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RADJournals: Jennifer Brayboy-Locklear

When I got on the scale in January 2016 and saw the number 203, I knew I had to make a change. I had known this for a long time but I was in denial. I was in denial because I had been running since 2007 but I hadn’t lost any weight. You can’t outrun a bad diet. I was 38 at the time and had never stuck to any type of exercise long term. My husband, a retired LTC (Army) of 31 years had always tried to get me to run with him but I never would. I finally made up my mind that I was going to start running. At the time, we lived in a rural area in North Carolina. I literally ran down my driveway, ran to the mailbox, walked to the next light pole, and ran to the next mailbox until I got to a mile. From there I was hooked. My first 5K was a trail run in Chapel Hill, NC that was a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity. I will never forget it because I didn’t expect it to be a trail run and I came in next to last!! It took me 46 minutes to complete that 5K.

After my second child, a daughter who we refer to as our “deployment baby” was born in 2006. I never lost the pregnancy weight in addition to being overweight prior to becoming pregnant. At the same time, my father’s health was severely declining due to having diabetes. If he didn’t get a new kidney, he would have to go on dialysis. I am the oldest of three daughters and both my sisters and I got tested to see if we were matches for our dad. All three of us were matches and being the oldest I told my sisters I wanted to donate a kidney to my dad. In 2007 I donated a kidney to my father. Unfortunately, the anti-rejection medication that he had to take daily overpowered his heart (He had previously had heart bypass surgery) and he passed away of a heart attack in 2009. Some people have asked me did I feel like donating my kidney to him was a waste because he died two years later. My response was “absolutely not!" For two years after the kidney transplant, I got to see him thrive and live and enjoy his family. To me, that was worth giving up a kidney. As an indigenous person, diabetes and heart disease are hereditary in my family and my tribes (Lumbee and Haliwa-Saponi from North Carolina).

I reflected on why I stuck to running as opposed to all the other exercises I had tried. The combination of being prone to having diabetes and heart disease and having one kidney made me realize that although I had been running prior to 2016, I hadn’t gotten rid of my bad nutritional habits. When I changed my eating habits, combined with running, I lost 50lbs. and have maintained that loss since 2016. This is a daily struggle for me but I’m resilient. I want to inspire other indigenous women who don’t think they could ever run because I was that woman until I was 38. I have learned that I am resilient from running. 

A little about my family…I married my college sweetheart and we have two beautiful children, a son and a daughter. Our son is married and we were blessed with our first grandchild in May 2021! Our daughter is 15 and was born about a year after my husband returned from a military deployment. I’m not the typical grandmother, so I’m called Glammy J! We are also HUGE North Carolina Tar Heel fans. I ran my first marathon in 2012 (City of Oaks), my second one in 2013 (Chicago), and my third in 2020 (All American, Ft. Bragg, NC). I am scheduled to run the Raleigh Durham and Chapel Hill Marathon in October 2021 , the Charleston Marathon in January 2022, and the Canton Hall of Fame Marathon in April 2022. I’ve run at least 25 half marathons and 10-milers (Chapel Hill, NC. Home of the Tar Heels).

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