Today’s guest post comes from Susan Lacke, a regular contributor to one of my favorite sites, No Meat Athlete.  Enjoy!

Susan Lacke Profile

“Running is for crazy people.”  I stubbed out my cigarette and continued my reasoning.  “There’s no reason to run unless someone is chasing you. Those people are like a cult. Have you seen them? They’re brainwashed into being completely absorbed by this lifestyle. They even get tattoos after doing a race, to declare they were initiated into that stupid cult! It’s ridiculous.”


Those people were my friends. Sure, I loved them, but they were always running and doing triathlons and eating weird health-nut foods. Though I knew they weren’t trying to talk with an air of superiority, every time they shared they just got back from a ten-mile run or rode their bike for a couple hours, I felt like they were criticizing my unhealthy habits. 


Ten miles? At 23 years old, I couldn’t even fathom walking one mile, much less running ten.


Answers in All The Wrong Places


Though I knew my unhealthy habits were wrong, I somehow justified them.  Smoking causes lung cancer, yes, but it alleviated my stress. That made it all right in my book.  My rational mind knew I would never find answers to life’s problems in the bottom of a bottle, yet at the end of every stressful work day, I poured myself a drink. And then another one. And another. Then one more, for good measure. 


Exercise? I didn’t have time for that. As a first-year college professor, I had too much work to do. 


I did eat healthy foods, at least by my definition of healthy: A grilled chicken salad from McDonald’s – with extra ranch dressing. 


I was in an unhealthy relationship, but didn’t leave. Who else would love me? I certainly wasn’t good enough for anyone out there. 


The more I engaged in these behaviors, the worse I became. I gained weight, was diagnosed with a major medical issue, and had a ridiculously poor self-concept. Yet instead of acknowledging my habits were the cause of my problems, I continued to turn to them as the solution.


The Tipping Point


I was smoking outside my office one day when my boss came up to me and pointed at my cigarette.  “Mind if I have a drag?” He queried. 


I was shocked. Carlos was a fitness nut, someone who competed in multiple Ironman triathlons every year. This guy smoked? No way. Shocked, I handed him my Marlboro Light and watched as he took it between his fingers…and threw it away in the ashtray nearby.


“You don’t need that shit. Come on, let’s go get some coffee.”


I was infuriated, but too shocked by his bold gesture to say anything except… “Umm…Okay.”


Over Americanos, we talked about a lot of things, but mainly how I was using cigarettes to relieve stress, what was causing the stress, and how frustrated I was by this cycle of stress and poor coping mechanisms. Carlos listened intently, only interjecting with an occasional nod and a “Hmm.” After unloading all my personal problems on my boss, he said one thing:  “You should come swimming with me during lunch tomorrow.”


“Listen, sir,” I laughed, “I know you’re one of those health nuts who thinks a good run solves all of life’s problems. I’m not one of those people.” 


“C’mon… Swimming is fun!” He responded. “But don’t take my word for it. You should try it for yourself.”   I hesitated.  “If anything, you’ll get a good suntan out of it.” 


Did I mention sunbathing was one of my vices, too? 


“You should try it for yourself.” 


I went swimming that day. And the next. And the next. It didn’t take any prompting from Carlos. I just enjoyed that time every day where I was in the sunshine and doing something active. I enjoyed getting to know my boss as a friend, and appreciated an intelligent and athletic guy him was willing to put up with this slow, chubby kid who made poor choices.


One by one, those poor choices went away. 


I started reducing meat in my diet, until I became a vegetarian.  Vegetarianism led to weight loss, and weight loss led to more physical activity. I decided I wanted to begin running, and trained for my first 5K. 


I had the obvious slapped in my face when I realized that running would be a lot easier if I didn’t smoke, so I quit buying Marlboro Lights.  Ditto for the heavy drinking every night. 


The confidence gained from these changes gave me the boost I needed to get out of my unhealthy relationship and forced me to look at myself as someone who deserved nothing but the best. 


I ran a half-marathon. Then a marathon. Then a triathlon.   I didn’t realize it, but I had become one of those people. 


Yes, I Have the Tattoo


I’m pretty sure Carlos got the shock of his life when I sent him an e-mail telling him I had registered for Ironman Wisconsin, a 140.6 mile triathlon. I’m pretty sure he got an even bigger shock when I actually completed it, loved every second, and signed up for my next Ironman (Arizona) right away. Perhaps most shocking of all: I’m a card-carrying member of those people, complete with “140.6” tattooed on my foot. 


Though Carlos has become one of my closest friends, I doubt he realized my life today all started with him asking for a drag of my cigarette. 


