NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2015, 5:23 PM
Brooklyn mom Michelle Hercules Walker won the 2015 Runner’s World Cover Search
This former couch potato is running for her life.
Canarsie mom Michelle Hercules Walker, 47, weighed 307 pounds one year ago when she looked in her bedroom mirror and seriously considered suicide.
But after shedding more than 100 pounds by pounding the pavement over the past year, “Runner’s World” magazine has named her one of its 2015 Cover Search winners.
“Is this really happening? I’m still in awe,” says Walker, a phlebotomist and mother of two girls. “People are messaging me on Facebook, calling and texing my phone, and saying I make them want to get up and just take that first step. That has been the capital part of my day. That means everything.”
Her December cover was revealed on the “Today” show Thursday. Walker strikes a power pose on the issue hitting stands on Nov. 10, flexing her arms like a body builder above her strong, svelte figure with the headline “Be Awesome!”
Walker and the male winner, Cupid’s Undie Run founder Bobby Gill from Washington, D.C., beat more than 1,600 to become the running community’s new poster girl and boy.
“I feel so blessed today,” says Walker, who fell into deep depression after being sexually abused as a child and then getting stuck in a loveless marriage.
“I grew up feeling like I had nothing, like I had no worth,” she adds. “I don’t think I ever loved myself, until now.”
She found that love at last after hiring a personal trainer, who got her on a run/walk program on the treadmill before working her way up to a 10K (6.2 miles) in Central Park in June. She was hoping to finish in an hour and a half, and shocked herself by gliding in after one hour and 20 minutes.
Bobby Gill from Washington, D.C. and Walker from Canarsie will grace the December cover.
“I love running. Running is my therapy,” she says. “When I started running, I could feel my heart beating. I just felt like, ‘I’m alive. I’m alive. I’m alive. I’m alive.’”
She graduated from the 10K to a 10-mile race in New Jersey last weekend that she knocked out in two hours and nine minutes.
“Just think, this time last year, I was not able to get off the couch,” she marvels. “So if someone says to me, ‘I can’t do it, it’s impossible,’ I would tell them that you’ve just gotta start and see where you can go.”
She’s not just inspiring readers. Her two girls, ages 7 and 9, recently ran a half-mile “daughter dash” race that awarded them t-shirts and medals at the end.
“They said, ‘Mommy, now we’re just like you!’ and that was just like …” Walker’s voice trails off as she chokes up. “It made me feel spectacular, I want to be a good mom. I want to be a good person.”
That’s why she entered the “Runner’s World” contest in the first place, even though she still didn’t feel like a “real runner” yet.
“I’ve been in that dark place, and I want to help people. I want to motivate people,” says Walker, who plans to tackle the New York City Marathon in the next year or so, when she feels ready. “If someone can look at me and feel inspired, and sharing my story can help them, that would be awesome.”