Ava’s Story: Autism Insurance for Georgia


Pass Ava’s Law in Georgia. Help every child with autism receive insurance coverage. http://www.georgiaautisminsurance.org

For a greater understanding of what we hope to accomplish with the awareness that Light Up Columbus will bring to the community, please watch this video…




Cristina’s Success Story

Cristina is on the Light Up Columbus race committee and has contributed so much to help build the race of 2014! Most notably, Cristina designed and created the amazing logo for Light Up Columbus. Below, Cristina shares her story of a successful lifestyle change…


Growing up my parents had me in Ice Skating, Ballet and Jazz. I always thought of myself as a pretty active person. I spent most of my life in Europe and also started skiing at the age of 4. I had a really bad crash on the slopes during my teen years, which caused me to fear anything on a mountain. Years went by and I met my husband, a Soldier who was once a ski instructor in his hometown before joining the Army. Sure enough, he had me skiing on Austrian Glaciers and the highest peaks of Europe. In addition to skiing, I ran and never more than a 5K.

Years went by:  I married my ski instructor/Soldier, moved to Germany and we had a beautiful baby boy.  Our promise to each other was to continue being an active family. I hiked a couple smaller mountains with baby in tow, ran a race in Prague pushing a BOB but I struggled with my weight.

We moved to Fort Benning, GA in 2012. Like your typical Army spouse, I had to start my life from scratch. I joined the Columbus Stroller Strong Moms and noticed how out of shape I really was. I was so intimidated by moms who were running past me with their double stroller, not breaking a sweat. I often felt discouraged because these ladies flew past me. I could see every single muscle in their body. In addition to working out and pushing myself, these mommas taught me to never give up. In November 2012 I completed my first half marathon, in exactly 2 hours. I could not believe I completed this, but instead of being happy and proud, I saw pictures of myself and could not believe how “big” I looked. How was it that I was working out almost every day and not losing an inch? Why were knees and overall body always in pain? I grew up as an active child and I ate everything.

fat me

2012 Big Dog Heat Wave Five Miler

My husband deployed and I could not get over the amount of exercise I was doing and yet, I still looked bigger than ever. I decided to seek medical advice and was referred to a dietician. My blood results showed that I had genetically high cholesterol. My thought was “I am too young for pills!”  With the help of my doctor and dietician, I transitioned into a plant based diet. Within the first month I noticed inches come off my midsection. My physical performance dramatically increased, and my body felt stronger. In 6 months I had lost a total of 13lbs. I had muscles where they had never been before. More importantly than losing a couple pounds, I felt stronger, awake and energized.

My race times throughout the year have dramatically improved and in November 2013 I am running my first full marathon. I can also keep up with my husband!

Changing my diet and my eating habits is what worked for me. Always listen to your body, seek professional advice and experiment!  You must take care of yourself first, if you want to successfully take care of others.


2013 Big Dog Heat Wave 5 Miler (Finished 1st in Age Group!!!)

Check Out Stroller Strong Mom Camille Reed’s Running Story


The first “race” I ever signed up for was strictly to support a nonprofit organization that I loved. Although I was active in softball and cheerleading growing up, my least favorite part of conditioning was running. So even though I thought I was participating in the “1 mile fun run” that fateful day in 2009, I soon realized I was in the 5k and surprised myself by SURVIVING.

Camille 2013_05_SSM Run Heroes Georgia-253

From there I was hooked! Two kids later, I’ve taken up running wholeheartedly as a way to clear my mind and to exercise with my babies (hello jogging stroller!). Since joining Stroller Strong Moms, I’ve completed numerous 5ks, 10ks, 2 half marathons and the Run Across Georgia relay. Currently, I am training for my first full marathon. Whenever I feel like there’s no way I can work up to and complete 26.2 miles, I remind myself how I had never ran more than 3 just a little over a year ago and that ANYTHING is possible with the proper training and support from those around you. For anyone who thinks, “I’m not a runner” or “It’s not for me”, get out there and start small. You will be shocked at what your mind and body is capable of overcoming. If the idea still scares you, find a cause that you’re passionate about and use it as motivation to sign up. Your money will serve a great purpose and you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment when you cross that finish line. If you are struggling during the race, reflect on who you are running for- this will inspire you to keep going. I enjoy setting goals for myself, while supporting worthy causes, such as Autism Speaks. Let’s LIGHT UP COLUMBUS for autism awareness and gain a healthy habit while you’re at it!


Camille Half MarathonCamille 2012_07_Strollers 80s 14

Camille GA

Many Mini Tips to Keep You Running (and wanting to run) Strong


Check out this bite sized wisdom from runners world.com!

A compendium of collected wisdom, served up in bite-sized form


February 22, 2011

There are no junk miles. If you’re not injured so badly that you’re altering your form, or so sick that you feel much worse after running, then it’s all good. Even if you think a run doesn’t advance your fitness, it has other benefits — promoting blood flow, clearing your mind, getting you away from the computer, burning calories, getting you out in nature, helping you spend time with friends, maintaining the rhythm of good training, and infinitely so on.