I didn’t realize it then, but I’ve since figured out that when I felt judged and criticized by my friends’ discussion of their healthy lifestyle, it was all in my head. They weren’t judging me, they were just talking about their own lives, which were very different from mine. My own insecurity chose to interpret that as criticism. I knew what I was doing was wrong and unhealthy – I just didn’t want to admit it, and certainly didn’t want to work at changing it.


Nothing Happens Spontaneously 


It’s basic physics: A body at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force. 


Many of us are scared of change, and when faced with drastic change, will retreat to our comfort zones. I’m certainly guilty of that. But when change presents itself in a small opportunity, as with Carlos inviting me to swim 5 years ago, it doesn’t seem as scary. 


Change doesn’t have to be sweeping and tremendous and instantaneous. In fact, the best kind of change is the kind where you don’t even realize what’s happened until one day, you look back and realize, “Holy cow…I’m one of those people now.” 


The feeling when that happens? It’s pretty amazing. 


But don’t take my word for it.  You should try it for yourself.



  • Lea @ Healthy Coconut July 10, 2011, 3:21 pm

    I love this post. You are great with words and sucked me in until I read the whole thing.

    I agree, change doesn’t happen overnight and everyone starts with baby steps towards healthy living.

  • Caro July 10, 2011, 3:27 pm

    wow. impressive story. and so well written. really touching 🙂

  • Krystina (Organically Me) July 10, 2011, 3:37 pm

    This post really resonated with me; it was also beautifully written. Thank you.

  • Amanda July 10, 2011, 3:37 pm

    This post got me teary-eyed. Way to go!!!!

  • Army Amy* July 10, 2011, 3:38 pm

    Susan, I enjoyed reading about the chain of events that helped get you to where you are today. One small change at a time. I can manage that.*

  • Nadine July 10, 2011, 3:43 pm

    Love this 🙂

  • Samantha July 10, 2011, 3:44 pm

    This is an amazing post. Beautifully written.

  • Tonyne @ Unlikely Success Story July 10, 2011, 3:46 pm

    Thank you Susan…I really needed to read this. I was on my way to tipping back to the unhealthy side. This was what I needed to see.

  • Zo July 10, 2011, 3:46 pm

    I also used to say “running seems like a perfectly fine thing to do if someone is chasing me with an ax!” I ran my first 5k in May and am always trying to go a little further on my treadmill runs. I really enjoyed your post, which just reminds me that I can’t keep going as far as I want!

  • Lisa @ Sunny Seed Stories July 10, 2011, 3:49 pm

    Super inspiring story!

  • Lee July 10, 2011, 3:50 pm

    I love this!

  • Hillary July 10, 2011, 3:51 pm

    Absolutely loved this. Minus the smoking, this more or less describes my attitude five or six years ago. Now I am definitely one of “those people.” Thanks for sharing!

  • Cindy July 10, 2011, 3:53 pm

    Amazing story! Have you ever got into a situation where you feel you might be setback- like where you feel you could go down the road of not being healthy anymore? I’ve totally lost what it feels like to be well and healthy and I have no idea to get back.

    • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:40 am

      Make one big healthy decision – sign up for a 5K or something. Even if you walk the whole thing, it might be the motivation you need.

  • Holly @ The Runny Egg July 10, 2011, 3:54 pm

    I loved reading this post! About 6 years ago my dad asked me to train for a 1/2 marathon with him — it was his way of getting me to stop smoking because he knew that smoking + running would not be easy or good for me. I started training, quit smoking and have kept on entering races.

    I agree that making small changes at first can lead to big changes.

  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) July 10, 2011, 4:02 pm

    You are seriously impressive! I love hearing other people’s ‘tipping points’ 🙂

  • Laughter-Loving Stacy July 10, 2011, 4:06 pm

    ROCK ON GIRL! That’s awesome and very inspiring! 🙂

    • Laughter-Loving Stacy July 10, 2011, 5:10 pm

      I also just ran my second marathon! (*cough*, which I just blogged about.. hehe)
      It felt so amazing. I would ***looooooove*** to do an Ironman someday (and get a sweet tattoo!)!

      • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:42 am

        You are AWESOME.

    • Laughter-Loving Stacy July 10, 2011, 5:10 pm

      I also just ran my second marathon! (*cough*, which I just blogged about.. hehe)
      It felt so amazing. I would ***looooooove*** to do an Ironman someday (and get a sweet tattoo!)!

