NJ woman's journey from 400 pounds to marathon runner

TABERNACLE, N.J. (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Marathon will mark the 7th marathon for a South Jersey woman featured in this month's issue of 'Runner's World.'

But she hasn't always been a runner.

28-year-old Michele Elbertson of Tabernacle, New Jersey says she now feels like a new woman. She's officially caught the running bug.

Four and a half years ago, she weighed 427 pounds.

At age 23, her doctor told her something she would never forget.

"He sat me down and looked at me and said if you don't get your life together you are not going to live another four years," Michele said.

Michele knew she needed help.

So in 2010, she had lap band surgery to shrink the size of her stomach.

By 2011, she was down about 100 pounds and wanted to celebrate.

Normally, that would mean with food.

But this time she chose to celebrate by running her first race.

She completed a 5K in Disney.

"But I was tired and I hurt and I didn't ever want to do it again," Michele said.

Until the next day when she watched runners complete the half-marathon.

"And they're happy and smiling," Michele said.

Six months later she ran her first 13-miler.

Four years later she's run 38 half marathons, 6 marathons, countless local races and one ultra-marathon- that's 50 miles!

She's also lost a total of 260 pounds.

Her friends couldn't be prouder.

"I'm completely in awe of her. She's come so far," friend Gina Petti said.

And now out of 2,300 entries, her story is now featured in 'Runner's World' magazine.

"Very surreal, I still can't believe it. I open the magazine and I'm there. It's just awesome," Michele said.

And Michele's advice for anyone starting a new fitness plan is to enlist a friend to join you, schedule your workouts and stick to it.

It may feel awful at first, but eventually it will get easier and you may even start to like it.
Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.