Kelly Roberts is a runner, a fitness blogger, (Run, Selfie, Repeat) and an Instagram star who encourages women to run and be proud of their efforts, as well as laugh while doing it. She runs a 3-hour, 41-minute marathon, and the story of how she lost 75 pounds when she found running has inspired people from all over.
So it stands to say that her blog and social media are full of fitness photos, including many, many images of Roberts running.
I have a question for anyone who has ever struggled to get and stay active in the past. What changed? Did you ever quit? What made you want to try again? And most importantly, what made you want to stick with it or try again? We often talk about the advice we'd give to someone struggling to get started, but I want to hear your struggle. What have you fought through and what kept you going? 📸the most wonderful and kind woman in the land, @janhart26 #RunSelfieRepeat #SportsBraSquad
More recently, she has started the #SportsBraSquad initiative encouraging women to be confident and proud of their bodies—to let go of that self-consciousness that can hold them back while trying to get fit.
But that’s gotten Roberts a flood of rude messages.
“Every week I field comments and emails from men (always men) shaming me or policing my weight,” she told PopSugar.
“If you could see my inbox and some of the emails I get, you’d want to light things on fire,”
She shared one in particular:
Dear man who found it appropriate to send me this email, Once upon a time, your words would have cut me like valyrian steel. Today? They remind me how important it is to change the way we see strength. Because what you call fat, I know can run a marathon in 3 hours in 41 minutes. I hope one day you can obtain the strength I've worked tirelessly for. Until then, know that I will spend the rest of my life empowering the women you hope to shame. You will lose. You already are. The #SportsBraSquad is strong as hell. See you at the finish line. I'll be the one giving you a high five when you get there. #RunSelfieRepeat
“I’m curious why you don’t simply have the discipline to go on a diet and lose the excess fat you have?” he wrote. “You could look great in weeks with a proper ketogenic diet.”
“Instead, you rather literally run away from your problems and act like losing a family member is the harshest thing on earth and thereby grants you the right to pontificate to the rest of us about strength?” he continued, referring to a story Roberts has shared rather publicly about losing her brother, and thereafter falling into a depression and gaining a lot of weight.
This email was just one of many, but Roberts decided to use it as a teaching experience. This was a message that, at one point in her life, would have hurt her deeply. She knew other women who looked up to her, as the hundreds of comments every day on her Instagram account attest to, were struggling with the same confidence issues. So she decided to address this.
“Dear man who found it appropriate to send me this email, Once upon a time, your words would have cut me like valyrian steel.”
“Today? They remind me how important it is to change the way we see strength. Because what you call fat, I know can run a marathon in 3 hours in 41 minutes.”
“I hope one day you can obtain the strength I’ve worked tirelessly for. Until then, know that I will spend the rest of my life empowering the women you hope to shame. You will lose. You already are.”
“The #SportsBraSquad is strong as hell. See you at the finish line. I’ll be the one giving you a high five when you get there. #RunSelfieRepeat”
Who do you look to when you're feeling insecure? That's the question that made me fall apart last week during the #SportsBraSquad run @Oiselle hosted while I was in Seattle last week. I lost it because the truth is, when I'm feeling insecure about my weight or my body, I read the comments you leave whenever I talk about the #SportsBraSquad. It fills me with so much hope to know that together, we're changing the way we see our bodies. That instead of "fat" or "skinny", we're seeing driven, healthy, and strong as hell. But it breaks my f*cking heart to know that so many of us look in the mirror and fail to see our bodies for what they're capable of. I don't care how many times I have to say strength doesn't look a certain way, it feels a certain way. We have to do something about the fact that 70% of women don't like their bodies. Running isn't something you should do to lose weight. It's a way to remind yourself just how strong you really are. It sucks. It's hard. It's soul crushing. And it's painful. But the days when it's great, they're unparalleled. It makes every single painful step worth it. Believe in yourself. I don't care how much you weigh or what size you are. You know what it means to put your healthiest and strongest foot forward. Do that, and everything else will take care of itself. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are a badass. June 24th. Global #SportsBraSquad Day. A day for women and men to show the world what strength looks like. You in? #RunSelfieRepeat #Oiselle #badassladygang
“The #SportsBraSquad isn’t just about finding a way to stay cool and comfortable during the warmer months,” Roberts wrote. “It’s about silencing our inner critics, supporting one another in our athletic pursuits, and showing the world that strength doesn’t look a certain way, it feels a certain way.”
