ST. CHARLES – Tristi Matzuka, 51, of St. Charles achieved her goal of losing 100 pounds April 22. She celebrated by completing the 26.2-mile Illinois Marathon in Champaign that same day. Later, her cherished running mates and coaches threw a surprise party in her honor.
Just three years earlier, Matzuka, who stands 5 feet 3 inches, weighed 254 pounds. Looking back, she discussed what triggered her weight gain.
“My 6-month-old son, Ryan, who was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, passed away in November 1996. I never correctly dealt with my emotions,” she said.
Matzuka gained and carried 100 extra pounds for the next 20 years while her health deteriorated. At age 45, she was a pre-diabetic, had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, suffered a blocked carotid artery in her neck, and had a thickened heart, she said.
“My doctor said if I didn’t lose weight, I wouldn’t live much longer,” she recalled. “That scared me and my family.”
Matzuka joined Weight Watchers, but quit and rejoined seven times because she couldn’t achieve her weight-loss goals. She last rejoined on Jan. 4, 2013.
“I awoke one morning and had an enough-is-enough moment,” she said. “I started a walking program but still couldn’t lose weight.”
One day while driving past the Dick Pond Athletics store in St. Charles, she instinctively stopped to look at new walking shoes for her sore feet.
“Little did I know this visit would change my life,” Matzuka said.
After store manager Glen Kamps and his staff warmly welcomed her, he described their 10-week Walk 2 Run program, where participants meet once a week and run two minutes and then walk four minutes five times.
“I joined and fell in love with running,” Matzuka said.
She then began Dick Pond’s Next Step Running Club program and met coach Shelley Simmering, owner of St. Charles-based Foot Mechanics, a pedorthic practice for injured athletes.
Simmering leads new runners in the Next Step Running Club, which is a winter-month running program that trains walkers to become runners while transforming their lifestyle. At that time, Matzuka barely shuffled a 17-minute mile and paced last in every running exercise.
“She now paces middle of the pack. She ran between a 12- to 14-minute [mile] in her first marathon, which was our goal,” Simmering said. “Tristi always listens, is eager to learn, and tries her best to incorporate everything she learns.”
“We provided the incentive,” Kamps said. “Tristi never complained and worked hard to achieve her goals. She’s a star pupil.”
Matzuka plans to lose 25 more pounds, stay with Weight Watchers, keep running in Dick Ponds’ running clubs, plus half and full marathons, and keep training with Simmering. She also is considering pursuing a career with Weight Watchers, earning a nutrition certificate, or becoming a cross country coach for elementary or junior high girls.
“I feel God directed me to the Dick Pond store,” said Matzuka, an avowed Christian. “He placed these amazing, wonderful people in my life. I never would have met them or had the courage to keep going if it wasn’t for the power of prayer and my friends praying for me all of the time.”