MaryKay Mullally, a Jamaican born woman whose Self-Expression and Leadership Program of training women to run marathons and half-marathons led her to form the “Step Up For Life” organization, was recently interviewed by the Jamaica Gleaner, a leading Jamaican newspaper. Mullally talked about being honored by ABC News and Prevention Magazine as one of five winners of their Picture of Health contest, which gave the award to women making an inspiring difference in the health of other women.
MaryKay Mullally — Making a Difference
by Barbara Nelson
Tired of running a software development team in California, Jamaican-born MaryKay Mullally became involved in self-development seminars. One of her courses involved developing a half-marathon-training group. The result? â€œI ran my first marathon in January 2002, two months before turning 41,â€ the now vibrant 47-year old mother of two, said.
â€œIt was one of the most challenging yet exhilarating things Iâ€™ve ever done. I had to dig deep physically and mentally to keep going when my muscles were burning and the voices in my head said I wasnâ€™t going to make it. It required that I be present in each moment, focus on the finish line and just take the next step. Completing that marathon made me feel like I could do anything.â€
twists and turns
She was one of five women featured in the June 2008 issue of Prevention magazine, vying for the top prize in the second annual Prevention/ABC News Now Picture of Health contest. The women were selected because they showed that â€œlife does get better after 40, and that you can find your healthy path no matter how many twists and turns it takes to get there.â€
This charming woman, who attended St. Andrew High School in Jamaica as a young girl, ran two more marathons in 2003 before creating Step Up For Life in August 2004. Step Up For Life was initially launched as a project in the Self Expression and Leadership Program, one of the core programs of Landmark Education. This program gives people an opportunity to express themselves fully, make a difference in their community and have other people people participate.
â€œI wanted to empower women with this program by helping them to do something they would never have done and never thought they could do so they could take that into other areas of their lives and know they could do anything by taking one step at a time with the support of other women just like themselves. I wanted women to experience the freedom I felt when I ran and have a tool they could use to reclaim their health. I had 50 people sign up and had to turn people away,â€ she said.
Of the original 50 women, 40 made it to the starting line at the inaugural Nike Womenâ€™s Half Marathon in San Francisco and all finished. For many it was the most empowering experience of their lives.
In January of 2005 MaryKay launched Step Up as a business, running three sessions per year to train for local San Diego Half marathons. Just fewer than 1000 women have participated to date.
â€œI have now expanded my business into a wellness coaching practice and have helped hundreds of men and women to lose weight and reclaim their health and wellbeing. So my focus is more on this aspect of my business,â€ she explained. MaryKay also coaches people via the phone over a period and helps them to achieve their individual health, weight or fitness goals.
Since being profiled by Prevention magazine and ABC News, she has been contacted by scores of people including high school friends with whom sheâ€™d lost touch.
â€œOne phone call I will never forget,â€ MaryKay said, â€œcame from a woman in Texas on the morning the competition was announced on ABCâ€™s Good Morning America. She told me that she weighed 300lbs and had tried every diet in the book and had failed miserably. She said she hated herself and the night before had gone to bed hopeless and resigned. That morning she turned the TV on to the segment and for the first time in months she had hope through my story. At that point she immediately went to her computer, cast her vote for me, looked me up on Google and called me. When I hung up realizing that my dream to impact millions of people was already being fulfilled, it was all I could do to not breakdown and cry.â€
ABC News declared all five finalists winners and MaryKay donated her winning cheque of US$5,000 to NEADS (Dogs For Deaf and Disabled Americans), of Princeton, MA. The organization trains rescued dogs to assist persons who are deaf or physically disabled in leading more independent lives. To learn more about MaryKayâ€™s wellness program visit Step Up for Life
To see the story in its original form, visit the Jamaica Gleaner website.