Four years ago, Keysha Lleras was living in a tiny apartment with her 5-year-old daughter, dealing with crushing depression after leaving a husband who regularly verbally, physically and emotionally abused her.
“I was in a really dark place,” says Lleras, the winner of Women’s Running magazine’s cover runner contest. “I was still going to work, because I knew I had to support my daughter, but I was crying a lot, and people were noticing that something was wrong.”
“I couldn’t run a quarter of a mile, and it was more walking than anything, but it allowed me to think and put things in perspective,” she says.
“I saw how much it helped my stress, how I was able to be a better mom to Hailey, how I was able to be more productive at work and how good I felt,” she says.
Running also helped Lleras drop 80 lbs. of excess weight she had gained during her pregnancy and period of depression.
She hopes that sharing her story now will inspire someone else in a difficult situation to take action.
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“For a very long time I had no will, and I told myself ‘no’ without even trying,” Lleras says. “But willpower, determination and the courage to keep moving forward found its way to me through running.”
“Little by little, running has made me stronger and given me the courage to continue — one stride at a time.”
Llears’ cover, the Jan/Feb issue of Women’s Running, hits newsstands Dec. 20.