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The Unspoken Rules of Being a Badass: A Runner's Guide

Catching Up With Amy Petty – Her Inspiring Story

Amy - before and during Little Rock

Amy Petty is running her first marathon on April 29, 2012. Every runner’s first marathon is special to them but this one holds deep meaning for Amy. You see, she is a survivor and this marathon will allow her to celebrate her life and the lives of 18 friends and coworkers.
In 1995, Amy was in the Federal building in Oklahoma City when it was bombed. She was trapped in the rubble for hours but she was one of the lucky ones. She survived. Instead of letting that dark day be a shadow over her life, she’s turned it around and come out stronger. She made the decision to LIVE that day. She’s lost 200 pounds (!!!) since then, started running, and is much healthier so she can enjoy the second chance she was given.
Amy was kind of enough to let me interview her and I have no doubt you will find her story as inspiring as I do!
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RIF: First, let’s talk about running. When did you start running?

Amy: 2010

RIF: How many miles do you run per week?

Amy: 25 this week but 31 last week

RIF: What’s your favorite race so far?

Amy: Oklahoma City National Memorial Run to Remember

RIF: What’s your favorite race bling so far?

Amy: Little Rock Half Marathon Medal (Note: the after picture above is from the Little Rock Half which she ran on March 4th. Amy ran it in 2:24:28 and set a 47 minute PR! Congratulations Amy!!!)

RIF: What’s your favorite running moment?

Amy: I love early morning running when sky is just breaking with light.  It feels like a new day – a fresh clean start is beginning.

RIF: Now that we have the easy stuff out of the way, let’s dig a little deeper.  Why did you start running? 

Amy: Because I am a survivor of the Oklahoma City 1995 bombing I was invited to pass out medals to the finishers of the OKC National Memorial Marathon in 2009.  I didn’t have any runner friends and really didn’t have a clue about the sport so it was a brand new experience to work the finish line.  I was so moved with emotion watching all the different people; young, old, skinny, fat, able bodied, disabled, all nationalities, etc crossing the finish line.  I vowed at the finish line the following year I would run a half marathon to honor the 18 co-workers of mine who were killed in the bombing.

RIF: How did it feel in the beginning?

Amy: It was awful!!!  I could only jog for 10 seconds and then walk two minutes to recover.  I couldn’t figure out how to do it.  I immediately regretted telling everyone I was going to run to honor the loss of my friends.  I thought there could have been better ways to honor their memory and figured they were up in heaven laughing their butts off at me trying to run.

RIF: What made you keep going? Does that still drive you?

Amy: At first I kept going because of my deep personal commitment to honoring those lives lost.  I didn’t enjoy running and just had to push through.  I quit running after accomplishing the half marathon.  Then in 2011 decided I wanted to try it again.  This time I hired a coach to work with me.  Coach Mark Bravo (www.runbravo.com) was one of the best investments in running that I could have made.  I learned so much and actually began to love running not to mention dropping another 25 lbs.  I started at a 15 minute a mile pace (yes those power walkers were passing me up) and now can run 4 miles at a 10 minute a mile pace.  What drives me now is the desire to push myself farther, to keep my body in shape, and I love those endorphins!

RIF: What do you love/not love about running?

Amy: I struggle with being last or at the back of the pack on group runs. It really messes with my head to have an old guy who looks like he is barely running pass me up and then I realize that I am going even slower than he is.  I don’t let those feelings last long though, I think about all the losers still in bed that I am beating!  Better yet, I think about my former 350 lb self sitting on the couch eating ice cream and dying a slow death.  I am beating that fat girl even if I come in last.

I love the competition with myself.  I love hitting a PR!!  It seems on every long run I learn something new about myself.  I do a lot of deep thinking while I run. 

 RIF: What are your goals for 2012?

Amy: 26.2 miles at the OKC National Memorial Marathon Run to Remember!!  Then shift to cycling and ride 500 miles through the state of Oklahoma from the Texas border to the Kansas border.  Next will be the half ironman distance at the Redman Triathlon in August – YIKES! 70.3 miles….uh…what am I thinking?

