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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 1 year ago

'Going the extra mile': Running helped Pathways teacher get healthier

Just 10 months after running her first half-marathon, Ormond Beach resident Rebecca Rybicki lost 80 pounds.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

The first time Ormond Beach resident Rebecca Rybicki ran a 5K, she finished last out of the 10 women in her age group. 

It took her 39 minutes and eight seconds to run the DeLeon Springs 5K in January 6, 2013, and it was then Rybicki knew she needed to make a change in her lifestyle. She made it her goal to run in the 2014 DeLeon Springs half-marathon, but though she ran a few miles here and there, she never committed herself fully to the cause.

Rybicki was still eating fast food regularly and drinking a lot of soda. Back then, consuming these in front of a TV was her happy place, she said.

“Anything that was fried or fattening, I ate it," Rybicki said. 

As the marathon neared, Rybicki said it had become a "burden" in her mind. She visited her doctor at the end of the year, crying in his office because she thought there was something wrong with her body. She told him she was running, but hadn't lost any weight — Rybicki weighed 220 pounds at the time. 

Her doctor told her it was her diet that was the problem. When she returned to her car, she saw that the doctor had listed obesity as her reason to visit him. 

“And I was just like, oh my goodness," Rybicki said. "It just hit me really hard.”

Rybicki hadn't always struggled with her health. It started when her father died shortly after her 18th birthday. She turned to food to help comfort the pain. 

Then, life happened. She met her husband Kevin, went to school to become a teacher and had two daughters. 

It took that doctor's visit in 2013 to set Rybicki on the track that would change, not only her life, but her family's. She decided to run in the half-marathon as she was driving to the race, though it was 10 miles longer than what she was used to running. 

At the same time, the 10-year anniversary of her father's death was coming up, and that led her to run the half-marathon on Jan. 5, 2014, in his memory. 

“I was looking at those 10 extra miles as like every year that he had been gone," Rybicki said.

She finished in three hours and one minute. Rybicki placed last, again, out of the 10 women in her age group. Her underarms were rubbed raw and bleeding, and she was chaffing terribly, she recalls. 

But she finished, and her family were one of the last groups waiting at the finish line.

Everything changed after that race. Rybicki, who currently teaches fourth grade at Pathways Elementary, became inspired. She began signing up for as many 5Ks as possible and completely transformed her diet. With every race she ran, she got faster, running got easier and she was losing weight. Her husband joined her along the way, and Rybicki started to push her daughters in a stroller in races. 

At the end of 10 months, she had lost 80 pounds. Her husband had lost 50. 

“We’ve both had a lot of negativity in our lives, on both sides," Kevin Rybicki said. "We’ve overcome a lot and we just had to make a change. Running and a healthier lifestyle did that for us.”

In 2015, Rebecca Rybicki ran the DeLeon Springs half-marathon once again. This time, she finished in two hours and one minute. She also placed first out of the nine women in her age group.

Since then, she has pushed herself to run longer distances. In December 2017, she ran her first ultramarathon: a 50-mile race from Marineland to Ponce Inlet. She placed in the top 10, having finished the race in 10 hours and 41 minutes. 

This past December, she took things up notch. She ran in the Daytona 100 ultramarathon, which started in Jacksonville and finished in Ponce Inlet. It took her 28 hours.

But she finished. Not everyone did. 

It's a mental battle to transition into a healthy lifestyle, she said, but she recommends educating yourself and finding an activity to get you moving. Running helped her hold herself accountable. 

Her advice for people struggling with their health? 

“Don’t be afraid of being last," Rebecca Rybicki said. "I was last. Someone has to be last, and that’s what I always tell everyone."

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