Big Girl Dance Class with Todd & Whit!

Hello readers! I have an exciting story to share! About 3 weeks ago, I came across a shared screenshot on Instagram from one of my running friends, Elana. It was a post in which Whitney Way Thore announced a pop-up Big Girl Dance Class being held in Pittsburgh on 6/19/18! I immediately signed up and waited for the day to come!

I knew I had to leave work early if I wanted to get to Rex Theater (South Side) before the line got crazy long. I arrived and parked around 5:15. I had a mini meltdown because I thought I lost both my license and debit card. I put them in my skirt before I left work and thought they fell out of my pocket. They ended up getting buried deep inside my pocket, not knowing the pocket wrapped around the entirety of my waist until that time. Crisis averted! I placed my purse inside of my trunk and did so with much difficulty. As I pulled my hand out, I scraped the top of my thumb inside of my trunk.


Only me. I figured, it can only go up from here!

When I finally made my way to the event location, the line had roughly 30 people in it. I quickly got in line to hold my place, while I waited for my friend, Elana, to show up. The show’s crew came around with clip boards, in which we were required to sign a waiver for the show if we were to make an appearance! *Fingers crossed we do!*


Just before going inside.

Anyway…we stood in line for over 1 hour. There was some sort of delay; I’m still unsure of what happened. I’m glad I had a buddy to keep me company while we waited. We heard people screaming and around the corner came Buddy! It was pretty surreal to see someone in person whom I’ve seen on television dozens and dozens of times. He walked down the entirety of the line and waved to everyone. I’m super proud of how much he has accomplished in his continued sobriety and his openness about it. Way to go Buddy!

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Why do you run?

Hello readers! For my April blog post as a Pittsburgh Marathon blogger, I wanted to do something different. Looking back at some of my posts, I’ve explained why I started running and continue to do so. I decided to do a little project and ask my fellow running friends whom are participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon events why they run. Here we go!

Morgan Manko


I run because it heals me.

I never gave running a chance until I was about 18-years-old and my father managed to convince me to try a 5k with him. I hated every second of it and finished with a less than satisfactory time of 45 minutes and 32 seconds. I was content for that to be my first and only race, and for some time, it was. Fast forward to about 2 years later and I had just gone through a rather difficult breakup. I didn’t really know what to do with myself, but I figured a walk would help me clear my head. A walk turned into a jog, a jog turned into a run, and after about 30 minutes, I was 2 1/2 miles away from home and winded, but I felt fantastic. So began my running career. I signed up for a few 5ks, followed by a few 10ks, followed by my first Pittsburgh Half-Marathon in 2010, and eventually my first Pittsburgh full Marathon the following year in 2011.

I continued to grow, and learn, and get faster. I signed up for more races, including the Pittsburgh Marathon every year. And then life took an unexpected and rather difficult turn in the early spring of 2014. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and found my time consumed with hospital visits and radiation treatments. I was too weak and too tired to run casually, let alone motivate myself to try for a few races. But, I was lucky, I got better, I got stronger, and I went into remission almost 2 years after I had been initially diagnosed. I started walking, I started jogging, and eventually I started running again. 2016 was my big return to running in the Pittsburgh Marathon, and I managed to earn my best time with my father and husband driving around cheering for me at different mile points.

My reason for running has always been one of healing. Running has helped me get over heartache, it has helped me let go of the past, it has helped me see my own strength. Running has helped me prove to myself that no matter what, I am capable and running has also given me the strength I thought cancer took away. Running healed me, in different ways at different times, but it is why I continue to hit the trails every day, and it is why I will be competing once again in the Pittsburgh Marathon this spring.

Carla Johnson

BCHM 2017

I run because it’s my happy place.

I started to run after I lost 100 pounds in 2008. It wasn’t very much. I would run 3 to 5 miles 3 to 4 days per week as a way to lose more weight. I did this for probably 2 years until May of 2010 when I ran my first 5k that was held by the YMCA I belonged to. I ended up joining a new gym a few months after my first 5k and pushed myself to take different fitness classes. One of the spin instructors would see me run on the treadmill and she would always tell me I should run a half marathon. I always gave her some excuse saying that I don’t have time to train. One day, I finally gave in and I signed up to do the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in 2013. After that day, I was hooked and signed up to do a fall half marathon that same year. This year, I will be doing my 12th half marathon and I do have the goal to complete a full marathon one day.

