Valerie slowly began acknowledging her hunger and feeding my body without restrictions. "I remember in college, there was an 8-mile loop I loved. Frequently after completing the run, I would walk a few blocks to Subway and eat an entire foot-long meatball sub. Other days I let myself eat an entire pint of ice cream after running for a couple of hours. I was happy to feed myself without judgment or guilt," she says.
In April 2000, Valerie ran her first half marathon and continued to run half marathons for a few years. She then set a goal to complete a marathon in all 50 states. "My first 21 marathons and ultras took place in 20 states and one Canadian province," Valerie says.
In 2008, Valerie joined the Marathon Maniacs (#1057). "The spirit of the Marathon Maniacs is exactly why I decided to become a runner over 11 years ago," she says. "It reaffirms why I do this—sheer joy."
Valerie feels the dramatic change in her life can be encapsulated in a quote from her favorite ultrarunner (and fellow former anorexic) Pam Reed in Reed's novel The Extra Mile:
?"And when change did occur for me, it wasn't in the context of treatment for anorexia. It was in the context of running. When running (which I very much wanted to do) came into conflict with eating (which still made me uncomfortable), something had to give."
However, running didn't eliminate life's struggles for Valerie. Family issues surfaced, and her marriage went from bad to worse. "This eight-month period was one of the most stressful in my entire life," Valerie says. "In the past, I would have dropped 10 to 20 pounds, turning to physical hunger as a comfort."
Fortunately, she had a race coming up. She had signed up for a 50-miler. "My main way of coping during this time of stress was to set higher goals with my running."
Today, Valerie has completed 11 ultras and 31 marathons. Her longest run is 55.8 miles in a 12-hour timed race. She has won first place female in a 50-miler. And her biggest achievement yet: 4 marathons in 4 days at the Savage Seven Marathons.
"I am incredibly proud of myself," Valerie says. "I love what my body can accomplish. For me, running really cures all."Sign up for your next race.