ESF’s ENDURING ATHLETE OF THE MONTH — JANUARY
By Pete Williams
Whitney Lasseter is a picture of health: an avid runner, fitness model, and healthy lifestyle coach. It’s hard to believe just five years ago her life was spiraling out of control.
She was a party girl, addicted to drugs, a veteran of rehabilitation centers, gaining weight and a smoker before a near-death experience provided a wake-up call.
Running proved to be her salvation. These days, the Palm Harbor resident and single mother of two enters most every race she can find in Central Florida, usually finishing at or near the top of her age group. Lasseter, 31, traveled overseas for the first time in October to compete in the Amsterdam Half Marathon and hopes to continue to pursue her love of travel and running while showing others how to turn their lives around through healthy living and running.
Lasseter, whose Web site is whitfit.org is our inaugural selection for the Endurance Sports Florida Enduring Athlete of the Month.
Q: Why are you so open about your troubled past?
A: I like to show people that you can overcome things. I know a lot people in the Tampa Bay area and they think I’m just happy-go-lucky athlete with no issues whatsoever. I think it’s important for me to share my story to help others.
Q: Where did things go wrong?
A: I was young and pretty and liked to party and I’ve always been sort of an all-or-nothing kind of person, which now is obvious with my training. Back then I didn’t know how to channel it; I made bad decisions that got me into more trouble. I’ve matured and found a way to use my addictive personality in a positive way.
Q: How did running help?
A: I discovered running while I was still smoking cigarettes and my dad, who has been a runner, said I’d either quit running or quit cigarettes. I quit the cigarettes and at first I’d run a quarter a mile, then a half mile and it just grew until I did a 7-mile loop. Myrna Haag, an elite triathlete mentor of mine, said I needed to compete and I did a 23:20 in my first 5K. Since then I’ve dropped three minutes in two years. My ultimate goal is to beat dad’s 10K time of 38:38 when he was 38.
Q: So you’ve replaced one addiction with a positive one?
A: Exactly. I used to seek that high from outside sources: drugs, alcohol and partying and now I get it from life. And I want other people to realize that’s possible. People are searching for this joy and I’ve learned that it’s all within you.
Q: So your running career is just getting started.
A: It really is. I was talking to a guy I run with, a 54-year-old who starting running when he was 44. Now he’s doing
three-hour marathons and all of his PRs have come after the age of 50. It doesn’t matter when you start. We have unlimited potential and it’s all in your head. That’s why I’ve gotten into healthy lifestyle coaching because I know what it’s like to be in a bad place and to be overweight. Anything is possible and people can reach that full potential if they have someone to point them in the right direction. If I can do it anyone can.
Q: You recently completed the Amsterdam Half Marathon (in a PR time of 1:34:51). What made you choose that event?
A: I had been thinking, “Where in the world would I like to go?” I met a new friend, a non-runner, and suggested the race in Amsterdam. I trained him and he did a 5K, 10k, and half marathon. We just went for the weekend and it was such a great experience. I was the first U.S. woman to finish and I was the 43rd woman overall. I have not done a marathon at this point but the sky is the limit. The Ironman definitely sparks an interest as well.
Q: You were the first female finisher at the clothing-optional Caliente Bare Dare 5K in October. What was that like?
A: It was my first nude running experience and I kind of eased my way into it in the hour leading up to the race. I’m not a nudist, so it was kind of nerve racking to disrobe in front of all my running friends but it was fine after I got over the initial discomfort of it.
Q: What makes you an enduring athlete?
A: Whenever I see people in pain pushing themselves, that inspires me to do better. If they can do that 18-minute 5K, then why can’t I? We all have the same potential.