Did you know only 0.5% of the U.S’s population have run a marathon at some point in their life? That’s no surprise, considering the discipline required to train for it–not to mention the mental toughness required to finish the race.


For her 50th birthday, Deborah Bartholow decided she wanted to do something big. The IMG_5194owner of a successful local business, wife, and mom to a sweet girl named Charlotte, her schedule proved to be anything but flexible. Deb struggled with making time for exercise until she was faced with a challenge. Today, more than two years later, she finds herself striving for a goal that seemed impossible at the start of her journey.

Her dedication to her well-being and enjoying life to its fullest has inspired us to continue helping others live their best life. We know you will be galvanized to be more after reading her story.


In the Beginning

Before I started working out, I was that “typical single girl”. I would do what everybody else does–I would get fast food, go out with friends on the weekends, and eat whatever I wanted to eat. I would have cereal in the morning, pack my lunch sometimes, and go to the store to buy a few items to go with my salad at night. Overall, I just didn’t eat that great.

I didn’t really exercise–maybe take walks and run a little bit around my block, but nothing too serious. I tried going to the gym on my own but it didn’t really work for me. I just wasn’t really motivated.

My Epiphany

When I met Nate, my husband, in 2005 my whole idea of what I thought was healthy changed.

When I got my cholesterol taken, it was pretty high at 230.  I decided I needed to change something, but I wasn’t sure what I needed to change. Sometime after Nate started cooking for me, I went back to get my cholesterol checked and it had gone down to 150.

I knew his cooking was helping me but I felt like I was still eating a lot of carbs because I wasn’t losing much weight. So I started running and using an elliptical on my own. Those two things helped me feel better, but I still wasn’t losing much weight.

Then we adopted our daughter and I noticed the extra time I once had was gone. I didn’t exercise for 2 ½ years.  No running, bicycling, nothing. One day, one of my clients came in and said, “Look at me. I’ve lost all of this weight. I look great don’t I?” I agreed and said, “Yeah, you do. I wish I could find the time to do it. I just don’t have the time to exercise anymore because I am so busy with our daughter.” And he said, “Well if you really want to do it, what you need to do is just do it. Don’t make any excuses.” I remember looking at him and saying “Are you challenging me?”

On a Mission

The next day I got up early like I used to. I went out to the garage and worked out on the elliptical. From that day on, I did something everyday. I would walk or run a little bit, and lift a few weights along with my elliptical. I just aimed to do a little bit everyday. When my client came in and told me about not making excuses, it motivated me to get back into routine.

Gradually, I got into more running. I started to do a couple 5ks. My time started to get better. I thought, “This is fun. I really like this.” I won a couple of races and started to think I was kind of good at this “running” thing.  I kept signing up for more races because it kept me motivated.

So I started running more for distance. I set my eyes on the Quintiles half marathon in 2015. It was a race that I had always wanted to run. I had a lot of time to prepare for it, almost too much time. I did a little too much, too quickly. I decided to see if I could go the distance by signing up for and running the BCBS 13.1 one month prior to prepare myself for the half marathon Quintiles race.

After that race is when my left knee started to bother me. It was an ache that wouldn’t go away. I made an appointment to see a Orthopedic doctor to make sure I hadn’t torn my meniscus. After reading the MRI the doctor confirmed it was just really aggravated. I was so relieved! I had already signed up for the Quintiles half, so I taped my knee and made it through to the finish line.

One month prior to the half Quintiles is when I started training with Will Bennett at WPL. We focused on my legs. I did cross/strength training two days a week and I slowly started running again. It took a full six months for my knee to fully recover.

Setting Life Goals

Around August of last year, I remember thinking, “I want to do something big for my 50th birthday….” So I decided that I would sign up for the Quintiles full marathon and see if I could qualify for the Boston marathon in 2017.  I remember telling Will and he asked, “Are you sure?! I don’t want you to aggravate anything again.”

We decided to go through with it. We started training and I could tell I was getting stronger. A few times I thought I had some issues going on like plantar fasciitis, and my right knee started to bother me a little bit. The solution was simple. I had to switch to different shoes.

I was feeling positive about my training and was excited about how good I was feeling. I decided to run the BCBS 13.1 again in February. This time around my time was 6 minutes faster and I placed second in my age group. I was feeling confident about going into the Quintiles full marathon in March.

My First Marathon

Race day came and I felt great, better than I ever have. But near the end of the race it started raining heavily and it was chilly out. The cold water weighed me down. It felt like I was carrying a second person to the finish line. My body still felt good by mile 23, but the pouring rain was hindering me from reaching my four hour mark.

Although, I told myself during the run in the rain that I would never run 26.2 miles again, I found myself on the internet the next day looking for another marathon I could sign up for. All I could think was, “What kind of crazy person am I?”

When Will says, “Come on Deb,” I think “I can do this. I’m stronger than this. I am not gonna let these weights defeat me.” On that day of the race, I felt like I let the rain defeat me because I didn’t reach the time I wanted to.

I missed my Boston qualifying time by a few minutes, five minutes to be exact. It was a grueling day, I was disappointed after all the training I had put in, but I was happy to have placed third in my age group.

The marathon was tough, but I didn’t feel like I dug deep enough. Next time I will dig a little deeper, so I can push through any obstacles that might come my way.

I’m so close to qualifying for Boston. I know it will happen. I just need to remember with patience and proper training good things will come!

My Motivation

I started to think about how I wasn’t feeling good when I didn’t take care of myself and how good I would feel if I did take care of myself. I wanted to be a healthier role model for my daughter.

I realized I should not only do this for myself, but also for my daughter and my family, so that I could be here for them long term.

They’ve been my biggest motivation!

Over the last few years since I’ve started my weight loss journey, I’ve lost 6 inches off my waist and about 20 pounds. I enjoy being fit, I’m more active and I’ve made a lot of new friends. Now I don’t dread shopping for clothes for the new smaller size me!

If I Can Do It, You Can Do It.

Before that client, I thought I was too busy to be active. I was always tired, and was starting to have a few health issues.

Through the years I’ve overcome many challenges and I want to keep persevering to accomplish goals. Maybe next on the list is jumping out of a plane! If you don’t set goals for yourself, what do you have to look forward to?

I don’t want to say, “I wish I could have done this or I hate I missed out and didn’t get to do that…” I want to be that grandma in the rocking chair looking back through my scrapbook seeing and reminiscing about all of my wonderful experiences.

I hope to cross as many things as I can off my bucket list as I can. You only get one life, right?

Make those life goals! Never underestimate yourself! You can do it!


Deb finished the Quintiles marathon in 4 hours and 5 minutes. Three weeks later she ran the Emerald Isle marathon finishing it in 4 hours and 4 minutes. The average for women is 4 hours and 40 minutes. She’s looking ahead to next year, hopefully to qualify for the 2018 Boston marathon- when she’ll run Quintiles again in 2017.