Linda Romano did not start running to lose weight. She lost weight to keep running.
Romano, 32, weighed more than 300 pounds before she signed up for her first ever race in December 2010, the New York Road Runners New Year’s Eve four-mile dash. She’d never run before, but decided to lace up some sneakers at the urging of her runner fiancee Emily McSpadden.
“I was definitely surprised when I ran that I liked it and that I felt really good after it,” Romano said.
(Romano, left before her weight loss, and right with fiancee Emily McSpadden.)
A little over a year and more than 20 races later, Romano has dropped 140 pounds and she and McSpadden, 35, run together all the time in Central Park and along the rivers.
“As I lost weight, I started to see how much more I could lose. The more weight I lost, the more capably I was able to run faster and farther and push my body,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I loved it right away, but I was definitely hooked right away.”
Romano trained her way to a 10K race in June 2011, then in February this year ran her first ever half-marathon in Austin, Texas. It was a turning point.
“In Austin it was really hard not to cry,” she said. “I just remember thinking what an incredible gift it is to have taken my body back from the brink of incredible unhealthiness.”
She will run her second 13.1-mile race on Sunday at the NYRR- sponsored More Magazine/ Fitness Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon.
After that Romano has her eyes on the big prize, the ING New York City Marathon in November, which she and McSpadden plan to run as newlyweds.
They will marry in Manhattan in August.
The couple, members of the LGBT running club Front Runners, has raced at least 20 events together, including the 2011 NYC Triathlon. Sunday’s More/ Fitness half will be their second long-distance race together, and like most runners, they have a race ritual.
“My pace is a bit faster since I’ve been running longer,” McSpadden said. “Usually, I’ll finish the race and get my water and bagel and then I’ll turn back to meet her and we finish together.”
Sunday will mark McSpadden’s third More/Fitness women’s half and Romano’s first.
Romano’s running and her extreme weight loss are connected, each fuels the other, and while she’s grateful for both, the Hell’s Kitchen resident and Long Island native says it’s tough to talk about her physical transformation.
“It’s like getting an entirely new body and not quite knowing how it works,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll be someplace and I’ll look at some people and think, ‘Wow, I probably lost more weight than you have in your whole body.’”
Romano, who oversees social media at Long Island’s Adelphi University, said to commit to losing the weight she had to turn off her emotions.
“You can kind of always emotionally justify something,” she said. “The only way I was able to commit was to intellectually say this makes no sense.”
Big turning points for Romano and her journey to health and fitness were completing Austin and the triathlon, which she says made her realise, “Oh my God, I can do anything.”
She holds onto that feeling and it takes her from one finish line to the next.
“I’m really happy that I have running,” Romano said. “It reminds me that there can be no backsliding. If I backslide I won’t be able to run and there will be a big hole in my life.”