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Keep on moving – Tiffany’s story

When Team Phonak caught up with Tiffany Walker of Lubbock, Texas, she was in the final stages of preparing for the New York City Half Marathon in support of the Lupus Research Alliance. She spoke about the value of starting small and surprising herself – and the ways she encourages others to do the same.   

The first time Tiffany put on running shoes for a reason, her daughter was still in a baby stroller. They started taking walks in the morning and evening, during the cooler hours, and the circuit of three blocks soon turned into six. The distances kept growing, and the baby stroller was eventually replaced by a jogging stroller – the same one Tiffany pushed across the finish line of her first 5K race, still not believing she had done it.   

As her daughter became more independent, Tiffany began training more seriously on her own. There were more 5Ks, 10Ks and, about five years after those first walks, a half-marathon. The medal around her neck proved it, but she only remembered recovering in the back of an ambulance. She vowed to try again because the way she saw it, the achievement only counted if she could recall the thrill of finishing.   

Her runs got longer, but on certain days, when the fatigue and muscle aches set in, the world seemed to shrink. In 2018 she found out why: a diagnosis of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, two autoimmune diseases that could knock her out without warning. And then there was that day at the baseball game, when she realized she could hear someone yelling across the stadium, but not the people she was with.  

The hearing loss was easier to treat. The use of hearing aids, she says, changed everything. She could once again hear her daughter calling from the next room and the chitchat at the grocery store. Out on a run, she could hear the cars, the birds, the kids playing, the wind – and her feet pounding the asphalt, taking her further away from her thoughts, yet closer to herself. 

The key, she knew, was to keep moving. Her doctor said the more she moved, the better she would feel, especially on the harder days. She tried to keep this in mind while drawing on all her strength to complete the 2021 Boston Marathon or, six months later, her leg of the Great American Relay in the Mojave Desert heat. On some days, though, moving just meant mustering up the energy to get out of bed and take one step, and then another. Because, as she likes to put it, it’s not always rainbows. 

Don’t stop moving. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t give up. This is what she tells people who ask, even if some don’t want to hear it. Still, the 60-something woman she bumped into at the doctor’s office took her advice and walked for 30 seconds at a normal pace, 30 seconds at a fast pace, and kept alternating. Six months later, she had run her first mile.   

Sometimes, Tiffany is the first to forget all that running has taught her, on and off the road. When she taps into those lessons, she surprises herself – like she did in her first sprint triathlon or in that challenging new job. This is why she keeps telling her daughter, now a teenager: If you really want something, you might have to work twice as hard for it. It might not go the way you expect it to, but if your heart’s in it, you’re going to figure out a way.  

This is what she hopes to remember in New York City, no matter the weather, her condition or her nerves. She knows the goal is not about speed, but something far more personal: the joy of hearing the crowds in the streets, cheering on nearly 25,000 others who, like her, have come with their own stories and the steps that got them there. 

Note: Tiffany wears Phonak Audéo™ Lumity hearing aids.  

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