- This was printed in January of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 35th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.
Two years ago Lovina Arter, a third grade teacher at Sherman Thomas Charter School in
Madera, couldn’t walk the short trek from her classroom to the school’s office without
ending up in tears.
“I was very much overweight,” she said. “My health was getting really bad; I had arthritis
in my knees so bad, they were bone-to-bone.”
Arter’s condition weighed on her physically and spiritually.
“I got to the point where I just felt like God was telling me that my body is the temple of
the Holy Spirit — and I just defiled it,” she said. “I was overweight and doing unhealthy
things. I just decided ‘I’m doing it.’ I need a healthy body to reach out to others.”
Arter consulted a doctor with the determination to do whatever had to be done.
“I got shots in my knees called Euflexxa (to treat osteoarthritis) and within a couple of
weeks I was at least able to walk,” she said. “He suggested I have gastric bypass and I
“I used it for what its purpose was, to help me lose weight, but it’s only a piece of all
you’re supposed to do. It taught me how to discipline my life. I knew that I had to change
so I started walking.”
Arter’s coworkers and Sherman Thomas principal Tera Napier urged her to join their
running group, the Finishers.
“I told them ‘You guys are running, I can’t run,’” Arter said. “They said ‘it’s ok, come
walk with us.’ I didn’t even finish the trail, I did about three-fourths of it, walking the
whole time. I was last to finish.
“I was so embarrassed, but Barbara (Leach) said ‘We’re with you and we’re going to
walk on this journey with you.’”
Arter continued to walk, doubting that she would ever be able to run. She had lost 75
pounds when she decided to participate in the California Classic Half Marathon Relay in
Fresno in May.
“I was just going to walk it. My boss, Tera, split it with me. She ran the first half and I
ran the last half,” Arter said.
That day a runner was born — at 54 years old.
“There was this 75-year-old lady running and she just looked like she was hurting,” Arter
said. “She turned to me and said, ‘Honey, you can do this. Just kick it in. You can run!’”
So Arter did.
“I ran just a little bit, but I thought, ‘I can actually run!’ It wasn’t hurting my knees or
anything!” she said.
Now the woman who never thought she would run, who struggled to walk around a
classroom of third graders, who spent much of her day sitting down because her knees
hurt too much to stand — that woman — runs three to four times a week.
“I was terrified to do November’s run (the Two Cities Half Marathon in Fresno),” Arter
said. “But I did it! I ran it! I did it in 3 hours and 29 minutes, but for a 54-year-old
woman I thought I did pretty good.”
She’ll run her second 13.1-mile race, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Disneyland, on
Sunday — along with myself, several Finishers, and thousands of runners, a majority of
them women — with one goal in mind: “I’m going to break my time!”
Arter’s transformation from a heavy woman to one who “has trouble keeping the weight
on” has also transformed her classroom.
“The kids couldn’t believe how different I was (after losing the weight),” she said. “There
was more energy in the classroom because I had more energy.”
Arter, who said, “I was the least likely to ever become an athlete” is the school’s new
cross country coach.
“Somebody called me an athlete and I just stared at them,” she said. “They said, ‘Yes you
are! You can run 13 miles, you’re an athlete.’”
Now Arter has several reasons for running — and losing weight isn’t one of them.
“I treasure running,” she said. “It helps me focus. It makes me feel good. I’m not trying
to lose weight now at all; it just makes me feel good. Joints are made to move.”
“I’m not the same person I was two years ago. I’m happier, more confident; God has just
changed my life and it’s been wonderful.”