This story is the third part in a four-part series about our Halfsy Hero Tonya O’Neel. Our series will follow Tonya and three other heroes as they train for the 2017 Good Life Halfsy.


”I’m a really systematic person. I realize this. 90% of the time, I run on the same trail. At some point, I realized that I knew which mulberry bush was one mile. Which stop sign was a mile and a half. In the beginning, this really helped me. I would give myself these small goals, get to this tree and you can slow down.”

Some people told Tonya she was crazy for starting to train so early, but since she wasn’t a runner at all, she knew she was going to have to find some way to hack her own brain to accomplish a half marathon.

“When I started this route back in April, the markers helped. I felt like… if I could just get to this point at a good pace, I could give myself permission to stop trying so hard.”

And now she’s working to deprogram her coping mechanism.

“I had my best pace yesterday. Last month my goal was to work on my speed, and this month it’s all about pushing beyond my systems.”

“This morning was harder. I knew I had to put in a lot of miles before a family event, and I stood there just staring at the rain, getting mad. Finally, I decided to just go. Before, this would have been a good excuse to skip the run, but I can’t now. So I decided I would go, and if it was unbearable I could turn around. About a mile and a half in, the sun was out. It was beautiful.”

But her systematic personality had another challenge ahead. About halfway into her run, she discovered that her trail had been flooded. While it seemed like everything was stacking up against her finishing her path, Tonya’s persistence redirected her.

“I found a new path and kept going.”

Her road home was all hills, but when she reached her final destination, she had put more than another 9-mile run behind her. Breaking through complacency is difficult, but Tonya has embraced challenges and change.

“I’ve never sought something that I wasn’t naturally good at. I still don’t love running, but I do love what I’ve gotten out of running. I think everyone should go out and do something they don’t naturally like. You learn a lot about yourself.”

Check back for more Halfsy Hero stories, and to read the last installment of Tonya’s story.