it’s a short distance,” she said.
“And try to eat healthier. You’ll feel better,” Finneran said.