SOLANA BEACH — A heartbreaking personal tragedy led Alicia Magdaleno down an unhealthy path of deep depression and emotional eating. That same painful experience inspired her to turn her life around and, on Jan. 23, run the Carlsbad half-marathon, a first for the Solana Beach resident.
In 2005, shortly after marrying her high-school sweetheart, Magdaleno became pregnant. Although she didn’t know it at the time, she was borderline hypertensive and high blood pressure ran in her family.
During her second trimester, Magdaleno was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs during pregnancy and is often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure. It can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and the death of the mother and baby.
Just shy of 25 weeks, Magdaleno was admitted to the hospital to maintain complete bed rest. The goal was to reach 28 weeks.
“The doctor said if we could make it until then, the baby would have a chance,” she said. “I was pretty stable. I wasn’t getting any better or any worse.
“About a week after I had been there the nurse came in to check his vitals and they couldn’t find his heartbeat,” she said. “That was one of the hardest things that I had ever been through. I was numb.”
After delivering Jake, Magdaleno said she and her husband shut themselves off from the world and both began gaining weight. Within months she put on 50 pounds and at 5 feet 2 inches tall tipped the scales at 200 pounds.
Eventually, her husband started working out and encouraged her to do the same. “He really helped me get out of my funk,” Magdaleno said.
She also became involved with the Preeclampsia Foundation and started participating in the organization’s annual fundraising walk. “That helped me a lot with my grieving … just getting out there and being part of a community again,” she said.
Magdaleno soon began running and found it to be therapeutic. Following toe surgery in late 2009, she joined Tri-City Wellness Center. In August she entered a contest and became one of 14 people to receive free race training and an entry into this year’s Carlsbad Half Marathon.
“When I first started training I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to lose weight and be in the best shape of my life,” she said.
“Have I gotten faster? No,” she said. “This training has really been, for me, more about learning about myself and other people and how strong we really are.
“Everyone has their own story,” she said. “But it’s just great to be part of a group that’s true friendship. I turned it from being just focused on myself to focusing on other people.”
Although doctors say she is healthy now, experts differ on whether she should try again to conceive. Magdaleno, 34, said she isn’t sure if she’ll ever be ready.
For now she is focused on achieving some short-term goals. This year she plans to complete the half marathon triple crown — Carlsbad, La Jolla and America’s Finest City — and in 2012 she hopes to run a full marathon.
She highly recommends exercise as a way to better deal with personal tragedy and tries to live life by taking her own advice.
“Be easy on yourself,” she said. “Some days you wonder, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Some days you’re floating on air. On those bad days, be good to yourself. On those good days, praise yourself.”