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Aliya Armstrong – Started Her Own Running Group

Gazelle Girls, Aliya Armstrong

My first attempt at completing a running event was training for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Grand Rapids Kids Marathon in 2011. I had always despised running, but I was excited to complete this training with my four-year-old daughter. The sad part? I could not even run a mile without stopping. I watched my daughter’s energy and excitement during our run practices, and I was so winded and jealous. What happened to the competitive cheerleader and very active woman I used to be? Did I lose it after birthing three children? This occurrence ignited a spark in me to start my own training for a 5k. I registered to complete the 5k race the same weekend as my daughter’s Kids Marathon.

I had never RUN a 5k until I participated in a run club at New Hope Baptist Church facilitated by the YMCA. I was very scared and nervous. But I went on to complete the entire Fifth Third River Bank Run without stopping. I felt so accomplished and motivated. One year had truly made a difference.

From there, I began my own crusade. I am sure you are well aware that 4 out of 5 black women are obese. What an alarming statistic. I knew I was in that number and so were many of the women I called friends, family and acquaintances. I went on a mission, and I brought many women along with me for the journey. My grandmother frequently attends Zumba and the couch to 5k program now. She was a former border-line diabetic. My husband ran his first 5k with me this year after three knee surgeries, and my daughter has competed in three kids’ fun runs. We really make it a family affair.

My mission continued through a running group I developed called S.T.A.R.S. (Sisters Taking Action Reversing Statistics). I competed in the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute 5k and won first place for my age group, ME, the woman who – just two years ago – could barely finish a mile without stopping. To date, I have completed a Duo-k (5k and 10k back-to-back), five 5k’s and the 10k leg of the Grand Rapids Marathon relay team. I have run in the rain and in the cold, and lost over 35 pounds… feats I NEVER imagined I would ever do. In April, I will be running in my first half-marathon, the Gazelle Girl.

Running has changed my life. I look at my family and the health of those around me totally differently, and I attempt to make a positive, HEALTHY difference in the lives of people that I come in contact with.

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