Stephanie S.

becoming a runner 

Hello, my name is Stephanie Strunk (aka Splat Girl). I was born to teenage parents in 1971 and was premature, weighing only 2lbs 11 ounces. At birth, doctors diagnosed me with mild cerebral palsy and told my parents that I would never walk or run. Obviously, the medical prognosis was incorrect. While I have never been an athlete, I've always had a competitive heart but could only watch from the sidelines as others played. When I tried out for team sports in school, I was told I could never keep up and to focus my efforts elsewhere. 

My first Orangetheory class was on March 31, 2016. I had such a blast doing this unique workout that I immediately signed up for unlimited classes. I went from basically zero physical activity to working out at OTF 5-6X a week. My initial goal was to simply tone my muscles in order to wear a bikini on the beach. Not only did I reach my initial goal, but I discovered a new passion in the process. 

"Orangetheory has helped make one of my greatest dreams come true -- to be a runner."

It was Coach Pierce who first planted the seed of me "running" in a 5K. I ran the Heroes Run on September 10, 2016 and finished in just over 46 minutes. My favorite moment of that race occurred when I was in the last leg of the 5K. My legs were exhausted from jogging the majority of the race. I could see the finish line ahead and I was tired, but I was determined to run across that finish line! Pierce had told me this moment would be one of the hardest and to keep my mental focus. I began to cry. I was physically struggling. Pierce never wavered from coaching me. He stayed by my side every step of the way. A man from the sidelines came out to join us in the last leg. He grabbed an American flag and ran up next to me. He encouraged me down that home stretch, saying "don't quit, you've got this. All you have to do is get to the flag and the finish line.” I finally ran across that finish line and nearly collapsed. I don't' know who the stranger who helped me finish was. A huge thank you to both of these men for motivating me to do what I thought I could not do. 

That race ignited my passion for running. In 2017, I ran a 5K every month. I've continued this goal through 2018 completing 18 separate 5k runs and counting. In 2017, I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston SC. It was the first time I had EVER run 6.2 miles. Because of OTF, I am able to challenge myself towards change and I pray I can empower others to do the same. I may not be the fastest, but I am a runner. I run for those who can’t. I burn to inspire others. 

None of this would have been possible without OTF. The bridge run was manageable and doable thanks to the training we receive at OTF. On average I would say I run about 1.5 miles in each session. In every OTF class, I know the coaches are watching us. I hear them calling our names, I see their hands up in the air giving us fist bumps and high fives. That does something on the inside. It causes us to jump a little higher, walk/jog/run a little faster, push a little harder. I know I have greater determination to keep going because there is somebody rooting for me. 

I love my OTF family. We've got a multitude of members and coaches (not just in our home gym but across the country) cheering us on. No matter what hardship you may be facing, you have the OTF advantage and we are surrounded by the voice of victory (even in times of defeat). Thank you to all the coaches, staff and members who have helped me see the strength and beauty of which my body is capable and have supported me on my journey. Thank you for making me a better mom. My 16-year-old says I am his hero because I can now physically do things I've never done before. I am no longer struggling to keep up on family vacations and can better enjoy our time together. Thank you for the opportunity to be a strong mom. I am physically in the best shape of my life thanks to Orangetheory. Age is just a number. I will continue to work hard, move forward and achieve my fitness goals 

"...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)