American track and field legend Steve Prefontaine once said, "Success isn't how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started." For Tami Nelson, from Ruthton, that distance could be measured in miles. but even that staggering number would fail to do her justice.
The truest measure of Nelson's success in life would come from documenting how she has become an inspiration to her family, her community, and, most importantly, herself.
Nelson's story began when she decided to lose weight and keep it off. Her method was walking and, now, distance running. The result has been 110 pounds lost over the last six years. Along with the weight lost, Nelson has also received more energy in her everyday life and improved self-esteem.
Photo submitted by Tami Nelson
Tami Nelson (right), of Ruthton, approaches the end of the Grandma’s Marathon last weekend in Duluth with her 12-year-old son Jacob. Both Tami and Jacob finished the marathon in 6 hours, 8 minutes, 39 seconds.
"August 31 of 2006 was the start of my new life," Nelson said. "Six years ago I had lap band surgery. I started walking but I hit a plateau.
"My oldest son told me my body was used to walking. About two years ago I started running. I never ran (before). I did the Fun Run at the Balaton Fun Fest."
Since her first organized run in Balaton in 2010, Nelson has gone on to run in several five- and 10-kilometer races and half-marathons. Last weekend, however, Nelson raised the proverbial bar when she ran in and finished her first full marathon.
Nearly 6,000 men and women finished Grandma's Marathon in Duluth on June 16th, but it is highly unlikely that any of the other runners experienced as emotional of a finish as Nelson. If only because Nelson was not finishing alone.
At her side the entire race was her 12-year-old son, Jacob.
"He has run 5K's, 10K's and a half-marathon with me," Nelson said. "I'm slow, so usually he runs ahead of me, but this race was too big so I made him stay by me as we ran.
"Who knew that I would have finished a full marathon with my 12-year-old son beside me? That in itself was the most amazing thing, us both crossing that finish line."
Jacob was the youngest entrant to finish Grandma's Marathon. Despite her initial hesitations of allowing her 12-year-old to run a full marathon, Nelson has no regrets in retrospect.
"I wasn't going to let him do Grandma's," Nelson said. "He came up to me and said 'I want to do this.' I said 'Yeah, you can train with me.' He said, 'No, I want to run the full marathon with you.'
"I was very proud that he wanted to do it, but it's a long ways. I didn't want him to hurt himself or injure himself in any way."
Jacob got his start running at the same time his mother did, during the two-mile Fun Run at Balaton's Fun Fest.
"I asked him if he wanted to do it with me," Nelson said. "He took first in his age division."
Along with the exercise, Nelson's family has benefitted from the change in her diet as well. When asked if her family eats healthier now as a result of Nelson's lifestyle change, she said jokingly, "They kind of have to, because that's what I cook."
"But yes, yes they do," she added.
Nelson's story has been an inspiration to the Ruthton community. Before Grandma's Marathon, her Facebook wall was covered with messages from neighbors, friends and family with words of encouragement. After she finished, the congratulations came flooding back in.
As a result of her efforts, Nelson and her daughter, Chelsea Trump, established the first organized 5K run in Ruthton on August 27, 2011. The 5K acted as a fundraiser for Nelson's participation in the Susan G. Komen three-day, 60-mile walk this August in the Twin Cities.
Considering it was the first organized 5K in Ruthton, Nelson was pleasantly surprised with the turnout.
"I was really surprised for Ruthton. We had over 50 runners and walkers, and the weather was crappy," she said.
For as far as she has come, Nelson can admit that the road has not been easy. Nelson runs or walks six times a week, with four miles being her "short day." Along with the daily commitment to exercise comes the downside of time away from one's family.
"Training for Grandma's did take a lot of time. It was a big commitment," Nelson said. "It (takes) time away from my family, but I had lots of support from my husband and my family."
For the mother of four, who splits her time between running a dairy farm with her husband Jim and son Jacob, and working as a certified public accountant, all the training and time away from her family is worth it as soon she crosses the finish line.
"You feel so good when you finish. There is a sense of accomplishment," she said.
Even with the accomplishments of losing 110 pounds and helping her community be healthier, Nelson has no intention of hanging up her running shoes any time soon.
"We have hotel rooms booked for Grandma's next year," Nelson said.
Before Nelson returns to Duluth for the 2013 Grandma's Marathon, she will be involved in the Susan G. Komen three-day, 60-mile walk in the Twin Cities August 24-26 to benefit breast cancer research. Jacob is currently undecided on whether or not he will run in next year's Grandma's Marathon.