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Sanibel woman runs path to athletic success

By Staff | Oct 30, 2009

Extraordinary athletes aren’t always born skilled, fast and strong.

Hard work, discipline and sacrifice are the elements that tend to shape athletes rather than great genetics.

Some find this out early in life, while others discover their inner athlete later on in life.

Christine Donovan didn’t discover her athletic prowess until she hit her 30’s. In fact, the Sanibel resident weighed 195 pounds a few years ago before she began working out and running races.

Now there is no stopping the driven mother of two who has completed several Ironman competitions and tough triathlons and marathons. She is now training 15 to 20 hours weekly for the upcoming Ironman Florida in Panama City on Saturday, Nov. 7.

She can be spotted running, racing on her bike or using weights at the Sanibel Rec Center.

To look at the lean, muscular athlete now, one would have a challenging time conceiving she used to carry a lot of extra weight on her frame.

“I used to be a real junk food person,” she said.

She first began dabbling in short distance running events in her early 30s, but when her father had emergency quadruple bypass surgery several years later, something inside Donovan clicked.

She said she needed to drop the pounds and run more, and, without ceremony or fanfare, Donovan began running and working out despite the challenges in the beginning.

“Being that overweight, it just hurt to run,” she said.

But she worked through the pain, slimmed down and began to enter races and do well. She has done almost back-to-back Ironman events throughout the country including, Wisconsin in September and Lake Placid, N.Y. in July.

The Ironman – sort of the Holy Grail for triathletes – consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run.

She has ran in the Ironman events and the Disney half and full marathons, amassing a closet full of medals in the process. But that’s not enough – Donovan said she just keeps setting more goals for herself.

“I just got hooked on it,” she said.

Now there is no turning back to the other life she lived before. She eats, sleeps and drinks races and events.

“I feel like a different version of myself,” she said.

Donovan said she is proud of herself and all she has had to do to get to this point in her life.

And she has long traded her yen for junk food for another kind of euphoria.

“When you finish an Ironman, you feel like you can do anything,” she said.

Her overall goal is to make it to the Ironman world championships in Hawaii. But aside from her lofty competitive aspirations, Donovan hopes to be a good example for her young sons as well as other people struggling with weight issues.

“I want people to know if I can do it, they can do it,” she said. “I don’t have anything magically athletic about me. It just took a goal.”