Extraordinary Pittsburgh Marathon Local Runner Race for Remarkable Cause (Pt. 1)

Working mom, Nicole Holderfield is running for a reason.

Sunday, May 5 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon will host runners who will be racing to achieve a personal goal, connecting with their own personal passion for a purpose, and charities close to one’s heart.

Nicole Holderfield is a working mom to two daughters, who has set the half-marathon as a goal in her fitness journey. She trains on her lunch breaks and once weighed more than 300 pounds, but has since lost 125 utilizing healthy dieting habits and exercise goals. Here motivation is her children, “I’m running to show them you can do anything you put your mind to”.

How do you train on your lunch break?

I’m fortunate to have a job where I work remotely. Instead of taking a break for lunch, I will lace up my shoes and run the neighborhood. My neighborhood is one with a decent number of hills and not too much traffic so I’m able to get 4-6 miles in during a typical lunch break which helps me train for the Pittsburgh elevation. Fortunately, my only “cubemate” is my dog Colby so he doesn’t complain that I’m too sweaty for the office.  

What type of training do you do on your lunch break to prepare for the marathon? 

I’ve focused solely on running to prepare for the marathon. During the work week I shoot for three runs depending on my schedule. I plan my day according to my workload and meetings and try to remind myself it’s an important appointment that I need to prioritize for my physical and mental health. I save my longer runs for the weekend due to the time constraint. 

How long did it take you to lose 125 pounds? (Congrats by the way!)

I like to say two years with a 9-month hiatus to grow a baby. I started my weight loss journey in early 2016 only to be surprised by two pink lines after losing about 30 pounds. Under the advice of my doctor I placed weight loss on the back burner with the goal of starting again shortly after she was born. The second go-round was hard to adjust to with two little ones at home and working full time in the office (my remote position did not begin until later that summer) but that January I started again, then in October I hit 100 pounds lost and continued to chip away at the final pounds the following year. 

What healthy diet and exercise plan worked best for you?

I started by counting calories using the app Lose It! I would weigh and measure my food to a T. About 6 months in though it became a bit restricting and instead I trusted my body to tell me what it needed for fuel. I introduced group fitness about three months into my weight loss journey and loved it – however, it became harder to balance with class schedules so I needed something that I could do when I had a bit of free time. Since I was never a runner (couldn’t even run the mile in gym class!) I started with the Couch to 5K app. It introduced running slowly and prepared me for my first 5K. After I “graduated” from the 8-week program, I would continue running a few days a week around my neighborhood for a few miles at a time. 

How did you come to find the right routine and eating plan for you?

I learned I didn’t need to deprive myself of things I once loved. Instead, I enjoyed in moderation or came up with new ways to prepare those same items. Through that process I found a new love for cooking. I also began looking at exercise more as a stress release, or a celebration for what I can do rather than a chore or something I had to do. While training for the marathon there have been days I have “forced” myself out there to prepare my body for the mileage, but there’s never been a run that I’ve regretted.  

As the mother 2 two girls, what are some encouraging words you share with your daughters to love their bodies no matter what size it is going through? 

My weight loss journey was never because I hated my body, but rather that my weight trapped me in. Looking back now, I realize I wasn’t fully living at that size. I was missing opportunities to be the mom I always wanted to be, and to enjoy life to the max. What I want my girls to know through this experience is first and foremost, you can do whatever you set your mind to and life should never be dictated by the number on the scale but rather how your body allows you to experience life as a whole; to feel good in your own skin, to embrace your weight, looks, and style, and to never stop being the best version of yourself. 

What made you want to run the half marathon? 

After focusing on losing weight for close to two years, I needed a way to continue this healthy lifestyle with achievable goals away from the scale. I started with 5Ks and never saw myself running beyond that. I didn’t think running for hours would be enjoyable until the day I was training for my last 5K of the year and realized my body felt really good about two miles in and thought maybe I should try for four. I ended that day running 5 whole miles and I cried. After years of self-sabotage and neglect my body was supporting me through five miles, and more than anything my head didn’t let me give up. It was then the thoughts of a marathon came creeping in and I gave myself some time to think about it before signing up. In those few weeks I pondered the thought and was motivated by a friend who said she’d join me. It was then I realized that this was truly something I could do, and I wanted to prove to myself I was right. My ongoing mantra has always been “She believed she could, so she did.” And that’s exactly what I want to do on May 5. 

Will your daughters be running this marathon with you? Did they train with you?

My girls are still young (4 and 2) so they won’t be joining me on race day. But I believe they won’t be far behind. They have been watching me evolve in this journey and little gestures make me see they are always watching. From choosing water over a sweet beverage or running circles around the house to “run like mommy,” to having my oldest join in the kid’s fun run at my latest race. Physically they won’t be next to me, but they’re the catalyst for my story – I started this journey for them, but what I realized is they helped me find myself in the process so they will truly be there with me in spirit. 

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