In a way, the disaster couldn’t have come at a better time for Mia Harris Cover. When floodwaters destroyed her family’s home in 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee, the mother of three children was ready for a change.
Just a few weeks earlier, a doctor had told Cover her blood pressure was high and advised the 39-year-old woman to lose weight. Like many moms of young children, Cover had been in the habit of putting her family first, to the detriment of her own health.
“I felt like everything I was doing was for everyone else and not for me,” she says. “I’d let myself go.”
When the flood overtook their house, Cover and her husband, Marc, gathered up their children and what possessions they could and fled, moving into a 500-square-foot apartment above her grandparents’ garage. They soon began the 6-month-long process of rebuilding their home, which had to be torn down to the subfloors.
Two months into their temporary living situation, Cover turned 40.
“So here I am—40, overweight, homeless and fighting with the insurance company,” she recalls. It might seem the least likely time to jump into a diet and fitness plan—but that’s just what she did.
“It was the only thing I felt like I really had control over,” she recalls. “Rebuilding our home became an opportunity to rebuild myself.” And she discovered that running helped to relieve her stress.
With no budget for a gym membership or personal training, Cover started with a “progressive” couch-to-5k phone app. She hated the exercise at first. A five-minute jog seemed grueling, and she repeated several weeks of the plan just to get up to speed.
“I almost quit so many times, but it was the only time I felt like I had to myself,” she recalls. The day she ran 15 minutes straight, she texted her husband immediately: “Can you believe it? I did it!” About the time she completed the program, the family moved back into their rebuilt home.
But her running didn’t stop. In the spring of 2011, Cover’s friend Lauren, a seasoned runner, encouraged her to sign up for a half marathon. The two trained together through summer and fall and ran the race in November. As they crossed the finish line, Cover burst into tears in amazement of her accomplishment.
She was hooked and gradually dropped 60 pounds. In the last two years, she’s completed seven half marathons, two full marathons, and the Gnaw Bone 50K ultramarathon in Indiana.
Cover credits her racing success and perseverance largely to the support and encouragement of friends and family, especially her husband. “When I complained constantly at first, he would tell me I could do it. Every time I came home from a run, he’d ask me how it went and tell me he was proud of me. When I started the long runs, he’d have an ice bath and a coffee waiting for me when I got home, and he’d take the kids somewhere for a while so I could take a nap. It’s just amazing how he supports me,” she says.
As a bonus, the whole family has become more active, and Marc has taken up cycling.
“I love when I come home from a run and he’s waiting in his bike gear, ready to go,” she says, smiling. “I like being that family.”