courtesy of Gazelle Girl • photography by Two Eagles Marcus
When asked if she was a runner in her youth, Adrienne Asselmeier laughed and responded with, “Not hardly!”
Although Asselmeier briefly dabbled with a variety of sports, her main hobby in high school was playing guitar. She did recall buying a “cool” pair of shoes and trying running, only to remember horrible experiences. “I later found out I had purchased running flats instead of a more structured shoe which would have given me better support and a better experience!”
In college, Asselmeier said she went from being a relatively healthy eater to eating what was most convenient. “That first year at school, I gained the dreaded ‘freshman 15’ and then some,” she said.
Additionally, she was a smoker since her late teens, and most of Asselmeier’s friends were also smokers. “I worked in the bar and restaurant industry where everyone was smoking,” Asselmeier said. “I knew it wasn’t good for me at the time, but thought I would quit when I was older.”
Once married, Asselmeier and her husband made strides to quit smoking. Albeit being cigarette-free for a year, stress would cause random relapses. Then came a move at age 24 to Buffalo, New York for a job. Suddenly, she was meeting a whole new group of friends—all non-smokers, and many who were living healthy lifestyles.
“You have to get in the frame of mind that change is possible and then stick to that attitude.”
She began carpooling with a group to work, and learned one woman’s story of training for her first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. “Her boyfriend had just started a Couch to 5K program,” Asselmeier remembered. “And I had a ton of questions that they were more than willing to answer.”
After that particular conversation, Asselmeier decided she was quitting smoking for good and would use running as self-punishment if she gave in to a cigarette. “I threw away my last cigarette and started a Couch to 5K program. It was so hard!” she laughed. “I had just turned 25 and running that first 60 seconds was awful. I was completely out of breath, red in the face and sweating hard, but I thought to myself, ‘This is the state of how things are now, but they are going to get better,’ and they did.”
Asselmeier kept putting one foot in front of the other, following the Couch to 5K training plan, leading her through 90 seconds of running and finally two minutes of running. “I must have checked my watch eight times during that first two-minute run,” she said. “The first time that I got up to running a full mile, I ran through the streets like Rocky with my arms in the air!” It was her first mile ran in 12 years.
Gradually, the training started to get easier, and before she knew it, Asselmeier could feel the difference. She lost 30 pounds within the first year of becoming active. “I became addicted to running. It has given me something to focus on, to talk with people about and a good hobby to socialize around.”
Asselmeier did her first 5K, then a five-mile turkey trot, then jumped to her first half marathon. When she moved back to West Michigan in 2012, she was pleasantly surprised to find just as many resources back home to stay healthy. As the marketing director for Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), she worked with charity partners, including Gazelle Girl, and became involved immediately in the 2013 event planning process. “I ran the 2013 event and haven’t stopped!” she said.
Just a week before her second Gazelle Girl race, Asselmeier and her husband found out they were expecting. After receiving the green light from her doctor, Asselmeier ran her race, introducing Wally, who is now 15 months old, to running while in the womb.
Additionally, Asselmeier is a Priority Health Champion and will blog her experiences as a Champion and an active mom. Wally is also signed up as a Priority Champion Kid; Priority Health’s program encourages the entire family to participate in activity. “I want Wally to have an active lifestyle right from the beginning so it becomes a habit,” she said. Asselmeier hopes to sign Wally up for a kid’s fun run this summer, where the distance is only 200 meters. “Even if he only runs with me part of the way before he stops and starts playing with rocks, it will still be something fun we can do together.”
On April 17, Asselmeier is pacing for the first time at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5K, helping to lead the 11:00 minute pace group. “I’m so excited to be doing my fourth Gazelle Girl half, this time as a pacer,” Asselmeier said. “Unless you’ve participated in the event, you don’t realize the awesome atmosphere.”
Her advice to those who may want to make some healthy changes but don’t know where to start is simple. “Just start talking to people and find out what resources there are in your community to help you make changes,” she said. “You have to get in the frame of mind that change is possible and then stick to that attitude. Find something you love that will help you accomplish your goals.”
Inspired to run the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon & 5K? Sign up at www.gazellegirlhalfmarathon.com.