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It Ain't Over Till It's Over: Race For The Reunion

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One of the reasons I started my website, Marlothomas.com, is that I wanted a place for women to come together and dream. Women should know that they don't have to hang on to an old dream that has stopped nurturing them -- that there is always time to start a new dream. This week's story is about how one woman's dread of attending her high school reunion inspired her to take charge of her life and reclaim her inner athlete. In turn, that led her to an achievement she never imagined possible. -- MT

By Lori Weiss

In the small rural town of Roulette, Pennsylvania, Regina Redmond woke up every morning before dawn. She milked the cows and fed the cattle on her father's 81-acre dairy farm, before she went off to a seven-room school house, where she shared a classroom -- year after year -- with the same 25 kids. So when it was time to move on to the high school in Port Allegany, a whole new world opened up for her.

"High school was awesome," Regina recalled as if it was yesterday. "I was a cheerleader. I was on track. I played volleyball and basketball. I was friends with everyone! Take a look at my Facebook page -- 90 percent of my graduating class is on there today."

And many of those old friends are still back home, running the family farms. For them, not much has changed. But Regina has made her way around the country -- finally landing 1,500 miles away in Ft. Myers, Florida. So you can imagine her excitement when she got the invitation to Port Allegany High School's 30th reunion.

But there was one thing she wasn't so thrilled about -- the 100 pounds she had put on.

"I'd been to earlier reunions and, each time, I'd notice someone and think, 'Man, she looks awesome,'" Regina said with a hint of sadness. "And I always promised myself that I'd be in better shape by the time we got to the next five-year mark."

It's not as if she hadn't tried to get the weight off. Regina had experimented with pretty much every diet plan she heard about -- at one point, taking off 85 pounds. But somehow the pounds always seemed to slip back on.

"Every time a reunion approached, I'd start dieting again," she said. "But it's kind of tough to take off 60 pounds in a month. So this time, I made a commitment 10 months beforehand. When I walked into that reunion, I was going to be hot!"

But what began as a simple diet and exercise plan quickly became a training program right out of a scene from "Rocky." Regina decided she was going to be more than just reunion-ready. She was going to train for a triathlon.

"That wasn't the plan at first," she laughed. "I just figured walking down the driveway every morning was a good enough workout -- it was a long driveway! But when a friend told me that I'd get more exercise just spitting on the sidewalk, I thought maybe I should take it to the street. That first morning, I was sure I was going to die."

But each day, Regina set her sights a little higher. She'd get up to walk every morning at 4 a.m. -- the only free time she had in her busy day, and with no one but the raccoons and possums to keep her company. She challenged herself to push the distance with each outing -- one day to the yellow house on the corner, the next day, a little further down the road to the green one.

This was new ground for Regina, who had spent 30 years taking care of everyone else. She'd married just out of high school, ending up with a man who didn't want her to go to college and actually seemed to prefer her a little heavier, so that she wouldn't turn heads. And while she ultimately divorced him and returned to school, she always seemed to end up in professions that supported other people's goals.

"This time I was determined to do something for myself," she said firmly. "I was doing this for Regina."

And it was that personal motivation that kept her on track, no matter what the temptation.

"I'm a country girl," Regina said with a smile. "I grew up eating bacon and sausage with breakfast, and meat and potatoes -- with lots of gravy -- for dinner. And I love mashed potatoes! It wasn't going to work for me to just cut it all out, so I permitted myself to have a little bit of whatever I was craving. I piled on the good protein first. But I always allowed myself a spoonful of potatoes. Not a serving-size spoon, but a tablespoon.

"And I taught myself to eat more vegetables, and not just the ones in zucchini bread."

As the pounds began to melt away, the same friend who had challenged Regina to get past the end of the driveway took things up a notch. She playfully suggested that Regina train for a triathlon, which not only included running and biking, but swimming. There was just one minor issue -- Regina didn't really know how to swim.

"I could do the back stroke, but who ever saw someone swim on their back for a quarter of a mile?" she said. "What I couldn't do is put my face in the water. I laughed it off, but secretly I really wanted to try. So I found some videos online and went to the pool to practice. Within a few days, I taught myself how to turn my head to the side to breath. After that, the other strokes were pretty simple. Once I could do an entire lap, I knew I was on my way!"

Regina set her sights on a five-mile triathlon that was taking place two months later on Captiva Island, not far from her Florida home. In the meantime, the race for the reunion was picking up its pace -- with the finish line just weeks away.

"I stepped on the scale and I was only four pounds away from my goal!" she giggles. "You know how you see women doing a little victory dance on those weight-loss commercials? Well, that was me. I was doing a jig -- a jiggity-jig -- pumping my arms and running in circles."

"So I went through my closet and found every dress I had," Regina continues. "I brought them all to work and we had a fashion show. The girls rated each outfit on a hotness scale of one to ten. By the time we were finished, I had a winner -- and it didn't even require Spanx!"

And so, decked out in a little black dress, sexy four-inch heels and a string of pearls -- and armed with the confidence that comes from a 60-pound weight loss -- Regina flew back to Pennsylvania, ready to wow all her old friends.

But she was in for a surprise. "When I pulled up to the location, everyone was dressed in shorts and flip-flops! The invitation didn’t mention that the affair was being catered by the local Tastee-Freez!"

On the verge of turning away, Regina texted her friends back in Florida and they coached her through the final steps, pointing out the obvious: She was clearly going to be the hottest girl in the room.

And they were right. "My best friend from kindergarten, Gidge, came running out and whispered in my ear, 'You look fabulous.' That gave me a lot of courage! But when a guy I grew up with came over and said, 'You’re the only one who stumped me,' that was the best. Turns out he had gone through the reunion book trying to figure out who I was; and when he saw that Regina Redmond was training for a triathlon, he said it became obvious that I was the only one at the reunion in any kind of shape to even attempt it."

And clearly she was -- because when Regina returned to Florida, she ran, she biked, she even swam a quarter of a mile in the Gulf of Mexico.

"I was not going to fail," she said softly. "I got elbowed. I got kicked. One guy swam right over me. But when I thought I couldn't do another stroke, I flipped over and floated. And yes, I even swam on my back in a triathlon!"

"You do what you have to do to get through it," Regina reflected. "That’s how I got past the driveway. That's how I made it into that little black dress. I just put one foot in front of another and kept moving forward.

"I may have set out to be hot. But now I’m healthy, too."

This year's Triathlon on Captiva Island will be held on September 15 and 16, 2012. Regina will be racing, and plans to sponsor a first-time racer, as well. For more information, follow Regina on Facebook.

It Ain't Over: Regina Redmond
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Filed by Danielle Page