How Running Changed Me – Dawn Desarmeau

Last name: Dawn Desarmeau
Age: 50
Location: Trenton, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Financial management clerk

Start weighing: 284 lbs
Final weight: 184 lbs
Execution time : 10 years


Growing up, I stayed active by getting involved in team sports. But once I had kids, I struggled to lose weight and became less active. After I had my second child in 1999, my weight swelled to almost 300 pounds; I was very lethargic and had no motivation.

At this point, I decided to have my first weight loss surgery. It was a success at first, but eventually I needed two more procedures. In 2010, at the age of 40, I was fortunate enough to travel to the United States for revision surgery, which allowed me to lose 144 pounds. Now, 11 years after the operation, I still maintain a loss of 100 pounds.

I started running in 2011 because I knew I needed to exercise to lose weight. I followed inspiring and motivating runners on social media, and I knew this was something I had to at least try. One day I decided to run outside at night so that no one could see me. I ran from streetlight to streetlight because that was all I could do. But once I got comfortable, I joined a gym and ran on the treadmill every day, followed by weights.

I was running five times a week in the gym before work for 30 minutes at a time, and trying to run a 5K in that time. At first I had no idea what I was doing and never followed a plan. But I ran my first half marathon in 2012 and only trained on a treadmill.

These three tips helped make my running journey a success.

Tip 1: Run the mile you’re on. Don’t focus on the length of the run or your pace, just focus on every mile at a time. Runners can think too much about running, so you just have to break it down mile by mile.

Tip # 2: It’s okay to walk. You are no less of a runner if you take walking breaks. There is no way I would have completed a 50 mile in hot weather without several walking breaks. Even if you are walking you are still a runner and every time your foot hits the ground you are getting closer to the finish.

Tip 3: Your run, your pace. Don’t compare yourself to anyone other than the person you see in the mirror. It’s your only competition. Don’t think of yourself as an inferior runner because you aren’t running at elite paces.

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Before I started my weight loss journey, my diet was excruciating. Fast food, soda, donuts, and chocolate were daily staples. I also loved donuts and remember buying six donuts and eating them in my car before my shift.

When I had revision surgery I went vegetarian / vegan and followed this diet for about four years. I started adding more animal protein, and now I consider myself ‘plant-centered’ because most of my diet is plant-based. My favorite meal is rice and beans, and if I really want to put it in carbs, I put it in a burrito wrap.


Dawn’s essential racing gear

→ Hoka One One running shoes: I probably own 10 pairs and spin them around to keep them fresh and extend their lifespan.

Alter Ego Running Hat: These are by far the best hats for running. The laser cut design is breathable and very comfortable.

Orange Mud Hydration Packs: I’m a very salty and sweaty runner, and I wear hydration when it’s hot and humid. If I run a short distance (up to eight kilometers), I will usually only use a portable bottle. If I go for a longer period, I use a vest.

Garmin watch: I need my racing watch. It’s an obsession. I like to know how far I am, what my current pace is, but most importantly, my heart rate (HR). If I’m running too fast and my HR is high, I know I need to slow down and get into a better area. I like to train for HR and have a comfortable pace when running. Running doesn’t always have to be about distance or pace.


Right now I’m training for the Boston Virtual Half Marathon and Full Marathon. i use the Hal Higdon Novice 1 training plan and modify it to suit me. I turned 50 last year and my goal was to run a 100 km, which I achieved! I like Yeti challenges, and they had a 100 km option where you would run every four hours for 48 hours to reach the 100 km distance. I participated in this race last April and did everything on the treadmill for safety reasons. It was a much more mental experience than anything else. Physically it was tough, but running 100 km on a treadmill is a different live!

I have maintained a weight loss of 100 pounds for 11 years. Running and revision surgery saved me. I now wake up eager to put my shoes on and know that my body hasn’t failed me. When I weighed 284 pounds, I never got up at 5 a.m. to run double-digit miles on weekends, but it’s something that excites me now. I am proud of all my accomplishments, especially having covered distances ranging from 5K to 100K. For a 50 year old, I’m a pretty badass runner.


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