It’s not uncommon to go to bed thinking, “Darn, I should have run today.” It’s not common to go to bed thinking, “I shouldn’t have run today.”

When you’re feeling flat, a little fast running is often the best cure. A slow 5 miles might leave you feeling more lethargic. Instead, throw in some random short pick-ups, or do a set of striders on your street once you’ve done your normal loop. See “Managing Muscle Tension” here for an explanation of why little bursts of fast running can help you surpass sluggishness.

Multipace training is, of course, the key to top performance regardless of your target race distance. But that’s not the only reason to regularly do all sorts of workouts, from long runs and basic speed sessions to slow recovery runs and tempo workouts. There’s no better way to keep your running interesting than to have peaks and valleys of intensity and duration woven throughout your training weeks.

Not every “hard” workout has to be a killer session. You can sneak in more quality without going to the well by stopping by a track or hill or obstacle-free stretch of road toward the end of a run and doing a few up-tempo repeats of between 200 and 800m.

Finish some of your longer repeat workouts, like miles or kilometers, with a few 200s or 300s. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fast you can run the short segments once you’re fully warmed up. I once set a 200m PR on the last of four 200s done impromptu after a set of six 800s.

When you hear elites talk about their training, translate their workouts into efforts relative to race pace. A 20-miler with the last 8 miles at 5:00 per mile sounds really fast — and it is — but for an elite man, it’s a long run with the last portion at marathon race pace. You can and should do such a workout regularly before your next marathon.

It’s also helpful to understand elites’ recovery paces relative to race paces. A national-class woman who runs easy mileage at 7:30 per mile is doing those recovery runs more than 2 minutes per mile slower than her 10K race pace. Do you?

At least a few days a week, decide what course you’re going to run, and then leave your watch at home. Other days, run wherever, guided by total time on your watch. The thing to mostly avoid is timing yourself over the same courses day after day. That way lies the madness of beating yourself up for running slower than you “should” or forcing yourself to pick it up because you’re 6 seconds slower at your 45-minutes-into-it checkpoint than you were yesterday.

When you’re hurt and have to cross-train, try to spend more time on it than you do your running. After all, you can get in a decent run in 30 minutes, but you’re not going to find lots of cyclists who would consider half an hour anything but a warm-up. Make the time go faster on individual workouts by translating your usual hard running workouts — VO2 max sessions, tempo workouts, etc. — to the pool or bike or elliptical or wherever you’re spending your non-running time. Structure cross-training weeks like your running weeks; the variety will help your time in injury limbo pass faster than if you do the same medium-effort waiting-out-the-clock workout every day.

When you feel like you’re in a rut, make a deliberate effort to shake things up. Head out the door without the slightest plan of where to run. Run at an unusual time of day. Drive to run somewhere different. Even wearing crazy clothes can be enough to reboot your mental approach.

Look, you know you’re going to run. So don’t waste time and mental energy staring out the window at the horrible weather.

Look through your old logs once in a while. Even when you were running PR after PR, things were never as effortless as you now remember them. And when you were hurt or struggling, you got through it, just like you will the next time you hit a roadblock.

We find time for the things that are important to us. Period.

Avoid tying your training to arbitrary numbers. As Don Kardong once noted in relation to weekly mileage, 88 is a much rounder number than 100. (Besides, can you honestly say that all your courses are precisely calibrated?) This notion also applies to numbers outside of weekly volume. “One mile” and “10 percent” are meaningless constructs to your body, so why would “Increase your mileage by no more than 10 percent per week” have any relevance to how you can safely progress? Similarly, 8:00 or 7:00 or whatever number you’ve decided is the pace per mile at which anything slower is a waste of time might mean something to your head, but not to your body.

Always get a run in before getting on an airplane.

Behavioral economists talk about the importance of choice architecture, or the environment in which we make choices. The classic example is the difference between an employer-matched retirement fund where participation requires choosing to enroll versus enrollment being the default option. In the latter case, more employees participate. The gist of the field’s teaching is: Make it easy to do the right thing. Choice architecture is huge for daily and long-term success in running. Whether it’s establishing that the default Sunday morning option is meeting your group to go long, or keeping your stretching rope in plain sight in an area you frequently pass, or having healthful post-run snacks on hand for when you’re famished, or packing your running gear in your carry-on luggage, make it easy to do the right thing.

Do almost of all your tempo runs off the track. When was the last time you got 400m splits on a perfectly flat course in a 10-mile race or a marathon?

Become a student of the sport. It ruins none of the magic of self-discovery to learn that thousands of others have gone before you and experienced every challenge and joy that you have. Take advantage of the lessons others have drawn from their mistakes so that you don’t have to repeat them.

