Saturday Spotlight- Kiersten Bartolotta

Name: Kiersten Bartolotta
Occupation- Owner of Walk To Run Fitness and Part-Time County Prosecutor
Married – Chuck Bartolotta
Children: Lilia (12 yrs), Noelle (10 yrs) and Donovan (7 yrs)

When Lou asked me to do the Warrior of the Week, my first reaction was NO WAY!!! But then I remembered my favorite quote- which is one I now live by (I’ll get to the quote in a minute) so I agreed to do it. I am so thankful for Lou and all he does for our group so this is the least I can do.

I grew up as a chubby kid. I never exercised and I hated sports. My parents, of course, were devastated and tried to get me to play softball and tennis. They were never overly active or outdoors people but they were very disappointed in me not being interested in sports. I remember trying out for the teams and sitting on the bench during the games. I also remember being picked last for kickball and hating recess. What did I like to do? I liked to read, eat bologna sandwiches and watch TV (I hate bologna now and will not buy it for my kids!). I was inactive and it affected my life in many ways. I had low self -esteem, I was very shy and I was overweight. This pattern continued through high school, college and in my twenties. I never really exercised on a regular basis. I would join the gym or do an exercise class on occasion and do it for a couple of month then go for years without being active. I was not overly obsessed with my weight but I was frustrated with always being 20 pounds overweight which is a lot when you are 5 feet tall. But I always wanted to be active and fit. I just couldn’t build the habit to do it.

Then something changed. Running came into my life and running changed everything. It started first around 2006. When I had my second daughter, I wanted to make a change and get healthy. My goal also was to escape my two little daughter 17 months apart so getting out the door to go for long walks seemed to be the answer. I started to add some jogging during my walks and kept increasing my distance. Eventually I was at 3.1 miles of running (after months of trying) and I made my first goal of running a 5k.

I decided to do the Shwachman Diamond 5k in Sayville. I went by myself, not letting my husband or kids come because I was so scared. Right before the race and because I was so nervous I dropped my car keys and couldn’t find them. I searched for them as the horn went off and the race started. I finally found them and had to sprint to get to the start line and was completely out of breath at the start. It was a hard race but I finished in probably 50 minutes and I remember being so proud to have completed it but also so mad at myself for not having my family there to see me finish. After that, I was hooked. Running became my habit and I have run too many races to count. I love races AND I hate them at the same time because they make me run the fastest I can every time. Through the years I have added distance and worked on speed and I am very proud of where I am with my running. I have run 1 marathon, 2 half marathons, a couple of 10ks, my favorite- the 10 miler brewery & hundreds of 5ks. When I was a chubby little kid who no one picked for the kick ball game, I would never have thought that I would be able to run like I do now with a bunch of ribbons for placing in my age group and most importantly, feeling so strong and healthy and excited to do even better each time.

Running changed my life again in 2010. I had three little kids at home and I would see a lot of moms around at the school or the playground. Some of the moms knew I ran regularly and asked me how I ran my first 5k. That was when I came up with an idea of a business. Just as I had learned to run a 5k through running and walking, I thought it would be good to train other moms to run their first 5k. I came up with a name of the program “Walk Your Way To Running a 5k” and started to think about taking a chance and starting a small business. I will tell you I was very scared by the idea and I had no information on how to do it. Then while on vacation with my husband, I came across a magnet at a store (the quote!!) which said “You must do the thing you think you cannot do” by Eleanor Roosevelt. I bought the magnet and it truly gave me the strength to start the next step of creating a fitness business. Walk To Run Fitness LLC was born. (I still have that magnet)

For the past 4 and ½ years, I have run my small business and expanded it into other areas such as children’s running programs and also endurance and speed trainings. My business has been an incredible part in my life. It has given me a reason to stay fit, and keep running. It has forced me to do things that I fear such as creating new programs, reaching out to the public, doing charity events and being good with goal setting and problem-solving. But mostly, it has introduced me to the best people in the world. My clients are inspirational. They motivate me and make me very proud. Many of them become my good friends and they are always so kind, so hardworking and so honest about their struggles with being healthy and fit. They remind me every day how hard it is to do something new, to push yourself outside your comfort zone and, honestly, to believe in yourself. But they also show me that they can do that each and every day. With some guidance, with some mistakes and steps backwards but always with a strong belief in each client, I teach them how to push themselves beyond what they thought their limits were and to get them to where they never thought they would get to…. the finish line.

In October 2013, running (and the wonderful Kristine Densing) introduced me to the fantastic Selden Hills Warriors, a group that inspires me to do better and be better. I am thankful for Lou LaFleur and all the warriors I have met on the hills and through Facebook. I truly believe that the warriors are a special group of people. I have seen the generosity of this group when someone is down and out and needs some support. I have seen this group cheer on every new walker, runner and walk/runner, never excluding people or making them feel uncomfortable when they may not be the fastest or the strongest. I feel lucky to have found running because it has expanded my world in so many ways and this includes the Selden Warriors.

I am also thankful for all the people that have come into my life because of running. I am especially thankful to Mike B. (aka Sig Mund) and Heidi Feyler (both Selden Hills Warriors) who have become my good friends and who always push me to do better while making me laugh. (Mike – I will always be faster than you! Heidi- I am excited to train for 26.2 miles with you but not on the treadmill!) .

Lastly, running has empowered me in so many ways in all parts of my life. My self-confidence and belief in myself has grown because of my success with running. That belief has carried over to my business and with raising my children. I feel so lucky that I found running and the habit of being healthy so I can make sure my children have better opportunities and information to be healthy and active. As you all know, raising girls in this day and age is difficult with body image issues. I feel I am doing a good job by showing my children that being active is so important for their health both mentally and physically and my husband and I try to set a good example of that life style, with moderation, with success but also with failure because we can’t always be the best or the fastest. Sometimes, it’s not about being the best. Just running or taking a walk with a friend (especially on the hills) is enough.

Thank you Lou LaFleur for this wonderful opportunity to share. I will see you all at the hills in March! Don’t forget, we are doing our 2nd Annual Food Drive for the Food Pantries of LI in March (I’ll send the info soon). See you there!!!!!!

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