MCM Features

For many runners, completing the annual Marine Corps Marathon signals the culmination of a personal triumph.  Some participate in the event to honor loved ones lost, others to prove their mettle, and a few have conquered weight and health battles.

Amy Hoffman of Pittsburgh, PA, described herself as morbidly obese two years ago.  Running was not a word used to describe her daily routine.

“I lived by the ‘run only when being chased’ philosophy,” Hoffman joked.  “Even then I knew I wouldn't stand much of a chance in a zombie apocalypse!”

Though she cannot point to an exact moment that caused her to change her outlook on running, Hoffman recalls a 2011 Thanksgiving experience with her father.

“I’ve always been overweight and so have most of the people in my family,” Hoffman explained. “My dad had a heart attack on Thanksgiving and wound up with five stents in his heart and a bypass graft in his leg.”

Shortly after that experience Amy began tracking her food and eating better. She also found a blog called Runs for Cookies.             

“The author was my size and my height,” she said.  “She wasn’t doing any extreme diets and she started running.  I thought, maybe I can do this so I began running. On my own. On a treadmill. In my basement. There was no way I was going to ‘run’ in public and let people see me!”                

Hoffman laced up ‘Whatever athletic-ish shoes she already owned’ and began a Couch to 5K program.  She admits that completing the program on her own was difficult and she was struggling, so she decided she needed a “real” pair of running shoes.            

“When I went to get my first pair of shoes I didn’t look like a runner and I thought they were going to laugh me out of the store,” Hoffman said.  “Terrified, I walked into my local running store, Mojo Running and Multisport. I felt like such a fraud even stepping foot inside the door, but those first couple of steps into the store were the true beginning of my running journey.”                

Hoffman met the store owner, JennWohlgamuth, and a connection was made.                

“Amy came in very apprehensive,” said Wohlgamuth. “She was very nervous but had this amazing smile and eye contact. I told her to take baby steps, the couch to 5K program, and told her she could do this. She put a lot of faith in me and our shop.”            

Equipped with the stability shoes recommended by Wohlgamuth, Hoffman signed up for Mojo’s couch to 5K training runs.            

“I met a lot of great people, the ‘Real Runners’ you know,” Hoffman joked. “It was so welcoming to join that community. I never met a runner who was not encouraging of anyone starting out or struggling.”Hoffman Photo            

A year after her father’s heart attack, Hoffman completed her first 5K on Thanksgiving Day.  Now bitten by the running bug, she set her sights on more challenging distances.            

“Two years after walking into Mojo I've run numerous 5Ks, some 10Ks, a 10-miler and three half marathons,” Hoffman said.“When I crossed the finish at my first half, there were some Mojo people waiting for me. They started cheering and I started bawling. I put in the hard work and I had just run 13.1 miles.  It was exciting and emotional.”            

Eighty pounds lighter and riding a runner’s high from her latest half marathon, Hoffman entered the MCM lottery and was not selected.            

“I tried to convince myself it was for the best,” she said.“Maybe I wasn't ready for a full marathon after all.”            

However, Hoffman didn’t give up.            

“A couple of weeks after the lottery, I found out the Mojo store was putting together a team to run and raise money for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). It seemed like fate. I could run my first marathon surrounded by the people who helped me fall in love with running, all while raising money for a charity.”            

Hoffman began to research TAPS.  She read some testimonials from families that benefited from the charity, watched some videos on the charity’s website, and says she starting crying.            

“Knowing about this charity’s mission pushed me through marathon training,” she said.  “I know I’ll be doing some good and helping people who deserve it.”                

Joining Hoffman at the MCM start line will be 17 runners from the Mojo team.                

“Some are speedy and others not so much;some with personal ties to the armed forces and others without,” she continued. “The whole marathon is going to be emotional ride. There will be some tears probably during the middle and at the end,but we are all in this together. We are going to enjoy every inch of this 26.2 mile journey. I don't expect this race to be anything short of life-changing,and I can’t wait!”


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