Happy New Year to all our Mermaid Athletes!  January is a month of renewed energy and a fresh start!  As we prepare to head to San Diego for the T9 Mermaid 1/2 Marathon San Diego, we too are experiencing renewed energy and a fresh start.  To help us bring in the New Year, we reached out to Cassie Onori to be our featured Inspirational Mermaid Athlete for the month of January.  As promised, we wanted you to meet our latest editions to the T9 Mermaid Family, our Ambassadors.  Cassie, one of our T9 Mermaid Ambassadors, makes her home in Southern California.  You will see her on the course in March as she runs alongside other T9 Mermaid Athletes to complete her 7th Mermaid event.  We are certain that you will enjoy reading about Cassie and her tenaciousness.  You can follow Cassie on Instagram at mama_cascas.   

What prompted you to start running?

In January 2012, I was about to turn 25 years old, and I was absolutely miserable with myself. Through my two pregnancies, I had gained nearly 150 lbs.  I had gone to the doctor for my yearly physical, and I remember very clearly crying in the office because the scale read 297 lbs. Very much defeated, I listened to my doctor as she told me about the Lap-Band surgery to aid in weight loss. I began the steps to start the procedure, which included seminars, meetings, and counseling. I never could wrap my head around the idea of getting this surgery.   On April 8, 2012, (Easter Sunday) I walked by a poster for a Mother's Day 5k, and thought to myself, "I wish I could do something like that”. Throughout the day, I kept thinking about it.  I decided to jump in, head first, and reached out to my friend who was a runner. I asked her to help me train for this race, which was only 5 weeks away, and off we went! I went from barely being able to complete a mile in under 20 minutes, (and certainly couldn't "run" for more then a minute), to completing my first 5k in under 50 minutes.  From that moment on, I was HOOKED. I never did go through with the surgery. I have, over the years, learned that the scale does not define me.  But, I have lost 90 lbs, and went from being a size 24 to a size 14. I am slowly working my way through those last 60 lbs. Now, 5 years later, I just completed my goal of running 50 races before I turn 30 (January 28th!).  Currently, I am working on my next goal of completing a duathlon.

How do you feel when you are running? When you aren’t running?

When I am running, I feel strong and powerful; like there is nothing in this world that could feel this good. It is an incredibly freeing feeling to be empowered by the wind and embrace those hills and fly down the other side as a reward for not giving up at the bottom. I have conquered a lot of fears through running and competing in obstacle races, like my insane fear of heights. Running is my happy place. It's where I go to catch the beat of the music with the pound of my feet. It's something that no one can take away from me and something that I can share with my kids. It's wonderful to know that I found a passion for something that encourages me to stay on a healthy path. When I am not running, I find myself more stressed out and less happy.  I always think of the movie, Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods says, ”Endorphins make you happy, and happy people don't kill people... they just don't!"  It's SO TRUE! I feel incredibly sane when I am running and know that when I'm in a real funk, it is time to get on my shoes and go pound the pavement.

Where is your favorite place to run?

I don't think I have a favorite place to run necessarily, but I do love running along the Coastal Cities by me, because of the breeze and the views! The hills are always a nice endurance challenge and training ground. They are also perfect for taking those post run sunset selfies! haha!


What is the longest distance you have run?

My longest distance I have run so far has been 15 miles. I was trying to get up to marathon distance but I realized that the toll the really long distances take on my body, is at this point, is not worth the effort. The goal has been shelved until, hopefully, a future date!

Have you noticed people treat you differently when you tell them your story?

I do notice that once people hear that I'm a runner and how much weight I have lost, they seem to accept me more. I don't really think that it's a good thing per se, because as a woman of awesome curves, it took me a long time to accept my body as is. I sometimes feel like once people know that I'm still a work in progress, they are happier than me saying that I'm happy with my body as is. I am not a societal "normal" body acceptance weight at the moment. That being said, I do find that when I share my story, people open up to me more and share their own personal struggles. I usually learn more about them than I ever would have known. I like to think that by sharing my story it helps people know that you can be fit at any age, weight, or stage in your life.  That there is always room for improvement. That just because you lost your way, even many, many, MANY times (haha!), you can always get back on track, and try, try, TRY again!

What advice or words of wisdom do you offer our Mermaid Athletes?

My advice to other T9 Mermaid Athletes is that being fit should be by YOUR own standards. Just because you don't come in first place, or you can’t run a 9 minute mile, or run a full mile, it doesn't make you any less of an athlete. If you are up on your feet and you are trying, then you are just as strong as the person next to you! Having set backs is normal. I have worked my way through shin splints, fractured ankles, dislocated shoulders, and loads of back pain. I can't stress enough the importance of stretching and therapeutic massage! Just remember why you started and keep working towards that goal.  You should ALWAYS have a goal you are working toward! My goal right now is to run 200 miles in 100 days. Also, having TREAT (not cheat (haha)) meals are essential! You shouldn't let your diet run your life. Eat that piece of cake, and enjoy it, because that's what life is about!


How did you hear of T9 Mermaid Series?

I heard of the T9 Mermaid Race Series almost 4 years ago from a friend who had seen the Ad and thought of me and my love for “The Little Mermaid”. I have run it every year since.  This year will be my 5th time running the San Diego Mermaid, and my 6th Mermaid Series race because I did the Virtual San Francisco event.


If you could run with anyone, who would it be?

I don't follow many sporting events, so I'm not sure of any famous runners.  My favorite people to run with are my friends and my kids. I love running with them, sharing my passion with them, and seeing them achieve their goals along side of me!


What hidden talents do you have?

My "hidden" talent (which if you know me, you experience this daily (haha)), is that I can take practically any song, and change the lyrics around so I am singing a song instead of talking. I do this quite often (haha)! I have an awesome sense of rhythm and rhyming which is always a puzzler for me since physically, I am essentially a klutz, with a strong dosage of ADHD and a smattering of Gilmore Girl, Lorelei's, sarcasm.

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