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Stephanie Dunlap
How I Went from Couch Potato to Marathon Runner in Less Than a Year

Stephanie Dunlaps Stats When We Talked with Her 💪

United States
36 years
165 cm
(5 ‘5)
73 kg
(160 lbs)

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Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training

My name is Stephanie Dunlap, also known as runstrongrun across all of the socials. I was born and raised in Northern California. After living abroad for a few years as an international teacher in locations such as China, Honduras, and Mexico, I am now back home in Northern California working as a 5th-grade teacher by day and a blogger/fitness influencer by night.

I am married with two bonus teenagers and a toddler who is our miracle baby. After fighting the battle of infertility for a few years, our miracle baby was born in November 2018. She brings so much joy to our family!

One of my health and fitness accomplishments that I am most proud of is solidifying my spot as a marathon maniac by running two full marathons in one weekend in the spring of 2016! Ever since going from couch potato to marathon runner in less than a year in 2012, I have been in love with the marathon distance. To date, I have completed 20 full marathons!

I have not always been healthy and a runner. I, in fact, had a rude wake-up call in 2009 after returning home from teaching in China for a year. I stepped on the scale, saw my weight flash up on the screen, and knew something needed to change. I immediately started moving my body more and eating more appropriately portion-sized nutrient-dense foods.

By the time I crossed the finish line of my first marathon in 2012, I had lost 60 pounds and became a vegetarian in the process. I now inspire other women to lose weight and regain their health through movement and eating nutrient-dense foods.

Describe a typical day of training

My workouts usually consist of a run mixed with strength training three to four times a week.

I typically workout five to six days a week for about an hour with one active rest day in which I still move my body through taking a casual walk with my family. My workouts usually consist of a run mixed with strength training three to four times a week.

The distance and speeds of my runs are usually reflective of a race I may be training to complete. For example, if I’m training for a full marathon, I will follow a 16-week training plan, which will consist of five short runs and one long run each week.

I have an in-home gym complete with a treadmill and dumbbells, but also enjoy going to the gym so that I can participate in group classes, use equipment not found in my in-home gym, and socialize with my friends. I also enjoy socializing with my friends while out on a run together.

I keep track of all of my workouts and training via my Garmin Fitness Forerunner watch. The only time my Garmin Forerunner is off of my wrist is while showering so that it can charge. I love that my Forerunner tracks my heart rate, is GPS enabled, and logs my sleep.

How do you keep going and push harder?

Motivation gets us started. Discipline keeps us going. There are some days that I don’t feel like working out and going for a run. I remember, however, how I felt prior to working out. I was miserable both physically and emotionally.

Whenever I workout or go to the gym, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I never regret workouts or runs I have completed, only those I haven’t completed.

With two teenagers and a toddler in the house, it can be a challenge to find the time to go for a run or workout. One of my tricks, however, is taking my family with me on a run. The toddler is in her stroller and then two teens can be on their bicycles. Getting outside and moving together as a family is not only good for our physical health but is good for our relationships as well.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Currently, I am not training for any particular event or race. As a runner, many of the in-person races have been canceled due to COVID-19. I, therefore, am simply using this time to run for run, enjoy some leisurely walks, and utilize my in-home gym to complete my strength training.

Looking to the future and to my career, within the next five years I’d like to be out of the 5th-grade classroom and working full time in my Run Strong Run career as a writer, coach, personal trainer, nutritionist, educator, and encourager.

If given the opportunity to give advice to my younger self, I’d tell the younger version of myself to start running sooner in my adult career and earn my personal training certification earlier in my career so that I could help more people.

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How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?

I believe my plant-based diet as well as my willingness to take rest days has helped me to stay injury-free.

In the area of injuries and recovery, I have been very blessed to stay injury-free. I believe my plant-based diet as well as my willingness to take rest days has helped me to stay injury-free. I always tell new runners that listening to your body is so important. If you need to rest, rest.

As a mom to a toddler, I usually get between five to six hours of sleep per night because when the toddler sleeps, I work. I’d like to get more like eight hours of sleep per night, but right now as I am building my Run Strong Run business and working a full-time job, sleep loses its priority in my life.

As a mom to a toddler as well as being an educator, you also must be flexible. When working with people, there are many moving parts and things happen. This means you must be prepared with healthy meal options and be ready to change your workout plan on the spot.

How is your diet and what supplements do you use?

It’s now been over eight years without any meat and I still find that I have plenty of energy and muscle mass!

While training for my first full marathon in 2012, I watched a documentary about eating a plant-based diet. This is when I decided I’d give it a try to see if eating a plant-based diet made a difference in my speed and recovery.

I ended up enjoying how I felt and looked as a vegetarian, so I decided to maintain my plant-based diet. It’s now been over eight years without any meat and I still find that I have plenty of energy and muscle mass!

As far as diets are concerned, I am anti diets. This is because the diet mentality is one in which there is a starting point and an ending point. I am more interested in a healthy lifestyle, one that focuses on long-term health, not short term results.

With this being said, I do partake in a juice detox a couple of times a year to reset my body. My favorite detox plan is Jason Vale’s 7 pounds in 7 days plan. This plan requires that you invest in a juicer to juice various fruits and vegetables. Outside of the 7 pounds in 7 days plan, on average I make one to three natural, plant-based, nutrient-dense juices/smoothies a day.

In the way of coffee, tea, and alcohol, I drink one cup of coffee every morning, herbal caffeinated tea in the evenings sometimes, and alcohol on occasion with friends. I believe that life should be lived and enjoyed as opposed to living in restriction and starvation mode.

What has inspired and motivated you?

As quoted above, motivation gets us started, but discipline keeps us going. I find my inspiration and motivation through the online running and running community, reading books, and watching videos.

A few of my favorite running books to read or listen to is “Ultramarathon Man” by Dean Karnazes, “Eat & Run” by Scott Jurek, and “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.

I also stay motivated by hanging my medals in my workout room to remind myself of all of my accomplishments. Lastly, by posting my workouts and runs online I remain motivated since I know that others are watching.

Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?

The biggest question I am asked is how to get started with running. To get started with running, start small. Lookup a couch to 5k program online and know that it’s okay to run using a run/walk strategy such as Jeff Galloway’s run/walk strategy.

I remember my first time going out for a run. The day was March 27, 2011 and I made it one block. Less than a year later, on March 4, 2012 I ran the first 17 miles of my first full marathon without stopping. I say this to say that small steps every day lead to big results!

Are you taking on clients right now?

I am not taking on clients currently, but once I complete my personal training certification along with my nutritionist certification specializing in weight loss, I will be taking on clients as a part of my online course as well as one on one coaching.

To stay up to date with all things Run Strong Run, the best action to take is to go to to join my email list.

Where can we learn more about you?

I am an educator, encourager, and a believer. I truly believe that everyone can live a life of health, happiness, and fulfillment. Want to read more? You can find me on my website, on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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