I have learned and gained so much from running. In the fall of 2015, I joined the Steel City Road Runners. My first run with them was for the marathon kick off in 2016. I wish I would have joined earlier because I have made so many friends and learned so much about running. I have realized that running is my happy place. After I run, I feel good about myself and that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I have good and bad races, but I look at it as doing something people don’t have the courage to do. Most recently, I have set out to get down to my goal weight. I started losing weight in 2004 and was down to a 150 pound loss in 2014. I gained some weight back, and I am in the process of getting back down to my lowest weight. This year, I am going to the 5K and half marathon to complete the Steel Challenge for the third year in a row. I have also become a pacer for the Steel City Road Runners. I enjoy having fun and keeping my group motivated during runs.

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The Gift of Running

The day I put on my first pair of running shoes, my life changed. I’m forever grateful that I took a chance with myself. Despite the awkward tan lines, black toenails and chaffing, the amazing gifts running has given me make the not-so-pretty moments worth it.


Around the age of 10, I started putting on a lot of weight year after year until I weighed 230 lbs as a teenager. Food was my only comfort in life, but was realistically a slow form of suicide. In January 2009, I decided to begin watching The Biggest Loser. By the end of the season, something clicked. I was just 20 years old and not living life as fully as I had yearned for. I needed more out of life, so I made the decision to begin my weight loss journey in early April of that same year. After naturally losing a significant amount of weight in a year’s time, I started heading into the opposite direction due to the fear of gaining and not knowing how to maintain my new body. I ultimately ended up with a full blown eating disorder and chained myself to the scale. At just 106 lbs., I was eating around 800 calories per day, punished myself with exercise for eating something “bad“, got into arguments over food and nearly blacked out on several occasions. Food was no longer comforting; I was afraid of food. I was in complete denial until a family member expressed her concern. Then, I met a runner in late 2010 and everything changed. It took some time to spark my curiosity, but once I started, I never looked back. It wasn’t long before I had to relearn what real food was and why I needed it, especially for distance running. Eventually, my chains shattered, and gone were the days I obsessed about food and my weight. Long story short…running saved my life.


Depression and other mental illnesses run highly in my family, so it came to no surprise that I ended up with depression myself. My teenage years were the worst; I was a walking billboard for the hopeless. Depression robs you of your happiness until you’re just an empty shell. It’s an “I’m lonely even when surrounded by people” feeling. It’s an “I’m in a deep hole with no ladder” feeling. It’s an “I feel nothing at all” feeling. I think a lot of us are afraid to discuss our mental health because of the unfortunate stigma placed against it. Maintaining a good mental health is just as important as your physical health. I wish it were as easy as smiling more or changing my thoughts, but I can’t reconfigure my brain chemistry. I can, however, cope differently. That’s where running comes into play for me. I use running as a tool, a form of therapy if you will. It honestly wasn’t until I contracted Lyme disease and had to take a hiatus for an unforeseen amount of time that I realized how much running helped. It’s easy to get carried away in our everyday lives, and running allows me to take a step back and connect with myself. When I first started running, it felt like I was finally arriving to my own life, and my sense of purpose had been born. Some may think I’m running away from my problems, but I feel like I’m always running towards something better.

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Before and After Photos


Here’s the backstory to the picture on the left if you’re wondering why I look like a fish out of water on the “beach.” So…in high school, I took a graphic design class for all 4 years. On the first day of my junior year, we were assigned a project. The project was to show what fun things we did over summer break. The first step was to take a full body shot, and that alone was a horrific experience for me. I hated having my picture taken, especially full body shots. Once that was done, we were to cut ourselves out and superimpose our pictures into a fun location we adventures to over break. Well…I. HAD. NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. My summer break was spent in my bedroom, hiding from the world.  No vacations. No fun day trips. Nothing more than the occasional shopping trip with my mom or random hangouts with the handful of friends that I had at the time.

I stared at my computer screen and drew a blank. I didn’t know what to do. I glanced at a few computer screens around me. And the dread set in even further. I saw pictures of elaborate locations that were hundreds of miles away. Me? I was lucky to have traveled more than 10 miles away from home. So. I started picking my brain and came up with a temporary solution to get me through what felt like a never ending moment. I Googled pictures of beaches. And without much thought, I chose an image that looked good to the eye. I pretended that I went on a family vacation to the beach to avoid telling others that I didn’t do anything fun. I don’t know why I cared so much. As an adult, I now know that not everyone has the opportunity to go on vacation every year. And there is nothing wrong with that. But at that moment, I felt dread for the mere reason that I cared far too much about what others thought about me.


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