  • Shannon July 10, 2011, 4:11 pm

    Such a great story!!! Very inspiring 🙂

  • Molly @ RDexposed July 10, 2011, 4:20 pm

    It’s always so refreshing to read these stories. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ellen July 10, 2011, 4:24 pm

    I admire your commitment Caitlin! I am trying to get motivated to run the Philly half marathon in November, but it hasn’t happened yet o: Love your site too- check mine out, new to the bloggy world….

    • Ang July 10, 2011, 5:01 pm

      Run Philly!!!! It’s a great course with awesome crowd support! (sorry, random comment here! I just really love that course 🙂

    • Carly (Swim, Run, Om) July 10, 2011, 8:04 pm

      As someone who can find it extremely difficult to be motivated to run, my advice is to SIGN UP FOR THE RACE. Once you’re signed up and have money involved, it’s much easier to stick to a training plan. I understand how scary it is, and sometimes I will literally yell at my training plan on my computer screen, but taking that first step can get the ball moving, so to speak. And just think! By the end of 2011, you’ll be able to run 13.1 miles! That is the best motivation of all. 🙂

    • Ellen July 10, 2011, 8:07 pm

      Awesome advice ladies! Thanks so much- it was just what I needed!

  • Nikki @ Nifty Eats July 10, 2011, 4:25 pm

    It’s amazing how awesome small steps change everything for the better. Also, how much people really do care about you…even when you least expect it. Great story!

  • Tasha - The Clean Eating Mama July 10, 2011, 4:25 pm

    What an amazing story! I am in awe how much power certain individuals can have over someones life. POSITIVE power! Going from one extreme to another is certainly something to be proud of. Thanks for sharing, Susan!!! Rock on girl!!!

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss July 10, 2011, 4:27 pm

    Such a wonderful story! Shocking to think all it took was someone throwing away that cigarette and it just snowballed from there. I wish I could do the same for my aunt to lead her to a healthier lifestyle! She still has the very same mindset you had at first about’s a shame, really. But I have heard the same things even from my friends. One of them last said “If you see me running..stop! I’m being chased!!” while my friend and I were discussing our latest runs. I’m sure one day she’ll turn around..

  • Baking 'n' Books July 10, 2011, 4:29 pm

    Please send Carlos over my way. If nothing else – he sounds hot.


    That is extremely inspiring.

    • Eliza July 11, 2011, 1:54 am

      I hope Carlos is reading this!

  • Katie H July 10, 2011, 4:31 pm

    Go Susan! What an inspiring story- and you tell it so well. I love that you became one of those people!

  • Chelsea July 10, 2011, 4:35 pm

    I’m so glad he told you to put down that cig! If only I could get my dad to do the same thing…

  • Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans July 10, 2011, 4:46 pm

    What an amazing and inspiring story!I hope every “I’m not a runner” type person reads this and gets bit by the same bug! Or if not that they too have a Carlos to light that fire. Thannks for sharing 🙂

  • Nicole (Earth Based Beauty) July 10, 2011, 4:49 pm

    Definitely one of my favorite “tipping point” stories!

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey July 10, 2011, 4:55 pm

    This for real gave me goosebumps. I LOVED this story.

  • Heidi @ Food Doodles July 10, 2011, 4:56 pm

    I love this! You have a great writing style that I just couldn’t look away from. I really enjoyed this post. And I totally feel like going for a run right now even though it’s boiling hot 😀 Incredibly inspiring! Thank you!!

  • cathy July 10, 2011, 4:57 pm

    what an awesome story – both the content and the style!
    i love how carlos just jumped right in and offered a listening ear AND an invitation to get active. that is really cool.

  • Rae July 10, 2011, 5:01 pm

    excellent story, and one I can relate to. I was the chubby girl who didnt get it 6 years ago….and last year, I put an M-Dot on my calf. And yes, Im doing another one this year 🙂 Its addictive once you start!

    • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:42 am

      I want an M-Dot!

      • Rae July 11, 2011, 10:46 am

        You’ll get one, I KNOW it!!

  • Annie@stronghealthyfit July 10, 2011, 5:11 pm

    Awesome, inspiring story!

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen July 10, 2011, 5:34 pm

    This is such an awesome story. I never knew Susan’s beginnings even after reading many of her contributions over at NMA. Great guest post!

  • Amber @ Stop and Smell the Wildflowers July 10, 2011, 5:37 pm

    Wow, what an amazing story! Isn’t it crazy how one small incident can change your life forever? Thank you so much for sharing!

  • SaraRM July 10, 2011, 6:11 pm

    Absoultely great post!! I think SOO many people can relate to this on several different ways! Congrats on such awesome acompolishments!

  • Jaime July 10, 2011, 6:16 pm

    epic post. rock on, girl!