RIF: If you could go back and give advice to your beginner running self, what would it be?

Amy: Invest the money in a running coach, trainer, club, or class.  If I would have done that I would have learned properly how to run/train from the beginning and would have had more emotional support.

RIF: One of your major accomplishments so far is losing 200 pounds! Congratulations! Can you tell us what the turning point for you was? When/how did you decided to lose the weight?

Amy: On April 19, 1995 at 9:02 a.m. I fell 3 floors and was buried alive under 10 feet of rubble when the bomb went off.  I was conscious the entire time and lots of time to reflect on my life and my priorities.  The rescuers had to leave me right after they found me because everyone thought there was a 2nd bomb.  I knew what was happening so I had about 45 minutes of being buried alive and waiting to die when the next bomb went off.  I made many decisions on how I would live my life if I ever made it out alive.  Losing weight was one of them.  It took a few years to get through the trauma of that day but once the darkness lifted I began tackling the different issues in my life one at a time.

RIF: How long did it take to recover from your injuries? Does the trauma of the bombing still affect you?

Amy: I was in the hospital for 8 days with severe lacerations.  My biggest physical injury was my right leg had a portion removed but the bone was still intact.  The physical injuries were nothing compared to the mental and emotional trauma.  It took a few years just to get through the worst of it.  Even now, this time of year particularly I have my moments.

RIF: I cannot even come close to imagining what that must have been/is like for you but you created something positive out of this with your weight loss. How did you go about doing it?

Amy: I did everything!  Seriously, I think if you have a destructive habit you have to be open to try whatever it takes to get yourself free.   The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  I had tried repeatedly to lose weight and couldn’t sustain the motivation.  I was so large at 350 plus having knee issues that I couldn’t move very well.  I researched bariatric solutions and settled on a procedure called a Gastric Sleeve.  Basically they removed ¾ of my stomach so that I can’t overeat in one particular meal.  However, I can eat often and I can eat high calorie foods so I still had to apply myself to lose weight.  Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure to losing weight.  Eat less and move more is the only real answer.

RIF: Did you have a lot of support?

Amy: It was a mixed bag.  I had lots of support but then there are always those that whether they realize it or not will try and sabotage your efforts because they want you to remain the same.  Ultimately your support and drive has to come from within.

RIF: Did you get frustrated along the way? How did you deal with it?

Amy: Heck yes I got frustrated and still do!  I have 5 more lbs that I would like to lose and it is true that the last bit is the hardest.  I sometimes fall off the wagon and binge.  I hate to admit that but it’s true.  That fat girl just lurks around the corner waiting for a chance to jump back so I have to stay on it constantly.  I keep myself positive by reading books like Momentum: 77 Observations Toward A Life Well Lived written by my running coach Mark Bravo.  I constantly feed my mind with the positive. 

RIF: Can you tell us a little about the physical/mental/emotional differences you feel now versus when you weighed 350? (for example, did you have health issues that are gone or now you see yourself as an athlete where you didn’t before…that kind of thing. I don’t think people get what it’s like to be that big).

Amy: At 350 lbs I was on blood pressure medicine, had terrible knees, and severe plantar fasciitis and could barely walk.  I couldn’t fit in a booth at a restaurant, needed a seat belt extender in my car, could only shop for clothes at one store in town, couldn’t tie my shoes,  couldn’t get down on the floor to play with my son etc.

Now?  No blood pressure issues and a resting heart rate of 48!  Knees are strong and no plantar fasciitis despite the miles I run.  I can shop for clothes anywhere except for the plus size stores!  Now my son has to try and keep up with me instead of the other way around and when he give me a hug…his arms can reach all the way around me!  The best part is being able to run, ride a bike, and swim!  I was never on any team sport and never had a clue there was an inner athlete lurking inside.  It is the best part of my life now.

