Issue 18 • October 2013Local Inspiration

Holly Rocks!

How many of us identify with our passions? I am a runner, we hear people say. It doesn’t seem to matter how muddled our lives become with careers, relationships or children – we always have that title “runner” as a touchstone. It brings us purpose. But what happens when we identify with a hopeless sentence. I am fat, we hear people say. It’s a label that more than one-third of us identify with in the United States. Being overweight is an identity that locks some out of possibility. Not others.

Holly Strickland changed her “I am” statement, with momentum, inspiration and love.

Holly’s been overweight her whole life. In the seventh grade, she lost a lot of weight, but when the boys started paying attention to her, she got scared. She was used to being invisible. She couldn’t handle the attention, so she gained the weight back plus more. After the birth of her son and her mom’s diagnosis with brain cancer, she began eating to deal with emotional distress. When her mother passed away in 2004, she weighed 340 lbs. She made a promise to her mom that she would get healthy and take care of herself.

Holly was diagnosed with Diabetes at that time. She recalls, “I always hated going to the doctor! No matter what I would go for, the answer was always LOSE WEIGHT. All I was in their eyes was fat! I left far too many appointments in tears.” Holly contributes her change of heart to her current healthcare practitioner, Susan Smith, NP. “When I first met Susan, I finally felt like she saw me as a person! She was compassionate! She told me that now was the time for me to change. When I do make positive gains, she is very encouraging and supportive. I want her to be proud.”

Holly finally did make a change, along with her husband. Together, they vowed to lose weight so they could be healthy for their son, who has seizures and needs special care.

In February 2013, Holly’s sister in law encouraged her to try the Couch to 5k (C25K) app on her phone. “It was always my secret dream to run a 5K. So I tried it the very next day!” At first, 60 seconds of running, 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes seemed impossible! “I made all kinds of noises while running! However, I’m very stubborn and I wouldn’t quit until the voice on the app said to stop.” Holly remembers.

Holly ran her first Disney 5K with her sister, on their mother’s birthday. She’s also completed the Color Me Rad Run with her sister in law. Whatever the event, she loves getting coworkers, friends and family members involved. Her list of races completed is growing: Runners for Boston 5K, Shrimp Run 5K, Memorial Day 5K, Hale and Hearty 7K, Celebration 5K, Biggest Loser Off Trail Challenge 5K, Bridge of Lions 5K, Tour de Pain 5K, Turtle Trot 5K, and the Run Jax 3.5 mile run.

Holly has lost over 51 lbs since January, and she’s motivated to do more. “My life is so different now! I can’t wait to see what else I can do!” She’s training for the Disney Princess half marathon in February 2014. Her goal is to weigh 145 lbs.

While the number may not be her identity, she can now call herself a runner. It brings a sense possibility and accomplishment that moves her to give the following advice: “Try the C25K app! You will be amazed that you can do it! Imagine crossing the finish line…it is an indescribable feeling!

JoHanna Bienvenue

JoHanna Bienvenue


  1. Julie
    October 10, 2013 at 4:42 pm — Reply

    I am so proud of you, Holly! I have enjoyed all of our running and know we will continue enjoying it together , Forever!

  2. Meghan
    October 10, 2013 at 6:34 pm — Reply

    Holly.. You are an inspiration to all of us! You look healthy and happy! I’m so proud of you. Keep up the great work. Can’t wait to run with you in Disney…

  3. Brenda Gillander
    October 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm — Reply

    As a friend of Holly’s, I have been in awe of her enthusiasm, courage and persistence in accomplishing her goals. She has been such an inspiration in my life, that I picked up the app and have been using it as well. To hear the joy in her voice and see that beautiful smile on her face at the end of every race she has run, continues to inspire me to keep on even in the midst of discouragement. I am blessed to have the honor of calling her friend, but to know that she is a beautiful woman inside and out, is priceless! Thanks Holly, for helping so many see true beauty in everyone. <3.

  4. DeeAnne
    October 11, 2013 at 11:08 pm — Reply

    I am one of Holly’s co-workers and was inspired by Holly to start Cto5k myself. I am so thankful for that spark! I am down nearly 15 pounds but that is not as great as how proud I feel at my progress at running. I always said, “I can’t run” but I was wrong!!! Because of Holly, I know I can run!!! Thank you to Holly!

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