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Blue Cross Broad Street Run: A big (weight) loss, but a greater gain

The story of Kim Celano and Debbie Katz—two individuals inspired and motivated by one another.

The Blue Cross Broad Street Run is a collection of individuals from all walks of life—competitive athletes, hobbyists, or just people trying to cross off an item on a bucket list. At Sports Doc, we're lucky enough to be able to profile just a few of them each year, with the hope that their stories will inspire at least one person in the Philadelphia area.

This made talking with Kim Celano and Debbie Katz particularly memorable—two individuals inspired and motivated by one another. The two women met a couple of years ago through Kim's business, and became friends when they realized they lived just a few miles from one another.

After giving birth to her third child, Debbie decided she wanted to lose weight. "You say you'll do it, but then it never happens."

Last year, however, was the moment of truth. "I turned 39… and decided that I would be comfortable in my skin by the time I reached 40."

To accomplish this, Debbie took up—you guessed it—running. Or rather, she tried to take up running.

"I couldn't do it," she recalls. "It was just too hard. I started with a Couch-to-5K program—I tried day after day, but it was just too hard."

"I was never an athlete. Even in school, I was the girl who had her mom write notes to get her out of gym class."

What she was, however, was persistent, and on May 21st of last year, Debbie Katz ran her first mile.

"I was in shock," she remembers. "I felt like I'd won the lottery. I knew if I could run one mile, eventually, I'd be able to run two, two would become three, and so on…"

And so on all the way to 13.1 miles, a feat Debbie accomplished just a few short weeks ago at the Philadelphia Love Run. In the interim, she lost 79 pounds and says she feels like a new person.

"I didn't even look like this in high school," she remarks. "Now I have some people actually tell me I'm too skinny, which is just surreal."

While Debbie was beginning to turn her life around, however, things weren't going as well for her friend Kim. Starting in November 2012, Kim underwent a series of fertility procedures, resulting in troubling outcomes. Two early miscarriages led to a loss of her own identity and a life that began to revolve around doctor's appointments and medication schedules.

"I didn't feel like me anymore," she admits. "The 20 pounds I gained from the treatments and subsequent depression didn't help matters."

It was August 2013 when Kim reached her lowest—about the same time Debbie was just hitting her stride in her newfound hobby. Kim was no stranger to running, having completed the Broad Street Run in 2009 and 2011.

"Debbie was so inspiring," Kim recalls. "So I started walking in November, then progressed to interval training—five minutes of walking, followed by a one-minute jog. As time went on, the walking minutes decreased and the running increased. Now my weekend runs range from 7-9 miles."

This Sunday, she'll try to make it an even 10 miles, as she runs side-by-side with her friend Debbie in the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. Well… they'll start side-by-side.

"She's going to kick my butt," Kim predicts. "She's running solid 9.5 minute miles—I'm closer to 11 minutes."

What's next? After Broad Street, Kim and Debbie plan to use the summer to train for running a half-marathon together in September—likely the Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll event. Debbie hasn't ruled out the possibility of doing a full marathon by the end of 2014.

From struggling to run one mile to striving to finish 26.2 miles, running has created a bond between Debbie Katz and Kim Celano—two women who, to paraphrase Kim, have 'retaken control over [our] bodies.'

Sunday's run is 10 full miles, but it won't begin to approach the distance these friends have traveled.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.