04/11/2012

What makes Walker run?

Linda A Lucchetti, LLNL, (925) 422-5815, lucchetti1@llnl.gov



Tiffany Walker competed in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland in January.

If someone had told Tiffany Walker three years ago that she would become a marathon runner, she never would have believed it.

Today, after more than 50 races, she displays in her office a collection of medals, ribbons and photos that are testimony to her love of the sport and evidence of her determination.


In 2009 Walker, a customer service coordinator in the Lab's Telecommunications group of Information and Communication Services (ICS) lost 50 pounds in 6 months with Weight Watchers. But losing the weight was only the beginning of her journey. Through the program, she learned about the Weight Watchers' Walk-it Challenge, which became her first competition and the one that would change her course.

Through the Walk-It Challenge she met members of the ShadowChase Running Club from Modesto, a group that has supplied her with support and camaraderie. In May 2009, she entered her first 5K run -- the Modesto Classic.

Step by step, she started to increase her running by entering more competitions. Mile after mile, she began to realize many benefits from the sport. Soon she was signing up for 10K runs, and half marathons -- 13.1 miles.

During the process, she has found running to be an excellent way to maintain her weight. "I also enjoy the competitive and social aspects," she adds.

Don't think that running is only for the young. "You're never too old to run," the 45 year old believes. In fact, she has met racers who are well into their 80's.

She described the regimen that keeps her on track. During the week, she runs 4 miles a day, 3 or 4 days a week -- an average of 12-16 miles a week. On weekends, she picks up the pace and runs 16 to 30 miles depending on the type of race that's coming up. And, she always has an event planned. On a spread sheet, she methodically tracks each race, her place, her average pace and her final times. Because of her training she said she has become more focused, improved her nutrition and lowered her stress. Walker also discovered another advantage to running -- it has helped tone her body.

For novices, she encourages an initial warm-up of walking for five minutes, running for a minute, then walking for 2 minutes, and completing seven repetitions - or 35 minutes total activity. "Do this every other day for 2 weeks, and in between, walk for one-half hour," she advises. "Increase the run time as you progress."

So far this year, she has run in four events: the Andrews Race for Children, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland, the Rock'n' Roll Pasadena Half Marathon, and the most recent, the Modesto Marathon where she finished 3rd in the Athena division, a weight class for women over 150 lbs; "I want to keep improving my times. I feel better when I complete a marathon and want to do more," she said.

Last November, she completed an Ultra Marthan, 50K or 31 miles, her longest distance to date. Her goal for 2013 is to run the AR50 - American River 50 mile endurance run --- which encompasses trail and mountain terrain.

Walker is looking forward to the Lab's annual fitness challenge, "Active for Life," that begins April 16. She will be participating with the team appropriately named, "I Thought This Was a 5K. ' "It kick starts my work out," she said. "I end up incorporating different activities to meet the challenge of Active for Life."

When she's not working, or running, Walker finds time to attend Modesto Jr. College where she is pursuing an associate's degree which she expects to complete this spring. It's taken her a few years, but as she has learned, all things are attainable one step at a time.

"I can't believe it," she says about all she has accomplished. "It amazes me the things we are capable of doing."


Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides solutions to our nation's most important national security challenges through innovative science, engineering and technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.