The Capital City Marathon passes by Kaaren Winkler’s house, and each year she watched assuming it was sport for other people.
Genetic knee malformations meant she was prone to dislocated knees. “My patella tendon on both knees were attached in the wrong the place, so the tendon wasn’t strong enough to keep my kneecap in place,” Winkler said.
So on June 8, 2015, when she joined Tumwater’s Fit Life Studio and owner Tessa Effland predicted she’d become a runner, Winkler insisted there was no way.
“I’d never really run,” Winkler said.
Never miss a local story.
Winkler, 49, has had three knee surgeries and spent years in pain. Some days she needed to use a cane.
Winkler works for Washington Realtors and in 2009 decided to return to school to get her master’s degree. She did this while raising two sons. Her busy schedule became more hectic when a family member was diagnosed with cancer.
By the time she emerged from those stressful years, she was inactive and overweight.
“I went to the doctor for something and I had to get weighed,” Winkler said. “I just sat in the examining room and cried. I was just like, ‘Wow, this has happened.’ That is when I started working out, but I still hadn’t made the switch on the food and that’s where Tessa came in. And I’ve lost almost 50 pounds since June.”
As the weight has melted away, so has the pain. In January, she signed up for Fit Life’s running group and started training for the Capital City Marathon’s 5-mile race.
“Now I’m going to be one of those people I used to watch running past my house,” Winkler said.
Winkler runs three days per week, but we recently caught up with her to ask a few questions:
Q: How limited were you by your knees as a child and young adult?
A: I was a swimmer in high school because my parents figured out my knees usually didn’t pop out when I swam. I couldn’t play soccer because if anybody bumped into my knee it would pop out. So I was pretty limited in my physical activities, and I never really trusted my body.
One time I was in Florida visiting my grandparents and I was playing in the waves and a wave came and knocked my knee out. You just never knew. … After my surgeries I would walk and I could ride a bike. … That’s all I did. I just figured I couldn’t do anything.
Q: How hard was it to make the changes with your diet?
A: One of the big things she (Effland) tells you is not to eat after 6:30 or 7 in the evening. That made me realize how much food I actually consumed in the evening when you’re not even hungry. You know, when you’re sitting down to watch TV.
Also, it’s planning. If you don’t go to the grocery store and get what you need, that is where you are going to fail. … A lot of times I make a separate meal for myself. I’m trying to feed growing children, and I don’t eat what they eat. It takes a lot of planning, but once you get into the rhythm, it is really pretty easy.
Q: Do you have a new favorite food?
A: Anything I can put peanut butter on makes me pretty happy. … I eat a lot of quinoa. I still think it smells like dirt, but it doesn’t taste like dirt. And kale in smoothies is pretty good.
Q: You said you don’t like running, so why do it?
A: You don’t want to do it, but when you put your shoes on and go for a run, you really do feel better. Last week I was having not a good morning, so when I came home for lunch I decided to go for a run. I had the best run, and I kind of felt like I solved all the world’s problems during that 3-mile loop. It was just a great stress reliever.
Q: Are you sure you don’t like running, because that’s what people who like running say they like about running?
A: Well, I don’t like the idea. But once it’s done, it’s great.
Q: What’s the best thing that’s come from losing almost 50 pounds and turning yourself into a runner?
A: Being the mother of two boys, I want them to think of women as being strong and capable. It was hard when I couldn’t do things with them. When I was heavier, I was on prescription medication for my knee, and I was getting cortisone shots every six-eight weeks. On really bad days I used a cane.
Some days I wouldn’t go up the stairs in our house. A couple weekends ago, we went on a hike up at Staircase (Olympic National Park) and I was racing my kids down the trail. There were trees down, and you had to get down to go underneath them and then you had to hop over.
My kids said to me, we never would have been able to do that before. We would have had to turn around. … It was really cool to have my kids look at me like, “Wow, look what Mom can do.”
Send nominations for Adventurer of the Week to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Capital City Marathon
When: 7 a.m. Sunday (May 15).
Where: Starts near Sylvester Park on Washington Street between Legion Way and Seventh Avenue.
Races: Marathon (7 a.m.), half marathon (7:45) and five-mile run (8).
Participants: 2,187 (As of Monday).
More information: capitalcitymarathon.org.