Leaven Blog

How Running with the Cows changed my life

by Todd Habiger

On May 11 I ran with the cows 

Running with the Cows is a 5K/half-marathon that benefits Queen of the Holy Rosary School in Wea. You can read about the run and my experience in it in the May 17 issue of The Leaven. But I’m going to use this space to explain the behind-the-scenes reasons I ran.

I have issues with my weight. I have since I graduated from high school. Every year my weight would creep up, and I would convince myself that it would level off and I would stop gaining. That never happened.

In January of 2018, upset that my diet plan of no exercise and eating whatever I wanted wasn’t working, I decided, “Hey, I’m a fat guy. I’m always going to be a fat guy and I just better accept it.” 

So I did. I donated to charity all my clothes that I’ve been hanging on to in the hopes that I might lose weight and went about living a happy life as a fat guy.

But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror. I didn’t like the way my body felt. I didn’t like the way I ate. Still, I did nothing.

In June 2018, my family went on vacation to Cape San Blas, Florida. I love the beach. Every morning I would walk a mile or two along the beach enjoying the sights and sounds that the water had to offer.

It was there it occurred to me that if I could walk a couple of miles on the beach, I could surely do the same thing at home. I vowed to change. I vowed to lose weight. As soon as vacation was over, I was going to walk for exercise. I was also going to try to give up pop — a huge vice of mine.

Former Leaven reporter Jessica Langdon used to use a trick where she would set her mind to giving up things for a period of time. One year she gave up fast food. Another, she gave up Starbucks. I decided to try that trick.

I was going to give up pop for one month. No cheating.

My vacation ended on June 2. I weighed 282 pounds. I started walking. I stopped drinking pop. I lost 5 pounds that first week. 

I started taking longer walks. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t run in years. I didn’t even know if my body could run. So I went to a high school track and tried some sprints. I ran. And survived. I started running the stadium stairs. I started working some sprints into my walks. The pounds kept coming off. 

I set the goal of weighing 250 pounds by Sept. 1.

By the end of July, I lost 15 pounds. By the end of August, I had lost 25 pounds. My month of no pop stretched from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4.

I was making progress.

By Sept. 1, my weight was 254. So close. But then I plateaued. I couldn’t get under 254. I kept working out. But come November, as the weather got colder, my workouts were less frequent. Then came “the fat time” — the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I adopted a stance of just maintain my weight. 

But I didn’t. My weight slowly crept back up. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t watching what I was eating. I was gaining all the weight back. 

By late January, I was up to 269 pounds. I had convinced myself it was too cold to exercise. I hated the treadmill. I just made excuse after excuse. I needed to get back on track. That’s when I decided I was going to do a 5K.

Before I even began to work towards that goal, I contacted an old friend, Sara Moxley, and asked if she would like to run with me in Running with the Cows.

Sara is a superwoman. She does 5Ks, half-marathons, 100-mile bike rides. She’s also one of the kindest and most caring people in the world. She’s awesome. And she said yes. 

I wanted to make a good impression on Sara so I started training. I had never run for distance before. I did track in high school. I ran the 440 for a while (came in last every time), and also the 880 (a little bit more success but, honestly, the bar was pretty low). 

I started running around the basketball gym at Savior. On my first training attempt, I was gassed after 2 laps around the gym. I had a lot of work to do. I worked my way up to 4 laps. Then 8. Then 16.

As the weather warmed up, I hit the great outdoors and tried my first mile. It took me more than 17 minutes. I had no idea how I was going to do the more than 3 miles that make up the 5K.

My goal was to run the whole race. No walking. No resting. Only running. I kept training. I worked my way up to 3 miles in a little over 45 minutes. I set my goals to finish in under 45 minutes. But I kept improving. Soon, I lowered my goal to under 40 minutes. Then under 35 minutes.

And I was enjoying myself. Running gave me private time with just me and my thoughts. I used the time to clear my mind. Not only was my physical health improving, my spiritual and mental health was improving as well.  

Come race day, I was a nervous wreck. It was rainy. It was chilly. But Sara was there to talk me through the nervousness and give me tips on how to handle the race. 

And then we ran. The picturesque setting in Wea was great. The rain produced a faint rainbow, which seemed fitting. With Sara by my side, encouraging me along the way, I ran the whole race. I gave Sara a big hug at the end. Her support was huge.
I then sought out my wife and kids who came out to support me. More hugs all around. Having them there meant more to me than they will ever know. It was the perfect ending.

My final time was 33 minutes and 30 seconds. I made my goal. 

But what comes next? The goal of running a 5K is over, but the goal of losing weight isn’t. As I type this blog, my weight is at 259. I continue to run. My mind and body continue to feel better. I’m so close to hitting that 250-pound goal. I’m sure I’ll make it. Running is now in my blood.

About the author

Todd Habiger

Todd has been the production manager for The Leaven since 1995. Under his direction The Leaven has won multiple design awards from the Catholic Press Association. Prior to working at The Leaven, Todd was an award-winning writer for The Catholic Key newspaper in Kansas City, Mo. Todd is married to Lori Wood Habiger, a former Leaven employee herself. They have two children — Paige and Connor, and one dog — Joli.

Leave a Comment


  • Habby,
    I am so very, VERY proud of you! I am inspired by your story!!!!
    I hope to be able to join you next year , running with the cows!!! You were so smart to reach out to Sara! She is amazing!!!
    Love to you Todd!!! Keep up the good work!!!

  • I’m so impressed, Todd! Way to go! Health is a stewardship that we utilize or waste every day. And when we think: “Hey, my body belongs to God – it’s just on loan to me …” that changes how we use it. You’re an inspiration – keep up the good fight!