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife July 10, 2011, 6:46 pm

    inspiring!!! And so true 🙂 Love it. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • 'Dee July 10, 2011, 7:04 pm

    Awesome post! Beautifully written. I am such a sucker for the well-turned word, much less a life-changing story. Thank YOU for sharing this. Such an inspiration.

  • Kelly July 10, 2011, 7:07 pm

    Tears here. This post may have just changed my life. I’m getting off of the couch to go for a walk. Thank you.

    • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:43 am

      <3 you are awesome. small changes add up to something amazing!

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin July 10, 2011, 7:19 pm

    You have a wonderful way of telling stories – I loved this post! It’s amazing how one small change can trigger an entire change in lifestyle.

  • Lauren @ SassyMolassy July 10, 2011, 7:19 pm

    This was an awesome post, Susan! Congrats to you! Quitting smoking (and any unhealthy habit is tough), but finishing an Ironman, whoa! Nice work.

  • Katheryn July 10, 2011, 7:30 pm

    Great story. Very inspiring!

  • E July 10, 2011, 7:51 pm

    Majorly inspiring guest post!

  • Carly (Swim, Run, Om) July 10, 2011, 8:01 pm

    This post really hits home, and I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to Susan for sharing her story.

  • Christine July 10, 2011, 8:20 pm

    Thanks for sharing – this was so inspiring to read!

  • John Guilonard July 10, 2011, 8:24 pm

    I never got verklempt over a written passage before.

    It seems “those people” are always a challenge. I signed up for the Army Reserve (desperate for loan repayment) and remember getting cold feet about it because I didn’t want to become one of “those people.” Fortunately a friend of mine explained how “those people” only exist in my mind. Upon graduating from boot camp and advanced training I looked around and realized all “those people” were never there.

    “Those people” still show up every once in while; when they do I now realize they represent challenge and real opportunity. It is how I can tell if what I am considering is a fad/farce or not.

    This would not have occurred to me without reading your story. Thanks, friend.

    • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:43 am

      Awesome realization!

  • Angela @ MyPinkyToes July 10, 2011, 8:37 pm

    This post is so beautiful. I always feel jealous of “those people” and I’m afraid to actually consider myself one of them. I run, I love to run, and I crave a good run, but when do I get to be in that elite group?!
    Thank you for sharing…you truly are an inspiration!!!

    • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:43 am

      You’re in it when you decide you want to be in it!

  • Aja July 10, 2011, 9:01 pm

    This is a wonderfully inspiring post. Running is amazing and I am so glad I’ve gotten started again.

  • Laura @ Cookies vs. Carrots July 10, 2011, 9:23 pm

    Wow, this is such an inspiring post! You never think about how something so small could have such an impact on someone’s life!

  • Jessica July 10, 2011, 9:32 pm

    LOVE this story, thank you for sharing. It really hits home for me. I am living an extremely similar life and I am hoping to be as successful as you are. On small change at a time.

  • Willow @ My Own Trail July 10, 2011, 9:52 pm

    What a great post! As a former smoker, drinker, unhealthy eater who always found a reason why I didn’t have the time/motivation/desire to become healthy, I really appreciate reading about your journey. I’m so glad I became “one of those people,” and am so happy to see that others have done so as well. Thanks for reminding me how far I’ve come.

  • Savannah(Sweet and Savvy) July 10, 2011, 10:02 pm

    Awesome post!! This gives Me hope that ill develop a love for running.

  • Karin July 10, 2011, 10:21 pm

    Very inspiring… Thanks for sharing… Maybe it will inspire the hubs to do a tri

  • Catherine July 10, 2011, 10:36 pm

    I loved reading this because it sounded almost identical to my old lifestyle: the smoking, heavy drinking, fast food (a DAILY thing for me), paranoia that my healthy friends were judging me, etc. It’s only been a few months since I slowly changed my lifestyle. The past couple weeks have been an emotional struggle and I’m not gonna lie – it hasn’t been easy to forgo my old “crutches.” But this post helped put things in perspective! I am bookmarking it to read again whenever I get the urge to revert back to my old habits and justify it with the phrase “I’m so stressed.” Thanks for sharing, Susan 🙂

    • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:44 am

      You can do it, Catherine! progress, not perfection.

  • ashley @ ashley's adventures in alaska July 10, 2011, 10:57 pm

    Love this story! Thank you for sharing!

  • Tami July 11, 2011, 1:32 am

    Ok, totally was ready to add you to my daily blog reads and noticed you don’t have a blog (?)! Am I wrong? I want to hear more from you! What an inspiring story!

