Watching the waves that Dorothy Beal has been making in the running world over the past few years, you wouldn’t believe that running wasn’t in her blood from the beginning. Just like you would never imagine, based on how inspirational and positive her message and influence are in the fitness world, that she hasn’t been a dreamer and a go-getter since day one. It is these unlikely beginnings, though, that have shaped her fitness journeys into one of the more interesting ones, namely because it’s not too unfamiliar for most.
Getting Into Running
Before college, Dorothy hadn’t been much of an athlete, and certainly not much of a runner. But as the development of unhealthy habits started piling up once she started undergrad, the changes began taking a toll on Dorothy’s mental state in addition to the physical.
“I went to college and did what most people do: I drank too much and ate too much, and was just generally not happy. I gained a significant amount of weight, and it became a snowball effect: the bigger I got, the less I did, and the less I did, the bigger I got.”
For Dorothy, this weight gain in college proved to be one the first key motivators in her taking up running.
The second? Her mom.
“I went home on a break towards the end of college and my mom said she would help to pay for anything that had to do with running,” says Dorothy. “Whether that was clothes, shoes, a fee for race entry; she wanted to help with whatever it took to get me into it. So she kind of kick-started running for me as a way to lose weight, and then once the weight started coming off, it was easier to be active.”
Finding Her Pace
Dorothy notes that starting out was certainly not without it’s difficulties though, most of which stemmed from her own doubts and insecurities, like her hesitancy to be seen running on campus in shorts or her fears that she was getting into running too late in the game.
Nevertheless, she pushed through her comfort zone and powered on. When she graduated college, having become a more familiar with running and gotten back on track in terms of weight control, Dorothy found herself facing a different dilemma: uncertainty in her career. Unsure of where she wanted to go from there, her mom suggested training for a marathon as a way to keep her busy, but also to give her focus that could help her sort things out in areas other than her training.
“Once I ran the marathon, though,” says Dorothy, “I was hooked. Suddenly, running became a passion instead of something I was just doing for weight loss or to improve my health.”
Since her first marathon in 2003, Dorothy has participated in about 30 different marathons, each of which has taken her to different locations around the U.S., and the world, and has had her running for different causes. And yet through it all, Dorothy hardly hesitates to say that her first race will forever be one of the most memorable.
“I didn’t really realize that something like a race could change your life,” she says about going into her first marathon. “And in more than just a running sense, too. I think that up until that point, I had really just lived my life in fear and believed that I wasn’t destined to do anything special or be anything special. But once I ran the marathon and crossed the finish line, I started to feel like if I could do that, then I could really do anything, because I really thought that it was impossible going into it.”
That’s not to say, however, that none of the other marathons that Dorothy has participated in are memorable, especially since some of her races have taken her halfway across the globe, including a trip to China to run along the Great Wall just this past year.
“It was my slowest race and probably the most painful,” she says. “It has 5,160 stairs, so it’s a lot of climbing instead of just running. But it was also the happiest race of my life. I just kept looking around me and thinking to myself, “I’m in China, on the Great Wall, running a marathon!” It was one of those surreal moments where you realize that you never know where life is going to take you. You can plan all the livelong day, but sometimes things just happen way better than you could have planned for.”
I Run This Body
Dorothy’s personal journey in running ultimately inspired her to share her story and what she had learned along the way, first in the form of blogging on her site MilePosts, and then in the form of personal e-coaching, where Dorothy helps clients with everything from race-day prep to the smaller tasks of finding the right running footwear.
“I wasn’t a high school runner, I’ve never stood out at sports, I’d never even thought that I would be somebody athletic,” Dorothy says, delving into the value of being a relatable coach for her clients. “When you have somebody who’s coaching you that’s gone on your same journey, it’s easy to identify with them and put your faith in them. And I always reinforce with my clients that I don’t have any special athletic talents. It’s science, it’s heart, it’s hard work, and it’s believing in yourself. And that’s awesome, because it means that anybody can do it.”
In addition to coaching clients directly through e-coaching, Dorothy has managed to help countless people along their journeys simply through her positive messages on her blog and social media, including her signature motto, “I Run This Body.”
“When I first started running, I would write down quotes for myself and repeat them to myself while running,” says Dorothy. “But when you’re doing a long race, your mind tends to turn to mush a bit. It becomes hard to remember these long quotes, so it just becomes small, positive affirmations. Then during one race, I said to myself, “I run this body,” and it just kind of stuck in my head, and it’s grown and morphed into a different thing for everybody. Once I joined Instagram, I started using the hashtag, and it recently hit 40,000 tags, which is so exciting.”
Fitness Beyond Running
Aside from running, Dorothy is big on fitness DVDs – she’s a fan of Jillian Michaels’ series – and yoga, with the inclusion of weight training where she can, which she says plays a role in helping her running, as well.
One of the bigger challenges for Dorothy in terms of figuring out a routine that worked for her, though, came about when she had her kids. Still, the mother of three managed to make it work, at times by taking advantage of whatever free moments she had to squeeze in a workout, and at others taking her kids along for the ride.
“For the longest time I also had a single, a double, and triple running stroller,” she says, describing the stroller progression that came with the births of each of her three kids. “I trained for marathons while pushing them in the stroller, so they’ve kind of grown up with that. And I never really listened to music while doing it; it was a time when I’d talk with them or we’d play games like ‘I Spy,’ so it was always nice.”
More recently – about three years ago, to be somewhat exact – Dorothy’s passion for running and fitness was joined by an interest in health on the nutritional side of things.
“I had only quasi-learned about nutrition up until that point,” she says. “I knew, for example, that people ate oatmeal, but would think that a little brown packet of processed oatmeal was the same thing was fine, then. Or I would eat lean pockets for dinner and think that I was doing myself a favor.”
She began reading up on the subject to learn more, and simultaneously began exploring dietary supplements in the form of vitamins and shakes.
“I have tried like every shake on the market I swear!” she says. “They leave you feeling bloated or gassy, or they have things in them that you just don’t want in your shake. Now I do WellPath shakes, and I was shocked when I tried it, actually, because it tasted good and it had specifically what I wanted in it to help me reach my goals.”