If there’s one thing LaTiffany Sauls loves doing, it’s running. The 49-year-old Houston native is a member of the city’s chapter of Black Girls Run and has a goal to run races in all 50 states. She already has 15 states checked off of her list.
It isn’t something she’s been doing forever, though. LaTiffany just started getting into running in 2010, when a girlfriend convinced her to take part in a half-marathon with her for the first time. Before that experience, she did some walking and light jogging, but it was a challenge at times, especially when she was diagnosed with lupus. The autoimmune disease would make her very tired, impact her joints and sometimes, land her in the ER. To her surprise though, running brought her some relief and made her feel amazing. Not only has she gone from 208 pounds down to 135, but LaTiffany also says that pounding the pavement helps ease the stress that comes with her condition. Granted, running in the sun can cause flare-ups, but she knows how to make adjustments to be able to get moving. To cope, she trains in the early morning and adjusts her medication on race days to hit the road with everyone else. She’s not letting lupus slow her down. LaTiffany is actually set to compete in the Dopey Challenge, an upcoming runDisney race experience at Disney World during their Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in Florida. She will run a 5K, 10k, half-marathon and a full marathon (26.2 miles) in four consecutive days. Told you there’s no slowing her down.
For someone who initially was not a fan of her first marathon experience, you can’t keep LaTiffany from raking up the medals nowadays. We talked to her about managing her lupus while partaking in such a vigorous activity, transforming her body in the process, and why she’s the perfect example of why anyone can be a runner.
MadameNoire: When were you diagnosed with lupus? And before you took up running, how was your health and level of activity affected by it?
LaTiffany Sauls: I was diagnosed in 2001 shortly after having my daughter. I was misdiagnosed for years. I had extreme fatigue, joint swelling, pain and skin issues including boils and rashes and pleuritis. I would get sick and I would go to the emergency room only to be given IV fluid and pain medications. Before I was diagnosed, I actually saw an advertisement that mentioned a link between boils and lupus, but you had to pay to get more information. Instead of paying, I told my primary doctor what I read. He said he never heard of that “link,” but he ordered blood work and called me back to his office the moment he received the results. I was going for walks and running before I was diagnosed, but it was extremely challenging at times.
So you would say you were active growing up and enjoyed running before you started doing half-marathons?
I actually started running track in the third grade through my senior year of high school. I have always loved running, but I stopped when I started pharmacy school. I started pharmacy school a size 3, and I was a 16/18 when I graduated three years later. I started running again in an attempt to lose weight. I started by walking and then Incorporated run intervals.
What convinced you to try the half-marathon with your friend, and what was it about it that gave you that love for these races and the desire to do more?
My friend enjoyed running half-marathons and I enjoyed running as well but never ran over three miles. She was always so happy and relaxed after finishing a half-marathon so when she said I should do one with her, I agreed. This was in 2010. It took me over three hours to finish. It took so much out of me that I said I’d never run another half-marathon again. I didn’t run another one until 2012, so two years later I tried again and that time, I was hooked. Running is my me time. It relaxes me.
Can you explain how you manage flare-ups when race day comes? I know that beforehand, you train early in the morning to avoid excessive sun, but on the big day, you obviously don’t have much control over sun exposure.
For flare-ups, I am prescribed corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. I take those only as needed. When I know that I will get a lot of sun exposure during a race, I take indomethacin the morning of.
How has running helped you better deal with your lupus symptoms?
Running along with healthier food choices helps me deal with my lupus symptoms by making me stronger to deal with the flare-ups and to help me recover faster.
How did running help you to shed the pounds? How much have you lost by taking up running?
My heaviest weight was 208 pounds. I’m not quite 5’1″ so I was classified as obese. I currently try to stay between 135 and 145. Running along with healthier food choices helped me shed the pounds. My cardiologist actually told me to focus on waist circumference instead of a weight chart. He recommended me getting my waist under 35. When I was 208 my waist was 44 inches!
The Dopey Challenge sounds like a lot. How have you prepared to run four races in four days and why were you game for the runDisney races?
The Dopey Challenge is a lot. I love a challenge. It has been on my bucket list from the moment I heard about it. I’ll be 50 next year and what better way to kick off the year that I will be half a century old? I am following a training plan for the Dopey Challenge, which includes four consecutive days of running every other week to prepare for the races. runDisney is Disney. I love Disney.
Lastly, based on your experience, what would you say to encourage others to know that anyone can be a runner?
I would encourage others by telling them to “do you.” Don’t compare yourself to others. When I’m running I’m only trying to improve my own time. I’m not worrying about “beating” anyone. Don’t worry if you take longer to finish any distance. You have won just by taking that first step.
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