Always stay in touch with your basic speed. You’ll spend a lot more time just getting back to where you were if you ignore it for weeks at a time than you will tending to it once or twice a week throughout the year. You don’t need to do hands-on-knees sets of 200s every week to maintain your speed. Fast, relaxed striders toward the end of an easy run or immediately following one will go a long way toward preserving your turnover and the increased range of motion that comes only with running near top-end speed.

Think of ancillary matters — flexibility work, core strengthening, form drills — not in either/or terms in relation to your running, but in terms of “yes, and … ” That is, they’re not replacements for running, but a form of insurance policy that will allow you to better pursue and enjoy your running at whatever level you choose to. Even if they don’t improve your performance — and they almost certainly will — when done correctly they’re going to make the simple act of running feel better, especially the older you get and the longer you’ve been running. Most of these activities are easy to sneak in throughout the day in little clumps of activity.

Something is almost always better than nothing. There will be days when some aspect of reality intrudes and you have to scrap your ideal-world training plan. That doesn’t make scrapping the whole affair the logical conclusion. A 4-miler is much closer to a 10-miler than it is to 0 miles for the day.

Many of us are in shape to get in shape. Put another way, many of us have never really tested the limits of our running potential. Remembering being tired during that 70-mile week you tried once doesn’t count as “high mileage doesn’t work for me.” You know from your early running days that, once you make a fitness breakthrough, it’s easier, not harder to train at higher levels of volume and intensity. Of course you’re free to run at whatever level you want and that you think the rest of your life allows. But don’t mistake that choice for confirmation that your current level of performance is the best you’re capable of. How will you know unless you try?

If you were healthy and at a good weight when you were 25, there’s almost never good reason to be significantly heavier than that. Even if you’ve tacked on muscle — which, come on, is usually not the case — the extra weight is almost certainly making you slower, not faster. As runners, we already live in ways contrary to accepted beliefs on what aging is supposed to be like, so why not take that attitude toward weight as well?

Don’t believe everything you read. It is indeed possible to run — long and fast, for months on end — on a stress fracture. Rest doesn’t cure all injuries. Great races are possible when you’re deep into heavy training. Less is almost never more. And here’s the real upender: Haile Gebrselassie jogs in place at stoplights.

Relax, it’s just running. Of course it can be the most intoxicating, captivating, meaningful part of your life. But it’s still just running. Nobody’s making you do it, and you’re not going to save the world doing it. So find what you enjoy about running, and then follow your bliss.


People Are Afraid of What they Do Not Understand


I was super excited to hear about this event from a fellow mom and I asked her immediately how I could get involved.  I am a huge advocate for Autism awareness and I have participated in similar events in other states.  But I have wanted to take part in a local event for our area.  Admittedly, I am not the best runner but I cannot wait for April 18 to “Light Up Columbus”. 

I became a strong promoter for awareness soon after my son received his diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, when he was 3 ½.  He is my oldest child and as a first-time parent with him I was on the lookout for every milestone to be achieved at the exact right time.  And for the most part he hit them all.   But my motherly instinct kept telling me something was not right.   When he was not speaking at 18 months I took him to a developmental pediatrician and brought up my concerns regarding Autism.  The doctor told me he was too young to diagnose and that he saw no symptoms of Autism, but did suggest Speech Therapy.  He then started receiving this therapy and continued receiving it through military moves to 3 different states.  After months of therapy in NY, his Speech therapist suggested I get him revaluated by another developmental pediatrician.  After a 6 month long wait to see this specialist, we walked into the appointment and within 15 minutes my life was forever changed.

I knew in my heart Autism was a good possibility of why my son acted differently but the reality of it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I definitely had a short period of grieving for what I thought I would be losing.   But when I got home from that appointment, I immediately went into action researching and discovered ABA therapy.  Even though the closest therapist was 3 hours a way, I was able to convince her to travel and he started this therapy within a few weeks of our doctor’s appointment. 


When my son received his diagnosis, he could only say a few words and would have 30 minute long meltdowns once a day. Now he is almost 8, he is in a regular 3rd grade classroom and most people are shocked when I tell them he is on the Autism Spectrum.   My son is different from his peers but given the choice, I would not change any part of him.  In the knowledge I have acquired about people on the spectrum, I feel most of us have a lot we could actually learn from them.  My son is honest to a fault and he has more empathy for others than most adults I know.   He dedicates himself 110 percent to anything he endeavors to do.  He is an incredible artist and a math whiz.  His life plans in 3rd grade are to go to college, get married, to have a few children and to build cruise liners as a profession. 🙂 

Our journey to this point has not been easy.  Some people have been unkind to my son and to me.  But when I experience these negative interactions I use them as an opportunity to spread more awareness.  The phrase “people are afraid of what they do not understand” seems to ring true to me.  My philosophy is to educate anyone I meet about Autism so they can better understand my child and any other child on the spectrum.  I hope this event will allow me and every other participant to do just that!!!

Melissa Ibanez