  • Tami July 11, 2011, 1:32 am

    Ok, totally was ready to add you to my daily blog reads and noticed you don’t have a blog (?)! Am I wrong? I want to hear more from you! What an inspiring story!

  • Tami July 11, 2011, 1:33 am

    I was so anxious for a reply I hit it twice on purpose! Hehe……..

  • Sue @ Sue In Training July 11, 2011, 2:02 am

    I really enjoyed reading that post! So inspiring! Thanks for sharing your story here, Susan!

  • Ellie@fitforthesoul July 11, 2011, 2:18 am

    This was a great story, thanks for sharing it! It’s so so true that real and amazing changes happen little by little until one day we wake up and realize, “WOW. I was there last year, but now I’m here….?” 😀 This really gives me motivation to help my loved ones have healthier habits!

  • Jolene ( July 11, 2011, 3:42 am

    This is a very inspiring story – thanks for sharing!

  • Aine @ Something to Chew Over July 11, 2011, 3:45 am

    Great guest post, thanks Susan!

  • Tania July 11, 2011, 5:24 am

    Hi Caitlin,
    I am from Bulgaria. I always thought that here in Bulgaria we live healthy, not like americans. But now, while I was reading your post, I realized i have becomed one of those unhealthy people. I smoke, because of stress at work, I eat because of stress, I dont exercize, because i dont have time. I gained weight and health problems came after that.
    So now I am in exactly your position 5 years ago, but still can find motivation for change.
    But I will, soon…
    Your post was very helpful, thank you!

    • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:45 am

      Way to go, Tania!

  • Jen July 11, 2011, 6:59 am

    GREAT POST! Very inspiring, thank you for sharing!

  • Kris @ tryingtotri July 11, 2011, 8:03 am

    I always love your posts at NMA, but to read how you started in triathlon is so inspiring – thanks for sharing! I’m working on becoming one of “those people” too; I’ve ditched the unhealthy eating, I’m a runner, and it’s a journey!

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed July 11, 2011, 8:55 am

    Love this post and love No Meat Athlete!!!!!

  • Katy @ In Between Travels July 11, 2011, 9:11 am

    This was so well written! and a great story. Next time I see one of my friends light up a cig, I know what I’m going to do…

  • Sarah July 11, 2011, 10:08 am

    I have been reading your blog for a while (stalker-ific haha) and this is such a great post, thanks for sharing!

    • Caitlin July 11, 2011, 10:45 am

      Thanks for reading, Sarah!

  • Anne P July 11, 2011, 11:06 am

    What an AMAZING post. Loved this. Good for Susan!

  • Steph @ A Life Without Ice Cream July 11, 2011, 11:06 am

    What a fantastic post! Thank you so much for sharing it. Going to head over and check out the No Meat Athlete now 🙂

  • Jen July 11, 2011, 11:25 am

    Thanks for the amazing post! While I’ve recently realized that I’m going to get healthier through small steps rather than some giant instant action – it sometimes still feels unattainable. You’ve given me inspiration to keep up with the baby steps!!

  • Recovering Food Addict July 11, 2011, 11:40 am

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so glad I started out my Monday morning by reading this post. Very inspiring!

  • Andrea July 11, 2011, 11:44 am

    Great story, very inspiring! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Rose @ Eternal Recess July 11, 2011, 12:07 pm

    Absolutely LOVE this post (and lately, anything Susan writes)! I, too, dumped a lifelong habit of cigarettes, heavy drinking and bad decisions for triathlon. I never thought I would or could do anything like this – but now I’m signed up for three Half Ironmans and am registering for IMAZ in 2012!

  • Heather July 11, 2011, 4:07 pm

    This was a great post! Thanks so much for writing it. BTW, I already have the tattoo picked out that I’m getting when I run my first race (I’ve never been a runner, but I’m working on it). Can’t wait.

  • Dyan July 12, 2011, 10:25 am

    Susan, you ROCK!! I came from a very similar background before I started running 3 years ago, and although the self-doubt still creeps in, I want you to know how much you inspire me!! LOVE your posts!! Thanks!! (ps, I am getting my 26.2 tat this summer 😉

  • Alett August 29, 2011, 12:15 pm


    Love THIS post. Thanks for posting Susan’s awesome story.

  • example proposal November 2, 2011, 5:44 pm

    Oh, I wish I had the talant as you have

  • Beth December 28, 2011, 9:46 am

    Inspirational story and great title. It puts all great feats into perspective. Everyone has to start “somewhere”.

  • Jason March 30, 2014, 6:11 am

    Very nice post, this story is really touching. Way to go Susan!!!

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