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Not Giving Up: Barbara Weakley’s Journey

Barbara's story is a testament to not giving up.
Barbara Weakley
Next race: Elijah Bristow 24 Hour
Favorite gear:
  • CVG Shorts

Photo Credit: Sylvanus Edi 

Having never been athletic, Barbara Weakley never dreamed she’d become an ultrarunner. She first found herself drawn to running at the age of 36, when she took up walking for therapeutic and financial reasons. Barbara soon set a goal to walk her first marathon.  “I don’t know what inspired me, but I just one day thought, I think I’m going to walk a marathon,” she recalls. “I trained for the Portland Marathon and walked the whole thing. It took me 7 hours, but I didn’t give up.” Barbara’s story is an example of the amazing things that can happen when you decide you’re not giving up.

Do Hard Things 

Completing the marathon filled Barbara with confidence that she “could do hard things.” She dabbled with run/walk intervals and shorter races while steadily hiking and backpacking on weekends. However, injuries and self-confidence struggles frequently derailed her fledgling athletic pursuits. Then in 2020, connecting with other plus-sized athletes online re-lit Barbara’s fire. She found a community virtually and trained hard for two 50K events. 

Worsening Lower Back Issues 

However, worsening lower back issues with pain radiating into her legs made walking extremely difficult for Barbara. She was diagnosed with spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spine which pinches nerves. “It’s honestly been really hard this last year, getting that actual diagnosis and knowing it’s not something that’s going to go away,” Barbara confessed. “I kind of had gotten to that place of, why even try? Why even bother?” True to form though, Barbara kept running using two strategies: Take copious rest breaks and find short loop courses to tackle 1 mile at a time. She put this plan into play successfully at the Bristow 24 Hour race. 

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I Want To Keep Moving

“I literally had to sit down between each lap. I would do a mile and I had to sit and let my back rest,” Barbara recalls. “If that’s what I have to do, I want to keep moving, I want to keep doing it.” Now Barbara focuses on listening to what her body can handle and celebrating small wins. She gets emotional thinking of Renee Janssen of Go Beyond Racing, who compassionately waited hours for her to limp through a rough trail race. And she fondly remembers the medic who rushed to her aid after she showed signs of overheating and kidney trauma.

Back of the Pack 

Such experiences in the supportive trail-running community keep Barbara moving forward at her own pace. “I want other larger people to think they can do stuff too,” she says. Barbara proudly enjoys being at the back of the pack. She runs for herself and hopes her perseverance can motivate others facing limitations or self-doubt. “You have to stop letting all of this keep you from going out and being outside and being where people can see me,” she urges. “It was a struggle. It still is a struggle. But you have to keep trying.” Barbara continues to be a positive member of the trail community. She continues to show others what is on the other side of not giving up.