RIF: That is so awesome! I love what you said about the hug from your son! Ok, back to a few more questions about running and your first marathon. Why did you decide to do the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon? Do you feel the emotions of running this marathon will help carry you through it?

Amy: The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is unlike any other marathon. It combines the intensely personal challenges of running a marathon with the emotion of a shared national tragedy. The OKC Marathon is not about runners, it is about life.  As I run this race I will see a banner for each of the 168 people killed along the race route.  I knew so many of these people and seeing their names as I run by will carry me through.  I will run celebrating my second chance at life while honoring the friends I lost.

RIF: Do you feel like your weight loss journey helped prepare you for the discipline of marathon training? Or the other way around?

Amy: Actually I think it was enduring over six hours of being buried alive and then fighting to get my life back for years afterwards that created a discipline for training and endurance.

RIF: I’m sure what you went thru was much harder than training for a marathon but what’s been the hardest part of training for you?

Amy: The first 20 mile run last Saturday was brutal.  I struggled the entire way. Let me share with you my journal entry during that run…

Mile 15: I see some people walking in front of me and I want to walk so badly but it won’t happen.  I can’t seem to control my performance but I am sure as hell not quitting or giving in.  I let myself think and remember what it was like to be buried alive, can’t see, can’t breathe, smelling that awful smell of death, knowing that I might die, having all those regrets….I really feel it and tell myself that this run pales in comparison to what I have already been through.  How I would have traded this day for that day in a heartbeat.  I pick up the pace.

RIF: What has the best part of training been?

Amy: I can best answer this by sharing my journal on the first training run we had this year that actually was on part of the marathon route…..

Mile 2.5: I see Presbyterian Hospital ahead.  Such a powerful emotion for me to see this hospital because 17 years ago this April 19th I spend eight days there recovering my my injuries after falling three floors in the Murrah Building and being trapped in the rubble for over six hours.  I remember looking out of the window that I am now gazing up at; and seeing all the cars on Lincoln with their headlights on in the middle of the day to show their support.  I found out 18 of my 33 co workers were killed while in that hospital.  The emotion is overwhelming and I look down to see I am running a 9 minute mile.  I am NOT a victim anymore. 

RIF: Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers that you’ve learned from running, your weight loss, or surviving the bombing?

Amy: The biggest lesson I have learned through all of this is that we can’t always control what happens to us.  Life is not fair sometimes. But the one thing we can control is how we choose to respond to it and that truly is what makes the difference.

Amy Petty

***

Amy’s story is in incredible one of hard work, perseverence and hope. I am sure that her friends are watching her from heaven with big grins on their faces because they are happy and proud of what she has accomplished! She is absolutely correct that how we look at things really makes a difference. Whatever big “thing” you have on the horizon – whether it’s recovering from a tragedy, losing weight, or training for a marathon/ultra…or all of the above as in Amy’s case – our mental attitude will play a big part in that journey. A positive attitude makes the path a little smoother. I hope you have been inspired by Amy to make that one small (or BIG) change you’ve wanted to make in your life! Don’t wait for a second chance. Make that change now.

Thank you for sharing your story with our readers, Amy. Run It Fast wishes you the best of luck for the Oklahoma City Memorial and don’t forget…Run It Fast!

Amy exemplifies the Run It Fast attitude. Run It Fast is about leaving your comfort zone and trying new things, pushing your limits, boundaries, and being the best you can be, whether it be in running or in life.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 717 posts on Run It Fast®.

Lisa (RIF Club Member #5) has completed 27 half marathons, 13 marathons, 5 50Ks, 2 12 Hour races, and 1 100K. Her favorite races to date are the Disneyland Half Marathon, the Leading Ladies Marathon, the Bataan Memorial Death March, and the Jackson Jackass 50K. You can follow her on Twitter @runlikeacoyote

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One Response to “Catching Up With Amy Petty – Her Inspiring Story”

  1. Jackie Bessette says:

    This is a very inspiring story. Go Amy!

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