Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Ali Nolan
On the eve of their one-year wedding anniversary, in December 2010, Willie and Angela Gillis of Beaumont, Texas, made a vow to get healthy. They needed to: At their heaviest, Angela weighed 340 pounds and Willie hit 492 pounds.
They began by tracking their food and walking on treadmills at a gym. As the pounds dropped, Angela, a 34-year-old business manager, picked up the pace; Willie, a 35-year-old warehouse clerk, continued walking by her side. In late 2011, Angela made an impromptu decision to run a half marathon. “It took me two hours and 55 minutes, but I did it, “ she says. “I joined a running club and convinced Willie to join me.”
In 2013, the couple headed to Memphis, where Willie was to run his first half while Angela would do her first marathon. A winter storm forced both events to be canceled. “I cried,” Angela says. “We had trained so hard. On race morning, I said, ‘Willie, we still have to run.’” Battling freezing temps, Willie ran his 13.1 and then drove behind Angela as she finished her 26.2. “I just wanted her to have her glory,” he says. “The run itself was our medal.”
Now, five years after their get-healthy pact, Willie has run two marathons and 20 half marathons. Angela, who aims to run a marathon in every state, has knocked 11 off so far. “When we were heavy, we never wanted to try or risk anything,” she says. “We are capable of more than we ever thought we were.”
Power Couple before image…
Before. Angela Gillis at 340 pounds and Willie Gillis at 492 pounds.
In good times…
“Going to the gym was easier than changing our diet, because we went together and we could watch TV,” Willie says.
…and in bad
“Our first fight was over the diet,” Angela says. “I wanted BBQ and Willie said, ‘No.’”
“I’m an emotional eater,” Angela says. “If I had a bad day, he would get me to go on a run instead of making a bad food choice.”
…and in health
“We switched to a vegetarian diet, and cook for each other,” Willie says.