Melody Tuthill woke up early on New Year's Day to join roughly 50,000 people across the country for the Commitment Day 5K fun run.
Life Time Fitness, which has 108 fitness centers in the United States and Canada, including the Omaha gym at 168th Street and West Center Road, sponsors the 3.1-mile event in 35 cities across the U.S. to help people start the new year on the right foot.
"Commitment Day is a movement...to get people toward their goal of a healthier way of life, rather than making a New Year's resolution that simply fizzles a couple months later," said Liz Wallace, the run club coordinator at Life Time Fitness in Omaha.
For Tuthill, 47, Commitment Day means so much more.
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Tuthill's 24-year-old-son, Anthony Tuthill, passed away in October from an enlarged heart and pneumonia.
Though she's grieving and it's often easier to stay in bed, the Commitment Day 5K was her motivation Wednesday to never give up.
Tuthill, who weighs 300 pounds, said she knows she has to keep moving. She first found the motivation to get healthier a year ago when she participated in her first Commitment Day 5K.
"I never ran in my life and heard Life Time was offering free training,” Tuthill said of the event last year. "I started out running one minute, walking two minutes and so on."
Tuthill met Wallace, the run club coordinator, who encouraged Tuthill to keep training.
Tuthill lost 60 pounds and finished her first 5K in 44 minutes last year. "It was a personal accomplishment…It meant a lot to me."
By February, however, the weight returned and Tuthill fell into a depression after a break-up with her fiancÚ. She had two failed marriages and wasn't prepared for this setback.
"It just shows you how life can affect your health and how easy it is to get sidetracked," she said.
That's when Wallace stepped in and invited Tuthill to track workouts in the summer.
"I walked, but it was OK,” Tuthill said. “I felt like I belonged to something again."
Tuthill finally felt her life and health were back on track when her son's death shattered her life once again. "Every time I tried to get ahead, something always happens," she said.
Wallace, who has now become a close friend to Tuthill, was there again to help her get on her feet.
On New Year's Day, Tuthill, her late son's girlfriend and mother of her two grandchildren and Tuthill's daughter showed up to the starting line wearing T-shirts with Anthony Tuthill's picture on the front and on the back. The shirt read, “I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can't run, what they would give to have this simple gift I take for granted and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me."
"Melody has had an incredibly tough year and she hasn't let that stop her,” Wallace said. “She demonstrates resilience and determination when so many people would have given up."
Though she fell twice on the snow and ice during the run Wednesday, Tuthill kept going and finished the race.
Tuthill says she's living and getting healthy for her children, grandchildren and herself.
Wallace calls Tuthill a role model.
"She's been at training regularly and is eager to succeed," she said. "And I have yet to hear her complain about the workout, the cold, anything. She just wants to get healthier."