All-Star Profile: Lisa Gonzales

This is a reader-submitted article for the Strength Running All-Star feature that highlights motivational stories of running transformation. If you’d like to submit your own story, email it to me at

All-Star Lisa Gonzales

Enter Lisa:

On May 19th I turned 3 years old. Okay…43, if I’m honest. But don’t they say that life begins at 40? It did for me anyway.  You see, when I turned 40, I weighed over 300 lbs. For my birthday, my mom gave me a trip to Hawaii. You would think I would have been thrilled but all I could think about was that I had to buy a bathing suit and shorts. Which meant shopping. When you wear a size 26/28, shopping just isn’t fun. In fact, it’s downright depressing.

So I decided to do something about it and I bought a bike and started bike commuting. When I got down to 220 lbs, I figured it was time to lace up some running shoes and see if I could run. And I ran. Sort of. It was more of a run/walk/waddle but at least I was moving. Being goal oriented, I signed up for a trail 5K to keep me going. I just about died on the hills but I finished in 51:31 and I was 95th out of 105 people. I wasn’t last, but I was close to it. Outwardly, I told people I’d embraced my inner penguin and I was fine with being slow. But inside, I longed to be speedy.

I kept running and eventually got a little faster and signed up for a 10K, a half marathon (2:14), and then my first marathon in May 2010 (5:12). I did okay; nothing spectacular. Mostly, I was happy to finish. I seemed to be a middle-of-the-packer and resigned myself to being there.

I ran my second marathon in October 2010 in 4:40. I’d missed my goal by 10 minutes and I was frustrated. I felt like I had a faster marathon in me but I didn’t know how to go about finding it. I decided to seek help to get to my goals and that’s when I hired Jason as my coach.

We started working together in December 2010 and I immediately noticed a difference. The warm-ups, mobility, strength, and core work he gave me made me stronger overall and more able to handle my workouts. Where before I had babied my legs in fear of getting injured, now I was confident in their ability to run…and run hard. That confidence helped with the tempo runs, hill sprints, strides, and long runs he gave me. Every run got better and better and I could feel myself becoming a stronger runner which is what I had hoped for.

The test came when I started racing and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. I ran my 3rd marathon in February and my goal was 4:20. I’m happy to say that not only did I beat that goal, but also my A+ goal (4:15 – my dream goal) with 4:14 and PR’d by over 25 minutes! Woo!

Then in April, I ran back-to-back half marathons. It was the same course both days and it included some major hills. This would be a huge test on how strong my legs were. Would they be noodly on the second day or would they be ready to go? Again, I’m happy to say, I passed the test with flying colors. On Saturday, I PR’d by 7 minutes (2:06:40) and won my age group!

I felt great after and I got to the line on Sunday relaxed and ready to take on whatever the day brought. Guess what? It brought another 7 minute PR (1:59:23)! And this time I was the 1st Woman Overall and 6th Overall! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win my age group, let alone the entire race.

I’m sure you can guess I no longer consider myself a penguin runner.  Now I think of myself more like this quote from Colleen DeReuck: “I don’t rate myself as a fantastic, talented athlete. I just have perseverance. I’m a cart horse. I work hard.” Thanks to Jason, I have the tools and workouts I need to put in the work to reach my goals. I may not be a thoroughbred yet, but I’m definitely on my way!


Thanks Lisa for sharing this awesome story! What a transformation from couch potato to runner (even winning races!). Lisa is beyond a work horse – she just gets it done, no matter what. And she feels great doing it, which is usually surprising because nobody feels good every day.

I was hesitant to go along with back to back half-marathons but Lisa convinced me that this is something she really wanted to do. As her coach, I’m here to guide her to success, not mandate her races. She proved me wrong!

You can check out Lisa’s blog here or follow her on Twitter at @runlikeacoyote. If you want to submit your own running transformation story, email it to me at

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