Women Who Run This Town: Aliya Armstrong
Apr 06, 2015 12:01PM
By Richelle Kimble
After losing both of her parents before age 35, Aliya began a mission to start a new trend in her family: healthy eating and healthy living. She introduced herself to running through a Couch to 5K Class offered by the YMCA, and after completion, encouraged others in her family to get running. “I lost 40 pounds in one calendar year, but the real reward was having my daughter and my grandmother follow in my footsteps,” she said. Aliya now reaches out to over 45 other women through a group she developed called S.T.A.R.S. (Sisters Taking Action Reversing Statistics), and continues to motivate and encourage others to transform their lifestyle for good.
What’s are the most exhilarating experiences you’ve had while running?
Completing my first full marathon. My 76-year-old granny jumped from the sidelines and ran with me to the finish line. She was so proud. In addition, I remember talking to my mom, who’s deceased, while tackling my first 20-miler; I was teary eyed and remembered all the sacrifices she made as a single parent. And lastly, running through the hospital campus of St. Jude’s Children’s Cancer Research Hospital. As they cheered for us, I was thinking how they were the real champions. It’s such am emotional experience to run for those who cannot.What encouragement would you give to a new runner?
Believe! Your mind can take your body to places you’d never imagine. Believe it, then you can achieve it. Also, find friends who believe in the journey. Accountability is huge!
What is your favorite place to run and why?
Near M6 with my girls. It’s where the dream all began! And anywhere with my daughter. It reminds me that this is bigger than me. She’s adopting a lifestyle that she’ll hopefully pass on to her offspring.
What kept you going when you couldn’t go anymore?
Prayer, my family and my S.T.A.R.S. family. Everyone is extremely supportive; it is to the point now where my husband says, “you should go for a run.” It puts me in my happy place. I also dedicate miles to specific things; for example, sometimes I think about my mother or grandmother and pray for them while I run those miles. My baby sister, who had a five percent chance of living at birth due to complications, just walked her first 5K last year. If my sister can take a five percent chance and keep fighting for her life, surely I can take my weak legs and fight these 13.1 miles. I run for reasons like these!
What has running helped you accomplish?
Weight loss, new relationships, and creating a sense of fearlessness. I started my own movement to get women of color healthy, walking, running and active. It’s pushed me well beyond my limits, and I’m considering a triathlon in my future. I’m signed up for the Ragnar Relay, which is a 200-mile relay with 12 of my crazy runner friends. I cannot believe I am running from Wisconsin to Illinois in June! Another huge excitement is knowing that I’m modeling for my children.