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After years spent dreaming of becoming an athlete, Tina Tait lived out her fantasy over the weekend when she crossed the finish line of the New York City marathon.
Her dream continued Monday morning, when she met with TODAY's Al Roker, a major inspiration behind her desire to run the race and lose 130 pounds along the way.
It started after Tina lost her father to chronic obesity. As someone who had been overweight her entire life, she realized she was headed in the same direction unless she made some drastic changes.
She paid a visit to her doctor, inspired by Al’s own visit and eventual decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery. Tina elected to have vertical sleeve gastrectomy, surgery in which a portion of her stomach is removed to limit the amount of food she can eat.
Two days after her procedure, she was walking around her neighborhood because, “I had to start moving.” She eventually signed up for a couch-to-5K program.
“After I ran my first 5K, I knew I was hooked and I was going to do a 10K,” she said. “I did several 10Ks, set my sights on a half marathon, and then suddenly had run nine half marathons.”
She lost 130 pounds in 11 months and had reached her goal weight.
Tait has blogged about her weight loss journey from the beginning. In 2012, she wrote about Al running the New York City marathon.
“I remember seeing a clip on him training on the treadmill on two in the morning and his job starts at four in the morning, and my job didn't. I didn't feel like I had any excuses at that point,” she said. “I read my blog again and it had said I was going to make him proud one day and run the New York City marathon, so I decided that's exactly what I was going to do.”
But she had to overcome some major hurdles along the way. About halfway through her training, Tina lost her husband, Alistair, after he suffered a heart attack while riding a bike on his way to work.
“I didn't know how I was going to go on but I really knew that he would have wanted me to just keep running, and that meant getting out of bed, setting my alarm at 4:45 and doing my long runs and showing up as hard as it was,” she said.
On Sunday afternoon, Tina crossed the finish line of the New York City marathon.
“I think about where I was and I think about where I am now and I'm really proud of myself because I never gave up. Every excuse in the book I could have used, and I had a couple of really good ones,” she said.
TODAY rewarded her on Monday by surprising her with a face-to-face meeting with Al, whom she thanked "for all the inspiration and for sticking to it.”
Al told Tina that years ago when he crossed the marathon finish line, he thought about his parents, particularly his dad, "who made me promise on his deathbed to get in shape.”
Tina said she also had her own father in mind, as well as her husband.
“I just want to stay alive. I want to be healthy for them and the rest of my friends and the rest of my family,” she said.
Al called Tina a true inspiration.
“I hope so, because I just want to give it all back,” she said through tears.
“I’m just so happy to be here and I’m so happy to meet you. This is a dream come true.”