With the arrival of a new year comes the desire to be better.
Many people will be making resolutions during these next few days. Some will resolve to eat healthier or to lose weight or start exercising.
For 35-year-old Jill VanDenBogart, of Waupaca, her decision to start running was in 1995.
Her resolution was not made on the first day of the year.
Rather, VanDenBogart started running closer to the middle of that year when the sidewalks and trails were free of snow and ice.
“The reason I started running was because I was overweight,” she said. “I thought it was a good way to lose it.”
Wanting to lose the extra 20 to 30 pounds she was carrying, VanDenBogart said that initially, running one block was difficult.
“It took the first month before I could run without stopping. It was so much fun. I could just keep going and going,” she said.
At that time, she was living in Appleton, and a year later, she ran her first marathon.
Since then, VanDenBogart, who moved to Waupaca in 2004, has run 14 marathons. Her most recent one was the Fox Cities Marathon last September when she clocked her best time yet.
“I did it in 6 1/2 hours. Last year, I did it in 7 1/2, so I cut an hour off my time. I just prayed to God that he’d give me the strength and energy,” she said.
VanDenBogart’s faith was not always this strong.
The Hortonville native was full of self-pity when she was younger and had a negative attitude.
“I was always picked on in school, and I was overweight besides,” she said.
Because it was difficult for her to do things, she often thought it was not worth it to even try.
“Why me?” she asked herself.
VanDenBogart was born with cysts on her liver and was just 8 months old when her parents took her in for surgery.
“When they put me under, my temperature was 106. I had a stroke,” she said.
The stroke affected the right side of her body, and doctors gave her a 2 percent chance of living.
“Everything on my right side is the result of the stroke,” VanDenBogart said.
At the time she had the stroke, it was already evident that she was right-handed. She had to learn how to use her left hand to eat.
VanDenBogart has drop foot because of the stroke.
“When I walk, it drops. I always think I’m going to trip. My foot doesn’t want to stay straight,” she said.
When she was a youngster, she went to physical therapy and has always worn a brace.
“It would be nice if I could get rid of it,” she said. “It’s up to God if he wants to do a miracle on me, which I know that he will. It’s his timing, not mine.”
It was during the last year or two that VanDenBogart’s faith became stronger.
It coincided with her conclusion that perhaps, “God wanted me like this to inspire other people, even people with disabilities,” she said.
“Last spring and summer, I had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘You’re an inspiration.’ It makes me feel very good. There are times when I say, ‘Thank you, God,’ because there are times I’m having a bad day and it makes my day, brightens my day, but I owe it all to God. He’s the one who gets all the glory for it, especially with my running.”
VanDenBogart was in special education classes from kindergarten through her senior year in high school and says those who talk to her today tell her that she does not look disabled.
“They look past it. My family does, too, which is awesome,” she said.
They support her and cheer her on when she runs marathons.
VanDenBogart found herself needing her family’s support in 1999 when she was run over by a truck while walking on a sidewalk in Appleton.
“I saw someone backing out a driveway. I thought he saw me, but he didn’t. I got hit and knocked down and tumbled under the truck. The back tires went over my chest. I was screaming. I had compression fractures to my back and ribs,” she said. “I think it was a godsend. Running was all I wanted to do. I had put God on the back burner. It was a wake-up call.”
At that time, VanDenBogart was running between 10 and 16 miles a day.
After the accident, she went through physical therapy and moved back home to live with her mother for a time.
“It was probably a year or so before I could run again,” she said. “Running after that was awful. It was like starting from scratch. When that happened, I thought, ‘OK, God, what do you have planned for me that I’m still here?’ And yet, I still don’t know why – maybe to encourage other people.”
This time of the year, VanDenBogart runs on her treadmill.
But, once spring hits, she will again be running outside every day.
“Once I started running and got into rhythm, I would run 10 to 16 miles or more,” she said. “Now, it’s like a drug for me. I go crazy if I don’t run.”
VanDenBogart has different routes that she likes to run, and she increases the miles that she runs when she is training for a marathon.
It is her goal to run a marathon in each of the 50 states. With her big smile, she says that so far, she has run marathons in Ohio and Florida, staying with friends each time.
She prays that she will continue to be a testament and inspiration to her family and to others, and cites Philippians 4:13, saying, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”