November’s Inspirational Mermaid Athlete is one of our newest members to the Mermaid Family. Recently we accepted applications for our Ambassadorship program. Vanessa Wallace is one of 21 Ambassadors that were chosen to represent Mermaid Series. Over the course of the next few months, you will get to hear from our delightful Ambassadors. If you see them on the course during one of our races, don’t be a stranger. Introduce yourself. Vanessa brings with her tremendous energy, inspiration, and humor. One can never have too much of these traits. We are so happy that Vanessa is a fine addition to our Mermaid family.
What prompted you to start running?
I have lost over 90 pounds and when I lost my first 75 pounds, my coworkers got a team together to run a 5k mudrun. I love being active and always have but had never run before. Immediately after finishing that race, I broke down into happy tears thinking about what I had accomplished and the odds I had defied. I went into work the next Monday and exclaimed "I am going to run a half marathon!!!!!" I had no idea how long a half marathon actually was. But true to my word, five months later, I crossed the finish line of my first 13.1 and have never looked back since.
How do you feel when you are running? When you aren’t running?
Running brings me so much peace. I am someone who needs to be constantly in motion and so traditional meditation has been a hard thing to wrap my head around. Running offers me a time to set aside just for me whether it be a handful of miles or a long run that will take most of my morning up. Running is truly one of the only things that I always make time for in my schedule. Running reminds me of how strong I am and how strong I’ve become and how much potential I have to become faster. When I’m not able to run, due to schedule or other constraints, I feel like a piece of me is missing. I love having a race to train for because that has become my identity. My mind is very project oriented. It brings me great joy to have a goal to work toward and runs to schedule to prepare for that.
Where is your favorite place to run?
I do so much of my running and training on the Santa Rosa Creek trail. It is where I ran my first marathon and it brings me so many fond memories to be on that space. There is this part of the path about 2 miles in from my favorite spot where cows are almost always grazing. If they are out, I always stop to take a selfie with them!!!! My husband runs too and while we never do training runs together, that's also his favorite place to run, so some early Sunday mornings I'll run in to him while we're both out getting our long runs in and it perks up my morning to see him there.
What is the longest distance you have run?
I ran my first marathon this past August, 26.2 miles! It was the most life changing experience. I learned more about myself and my determination in those 6 hours, 7 minutes and 28 seconds than I have in any other project I've ever set my mind to. I started my weight loss journey at 264.2 pounds and my mantra through training was “from 264.2 to 26.2” because I wanted to celebrate my accomplishments while acknowledging how far I have come in my journey. I’m looking forward to training for my second marathon to celebrate my 30th birthday next October at the Portland Marathon.
Have you noticed people treat you differently when you tell them your story?
I think people do not expect to hear how much I have accomplished with my weight loss and my running when they first see me. Because it is so much of who I am, it feels routine for me. I sometimes forget how far I’ve come from, so when I share it with people who are new to my story, it can be eye opening that I haven’t always been physically active. I am still on my path to get to my goal weight but I have accomplished so many physical achievements because I have not let my body weight determine my ability to set and achieve my goals. I’ve stopped thinking “when I get to my goal weight I will…” and saying to myself, “if I can do it now, then I’m going to go for it!” I've run six half marathons at this point and am training for my seventh, one full marathon and outside of running workout in multiple boot camp and high intensity exercise classes. Seeing the photos and hearing the struggles I went through prior to my weight loss is eye opening. The visual is shocking, but sharing with them that I used to be so physically exhausted when I was heavy that I could not walk up the hill to my college classes versus now with running long distance and crushing my goals, it is a reminder to people that I meet along my journey that my identity is not defined by who I was or the size that I’m at, but it is defined by my determination to work hard and believe in myself. I think rather than being treated differently, it is a real, down to earth human reminder that you are never too old or too far down a certain path to become who you want to be. You can set goals and become who you want to be at any point in life. I am just a regular person with access to the same resources as most, but my strong will and determination (and sometimes my stubbornness!) have gotten me far in life and sharing that with others provides a sense of empowerment that anyone can be their best if they just keep trying.
What advice or words of wisdom do you offer our Mermaid Athletes?
Do not ever be afraid to set goals for your self and work toward them. While setting goals, make yourself a priority to achieve them and find the fun in setting the goal. Celebrate your achievements and NEVER downgrade them! Whether your goal is to run your first 5k, lose weight, PR your marathon time or anything in between, always celebrate. When you work hard for something and you achieve it, you deserve every moment of bragging, celebrating and rewarding yourself for your success. It took me a
long time to realize that. I was always so busy setting a new goal or thinking about where I had not succeeded, I never stopped to toot my own horn. Now that is so important to me!
Another word of wisdom that I want to share is that my favorite thing to remind myself is that I get to define me. My size, my age, my speed, who I used to be…. Those do not define me or define my future. Who I am, my belief in myself and who I work toward being is what makes me uniquely me. Do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone if it means you get to work toward your goals. Go for your big dreams and let them become who you are. Even if that is not who you think you are, if that is who you want to be, then shoot for the stars and push yourself to get there.
How did you hear of Mermaid Series?
I first saw it posted on Facebook last year when the SF Run was being advertised. A friend of mine ran the 10 miler! I wanted to attend the event but had already booked myself for a half marathon – and then when it came back around to the East Bay I was so disappointed because I had already scheduled myself that weekend too!!! I was so excited when I found out I could do the SF run this year!
If you could run with anyone, who would it be?
Kelly Roberts who runs the blog Run, Selfie, Repeat has been an amazing inspiration in my life. She has really helped me with my transition in thinking from seeing myself with a skinny body to seeing my strong body. This Summer she started the “Sports Bra Squad” movement, encouraging women to shed their shirts and run in the sports bra. This was a big goal of mine and her push to encourage women to celebrate their bodies was so important for me. I’m excited because I set a goal to run a race in a sports bra as part of the body acceptance movement that she encourages and will achieve that at Mermaid SF this year. She is absolutely hilarious and so much fun and would be a hoot to run with. Kelly – if you’re reading this, we can go for a run together and rock out to Hamilton!!!!!
What hidden talents do you have?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in music! I studied Opera and Musical Theater in college and it is a hobby of mine. I love performing in musicals. I’ve got a mean Soprano High C that I can knock out and I’ve been tap dancing for many years so my tap shoes are well loved. It is another area in life besides running that fills my soul and brings me so much joy.
I'm always happy and willing to share my story. You can find me on Facebook for more selfies, cow photos and dance parties (oh yeah and some running too!) at Vanessa Goes from Fat to Fit at