Woman becomes a grandmother, runs marathon in same year

Pictured is Beverly Keel crossing the finish line during a race she ran.

Beverly Keel conquered a challenge that 160 million Americans are faced with– she lost her excess weight. Keel had been overweight most of her life and never dreamed that one day she would be an athlete or the director of a fitness center.

Keel’s mission all started in 2006, and took her a little over a year to accomplish.

“The wake-up call came when I was weighed at the doctor’s office,” Keel said. “I was at the highest weight I’d ever been, even higher than when I was pregnant. Something in me just clicked.”

She had tried many diets over the years and they did not work for her.

“I decided to become mindful of what I was eating,” she said. “I began by cutting back. If I wanted a hamburger, I didn’t add cheese and mayonnaise. I was still satisfied, but eliminated some of the calories.”

Keel said she eats “clean” 80 percent of the time, only allowing herself a treat when she has a craving.

Her doctor had told her many times that she needed to exercise. Exercise was something she had never taken part in, but she was determined and decided to join the hospital’s gym, Fitness First.

She concentrated on the elliptical, treadmill and classes that were offered, and it worked. Once the weight came off, she added running to her exercise program. She said she feels this has kept the weight off. She has been in over 200 races, which have included 5Ks, marathons, and duathlons. She didn’t run her first marathon until the year she became a grandmother.

“When I race, I focus on competing against myself,” Keel said. “I focus on my personal record, my personal best time. I set yearly goals to accomplish things I’ve never done.”

Over the years, she has faced health problems such as a broken bone in her foot, but she still finds ways to exercise. She does chair aerobics and focuses on the parts of her body that are working.

“If your legs work, exercise them. If your arms work, exercise them. If you can lay on the floor and do an ab work, do that,” she said. “Just keep moving.”

Keel said by accomplishing this weight loss goal, she feels like she climbed a mountain.

“I feel better now at age 51 than I did in my 20s,” she said. “I enjoy clothes shopping now. This experience has made me feel free.”

The best advice she shares with others is to do it for yourself, not to please anyone else. She says in that way, the new lifestyle becomes a habit and the change works.

Keel has come full circle. She is now the director of Fitness First, the very gym she joined 13 years ago.

Beverly’s motto: “Don’t wish for it, work for it.”

— Marla Ballard’s Who’s Who appears each Tuesday.

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