This is an issue close to Roberts’s heart because she knows first hand how debilitating this “inner critic” can be.
This was a recent photo taken of Roberts after she ran 10 miles.
All my life, I've been shown what strength looks like and it never looked like woman who looks like me. I'm tired of seeing women feel defeated or ashamed of their bodies. I'M TIRED OF BEING LED TO BELIEVE THAT MY BODY ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH, STRONG ENOUGH, OR THIN ENOUGH. This is me, at mile 10 of a half marathon where I ran an average pace of 7 minutes and 48 seconds per mile. WHICH IS CRAZY STRONG AND FAST. A part of the reason I'm motivated to get stronger and faster is so that I can prove that you don't have to look a certain way to run fast and strong AF. I'm not afraid to get ugly and show what it's like to both have fun, goof around, and then throw down and show myself what I'm capable of. It's all about balance. But first and foremost, embrace your body and it's strength. Stomach rolls and cellulite don't mean that you're not strong as hell. You are. It's all about working your ass off for an even stronger tomorrow, and enjoying yourself every single step of the way. This shit is hard!!! But the days when you get to enjoy your hard work, like yesterday for me, make every single step worth it. Strong doesn't look a certain way, it feels a certain way. Never give in to the pressure to change who you are just so that you can fit a mold. Woman up. We have to redefine what strength looks like. Join the #sportsbrasquad. Let your strength empower you because THAT is beautiful. This isn't an unflattering photo. That's a picture of me kicking ass and taking names. 📸 @julialeightonlyons #sportsbrasquad #oiselle #stravaambassador
At one time in her life, she would have been ashamed of how unflattering the image was.
“I’m tired of seeing women feel defeated or ashamed of their bodies,” she wrote. “This is me, at mile 10 of a half marathon where I ran an average pace of 7 minutes and 48 seconds per mile. WHICH IS CRAZY STRONG AND FAST. A part of the reason I’m motivated to get stronger and faster is so that I can prove that you don’t have to look a certain way to run fast and strong.”
ALRIGHT #BADASSLADYGANG! WHO IS PLANNING ON RUNNING THEIR FIRST SUB 2 HOUR HALF MARATHON THIS SUMMER? #Project159 And more specifically, who is planning on doing it during the #airbnbbkhalf? Keep your eyes peeled, some news is coming. 🤘🏽 HINT @stravarun + #BadAssLadyGang +#brooklynhalf = THE MOST FUN SUB 2 HOUR HALF EVER. Spread the word and keep your eyes and ears peeled. (#tbt to last year when I was too insecure to join the #sportsbrasquad 🙌🏾) #runselfierepeat #stravarun #Breaking2
Kelly Roberts was not always an athlete. In fact, for most of her life, she hated running.
But in 2009, her brother, only 16 at the time, died of acute alcohol poisoning, and she fell into a depression. Struggling to manage her grief, Roberts gained more than 75 pounds within six months.
“I found myself topping the scale at over 200 pounds, and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t overweight, I was obese,” Roberts wrote.
“I’d look at before and after pictures and feel a tidal wave of shame and regret because I knew that I’d never get my life back,” Kelly told POPSUGAR.
“I felt so ashamed and exposed. It took another three months before I decided to fight for my life back.”
She lost weight, she gained weight, she obsessed over her weekly weigh-ins, and she obsessed over what she was or wasn’t eating. Her therapist worked with her on positive self talk, on health and loving herself, but it wasn’t until she started running that she gained a new perspective.
“I realized how I needed more than a goal weight to motivate me,” Roberts wrote. “Working towards something I could feel proud of, like crossing a finish line, shaped the way I saw myself.”
Today on the #RunSelfieRepeat podcast, let's talk about what the hell went down during the #LondonMarathon. I think anyone who knows what it feels like to hold yourself back or give in to doubt and fear will understand what I mean when I say that I don't for a second regret being so vocal about chasing what once felt like an impossible goal. I'm not embarrassed that I didn't accomplish what I set out to do. I'm embarrassed that I convinced myself that other people would be disappointed in me for failing. The only way you'll fail is if you fail to try. After two "failed" attempts to qualify for Boston, I still wholeheartedly believe that. There is nothing more devastating and soul crushing than holding yourself back because you're too afraid to fail. I'm so much stronger and more confident because of what I've fought through in the last year. Yes, I'm sad and disappointed that it didn't happen, but I'm not giving up. If you shoot for the moon, you're bound to stumble and fall a few times along the way. Learn from the set backs but never stop believing in yourself. Being brave enough to try isn't easy. But it's a hell of a lot easier than feeling like you have nothing to live for. Anyways, let's talk more on my podcast. #SportsBraSquad #oiselle #StravaRun #LondonMarathon 📷 @annarachphotography
She’s often asked how she lost 75 pounds, and she hates the question because it sounds as if there were some miracle fix and she lost all that weight in one go. It wasn’t that—it was the fact that she learned to stop beating herself up over nothing.
