As part of our journey in 2021 and in celebration and partnership with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race, we are sharing the stories of six local heroes who are impacting positive change in their communities. In addition to bringing awareness and education to each of their respective organizations, we will also be donating $10 of every top sold in the Run As One™ Collection at The Peachtree Health & Fitness Expo presented by Publix to support the Atlanta community.
When it comes to life experiences, Melana Singletary has plenty of stories to tell and wisdom to impart.
Born and raised in Nashua, NH, she and her little brother had a happy childhood full of summer bike rides and winter skiing. Education was the number one priority in her family’s house, but physical activity is also something her parents always stressed. After a move to California, Melana took up marching band.
“Band practice was always really early. And even though I lived about a 12-minute walk away from my school, something would happen and I would inevitably end up running laps for not being on the practice field on time,” Melana admits. “I distinctly remember thinking during one of my many punishment laps, ‘This isn’t so bad. I’d rather be running on this track than warming up on the field anyways!’ Hence my joy of running was planted but it wasn’t watered until 10 years later while transitioning to a healthier lifestyle.”
But before we get to her joy of running, Melana’s life had many ups and downs that anyone involved in our partnering organization, Equality Foundation of Georgia (an ally to LGBTQ communities throughout the state), can relate to.
“I briefly came out to a few of my college friends in the summer of 2006. I was 21 and had just finished my junior year at Tuskegee University. One of those friends I came out to was my then “best friend” who was a known homophobe. I could tell how uncomfortable she was with my secret and when we returned to campus from Summer internships she asked if I was still…’ehhhh’ she eked out as she shook both hands in the air. I told her no, I was just trippin’, as I stepped back in my closet and hesitantly closed the door.
“It was over a year later when I met my wife that caused me to kick that door off the hinges with reckless abandon! That ‘best friend’ of mine did not want to hear about any of the joy I was having in my life concerning my woman love interest and we have not been friends since.
“I told my parents in 2008 and let me tell you, they did NOT take it well! Being raised in a very Christian household homosexuality was something that I grew up knowing it was WRONG! At least that’s what I was taught, although that sentiment never resonated with me. Those religious beliefs coupled with the fact that my parents were going through a lot of other things at the time that I was unaware of made my coming out to them a traumatic event full of tears, anger, and disappointment on both sides.
“However, I am fortunate enough that my parents do truly love me unconditionally and through a lot of exposure, discussions, arguments, prayer, and guidance over the years they have made a complete 180 and are truly the most supportive parents anyone could ask for. Ultimately, they just want to see me happy, thriving, and healthy. I feel completely blessed to have them and I love them so much.
“One of the most important lessons I learned in coming out to my parents was that they are just humans trying to navigate this world, just as I am. Here we are 13 years later and I could not be more proud of how far my parents have come. Not only did they get to the point of telling their friends about their “daughter-in-law” when mentioning my wife, but they have helped other parents who have struggled with accepting their LGBTQ children!”
Which brings us to 2011, when Melana’s now wife suggested she watch the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” Melana says, “At the time I was a hardcore carnivore and would have never even considered becoming a vegetarian, much less going vegan. However, after trying the 10-day juice fast that was touted in the documentary, I felt better than ever before. I did the fast two more times within the next 6 months and committed to a plant-based lifestyle on account of releasing over 30 pounds of weight, my asthma going away and just being more energized then I had been before.
“Around that time, my wife had lofty goals of running marathons, triathlons, and ultimately an Ironman! In efforts to not only support her, but to spend time with her as she reached these goals, I often trained with her. I ran my first half marathon with her in Oct 2012 and was hooked from there.
“Since then, I have run countless races from 5ks to half marathons, 4 marathons, 4 half ironman distance triathlons, and 1 full Ironman race! And the AJC Peachtree Road Race in 2015, 2018 and 2019.”
Throughout all those races, Melana has forged lifelong relationships with friends who all motivate each other to live healthy, active lives. In addition to being surrounded by such a supportive community, she understands that focusing on her own health is the one thing she can control that contributes to her happiness. “I am a big advocate for ‘take as much of your health into your own hands as possible.’ This means eating a ton of fruits and veggies, learning coping methods for dealing with stress, living with a spirit of gratefulness, choosing happiness, taking supplements, and exercising consistently!”
Unique Stories. Similar Goals. United In Our Desire To Turn Potential Into Positive Change. #RunAsOne #AJCPRR
Published: May 2021