By Dan Popovic

Life is a journey for those who take the bull by the horns and make a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. During the journey, there always seem to be tests or roadblocks that either break us or make us stronger. Sometimes it takes inspiration from others to show us what we can be capable of and friends to give us words of encouragement. A few special Intown athletes sat down and shared their health accomplishments for the year.

When I asked Elizabeth Kalifeh if she started the year with a plan as to how many events she would enter, she responded, “I found a 12 in 2012 Challenge on a blog and I wanted to be a part of it, which meant finding 12 half marathons in 2012.”

Her long-term goal was to complete a half marathon or marathon in every state and has completed a half marathon in North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, New Jersey and the Publix half in Atlanta.

One of her inspirational moments: “In Park City last year, a little kid, 10 or so, breezed past me with his dad during the first few miles of a half marathon. I kept thinking he’d gone out too fast and I would pass him soon. It never happened. I later found the family after the race. As it turns out, the family was from North Carolina also racing the states and all five family members are runners. They have a blog and we keep in touch regularly.”

Stephanie Gobler said her inspiration comes from her family. “I hope to run a full marathon next spring and work towards a Half Iron Man by next summer,” she said. “I just want to keep going. My parents are now biking and jogging more than I’ve ever known them to do, so I’ll keep going if it keeps them going, too!”

But, Stephanie has other reasons that many athletes share: previous injuries. “I had major surgery a few years ago and my life was kind of on hold for a really long time as a result. I’d previously been a rock climber and very active. After having my abdominal muscles cut down the middle for surgery, I couldn’t sit or stand without pain or assistance for a few weeks. I don’t think I got back to ‘normal’ for about six months, but by that time, any level of fitness I previously had achieved was gone. I only had a glimpse of weakness. Some people are much worse off than I was, but just remembering for an instant how weak I once was keeps me pushing harder.”

Jessica Moore will be running in the New York City Marathon in November after missing out in the lottery three years in a row. “I’ve been running since 2007, but refused to do a marathon until I could run NYC.”

Jessica grew up in New York watching the race and her family will be there to cheer her on as she runs through all five boroughs. Jessica’s healthier lifestyle has had a personal impact as well. “Over the past few years I’ve lost 30 pound and just this year I’ve lost two dress sizes. I’m a part time actor so feeling better about myself has definitely helped my confidence in my relationships and on stage,” she said.

Michelle Law said she’d been working her up to a half marathon. “I chose events where the proceeds were going to either charity or something else that I wanted to support like the Atlanta Beltline,” she said.

The most inspirational thing she’s seen so far: “I see female runners who are overweight and sometimes even obese, but they are out there walking and making an effort. They may be some of the last to cross the finish line, but I think it’s cool to see them trying and moving and making the effort to get from where they are with their health and weight to where they wish or need to be. I like their spirit.”

Christian Long likes running in 5Ks because there are so many of them to choose from and the entrance fee usually goes to a good cause.  “Last year I ran the O’Highlands Jig and Jog, Warrior Dash, Sweetwater 420 5K, East Atlanta Strut, Cabbagetown Romp and Stomp, and capped it off with the BeltLine Eastside 10k,” he said.

Christian said his friends are a constant source of inspiration. “I post my times and accomplishments on Facebook and their reaction just motivates me to do even better.”

On a personal level, Christian said he lost 80 pounds in a year just by eating right and running. “I just made a conscious decision to start taking better care of myself and there was a natural transition. I’m very thankful that the switch happened because I have never been in better shape than I am now.”

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.