“If you’re looking to make a change, do it to get healthy. Set a huge and seemingly impossible goal. Then focus on what you can do today and during the week at hand,” she wrote.
“It’s easy to feel intimidated or overwhelmed when you’re first getting started. Don’t let fear win. Start small and celebrate every tiny victory.”
So many runners, myself included, aspire to break 2:00. It’s an accomplishment that, based on #Strava data, only 31% of women and 67% of men achieve. And despite the hours of hard work and f-bombs we drop during training, it’s often the mental block that stands in our way. Do you ever wonder what would happen if you had a team or a #badassladygang to encourage you when the doubts became unavoidable? Or what would happen if you had so much fun that you hardly noticed that your legs felt like they were going to fall off? Here’s what would happen: you’d break 2 hours in the half marathon. Sound fun? Want in? Click the link in my bio because this weekend during the #AirbnbBKHalf, @stravarun and I are kicking off the summer of #Breaking2!!! INTRODUCING #Project159. 🙌🏾 You ready to make your impossible, possible? Let's go y'all. NO REGRETS. NO EXCUSES. #RunSelfieRepeat 💪🏾 #StravaRun #SportsBraSquad #Oiselle 📷 @just_incase_smith
Running didn’t just give Roberts back her self confidence, it also gave her a community and support system. There are days when he has bad runs and she still “cries on a street corner more often than I would like to admit,” but her fellow runners and her supporters get her though.
“For my first year as a new runner, I ran all by myself. Whenever possible, I ran under the protection of nightfall because I was self conscious to be seen running outdoors,” she wrote. She didn’t think she “looked like a runner,” and therefore felt she couldn’t be seen running, and suffered alone.
“Becoming a runner gave me purpose. It helped me believe in myself when I was too afraid to move on with my life and it showed me that it doesn’t matter how badly I want something, all that matters is how hard I’m willing to work for it.”
Her first few races were horrifying and painful, but she got through it. Then she ran a half marathon. Then she ran a marathon. It gave her the courage she needed to move to New York City.
The hardest part about breaking 2 hours in the half marathon is finding a way to keep fighting when everything tells you that you can't keep up. The panic. The dread. The fear. The disappointment. The success. It's all apart of the process. Success doesn't mean nailing it the first time. It means committing to a goal and then going for it with no regrets, no excuses. It may not happen the first time. Or the second. Or the third, fourth, fifth, or sixth. And every time you fall short, it gets that much harder to try again because that mental block gets bigger. But you have to know that failure doesn't mean not #breaking2. Failure is giving up on yourself. You can do it. It takes grit, perseverance, and patience. That's why I'm so excited about #Project159. When you have a #badassladygang pushing you and reminding you that you're strong when you doubt yourself or feel like you're going to die, you're unstoppable. Thank you @stravarun for helping me bring #Project159 to life. For giving a voice to the everyday badass runners fighting to make impossible, possible. And thank you to these badass ladies @pilvi.tuulia @noushy14 @vexyspice and @meghadoshi for helping our squad kick ass during the #airbnbbkhalf. This summer is all about running down impossible, together. 💪🏾 #RunSelfieRepeat #SportsBraSquad #StravaRun #oiselle 📷 @benkophoto
“The way I saw it, if I could survive that painful and traumatizing marathon, I could do anything.”
It gave her the courage to let go of her insecurities and to pick up her life.
“With my newfound courage, I started dating for the first time as a 24-year-old. Yes, you read that correctly. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 24.”
Step by step, she built up her confidence and her strength, and then she ran the New York City Half-Marathon.
It was there that she snapped a selfie with some “unsuspecting hotties” in the background that she went viral.
She took a selfie for every mile to get herself through the marathon, and in the aftermath, seeing that this resonated with so many other people, she decided to start her blog.
“When you have a #badassladygang pushing you and reminding you that you’re strong, when you doubt yourself or feel like you’re going to die, you’re unstoppable.”