JENNINGS, LA (KPLC) - Twenty marathons and counting for a Jennings mom, once in the depths of extreme eating disorders and recovery from a life-threatening digestive disease. Bridget Temple shares how she is going the distance against all odds.
35-year-old Bridget Temple is very careful about what she puts into her body today. She has to be after a health emergency that almost killed her when she was 15. "In the past I had been passing red stuff that I didn't know what it was," she said, "I thought it might be blood, but I didn't tell anyone. Then, I was in the mall and I collapsed."
Bridget was rushed to a hospital where doctors explained that she lost half of the blood in her body. It was then that she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes long-lasting inflammation in part of the digestive tract. "It's pretty much ulcers that are eating your intestines up and mine were way far gone for medicine to treat," said Bridget.
It took surgery to save Bridget. "They removed my whole large intestines and appendix," she said.
Steroids kept Bridget's inflammation under control, but in two years that caused a 75 pound weight gain. "I was disgusted with myself," she said. "I was embarrassed. I didn't like the way I looked or the way I felt."
Bridget got off the medicine and started a healthy plan to shape up, but that led to a dangerous obsession with seeing her weight drop. "I just wanted five more pounds, just five more pounds and that became so far down to where I was 110 pounds and I still wanted five more pounds," she said.
Years of anorexia and bulimia followed.
Bridget's husband, Ryan, pleaded with her to stop and go through counseling. Still, nothing helped. "We went through a roller coaster just constantly," he said, "it was always up and down. She would always tell me, 'I'm stopping now. That's it, I'm done.'"
When Bridget became pregnant, she committed to be healthy for baby Isaac. Once he was born, though, she was back to old ways. "He watched me," she said, "he would walk in the bathroom and one of the moments I'll never forget is him mocking me throwing up and it broke my heart."
The bulimia caused Bridget's lung to collapse and her counselor gave her a grim wake-up call. "She gave me a funeral packet and she said 'I want you to fill this out, because you're gonna need it.'," said Bridget, "and...it just devastated me."
Then one day, Bridget saw a billboard about training for a marathon and something clicked. "I knew I couldn't run and have an eating disorder, so I chose to run," she said.
Doctors told Bridget she had the lung capacity of an 85-year-old and that she would never run. So, she started to walk: not one mile, but 26.2, her first marathon. "As soon as I crossed that finish line I was addicted," said Bridget.
Ryan could see the change at the finish line. "I could see her when she crossed the finish line, that she had gotten a taste of this and I knew this was a different lifestyle for her now and I was hoping that she knew what that meant," he said.
In the five years since Bridget started running, she has completed 20+ marathons and even more half-marathons and 5Ks. "Running has actually helped her put everything on track in her life," said Ryan, "Running probably saved her life."
Before running, Bridget used an inhaler 20 times a day. Now, it is collecting dust, but her running shoes are not. "I feel like this is the best place I've been in my whole life. I have a purpose, I have a goal and I don't really have the time or the desire to get the eating disorders back," she said.
Bridget says she still struggles with body image, but she has learned that happiness is much more than a clothing size or number on the scale. She set a new personal record for her marathon time at 3:55 last weekend in Pensacola, Florida and is pushing toward her goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.