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Luci Brenyo and her 18-month-old daughter, Livia, drive 45 minutes every week to attend baby story time at Laurel Branch Library. While she loves the facility — the building is only three years old — it is the librarian, Tracy Day, that is the biggest draw.

“She loves what she is doing,” Brenyo said. “Others are doing it because it is part of their job. She does it because she loves what she is doing.”

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For over 14 years, Day has shared stories, jokes, music and dance with the participants of her baby story times at Laurel Branch Library. On the last story time of 2019, Day shared something else with her “young friends.” From the depths of her “magic box,” Day revealed to her audience a shell necklace, a medal and a certificate she won for finishing her first marathon.

“My friends have heard me talk about the race a lot,” Day said, as she held up the medal for all to see. “I went to Hawaii.”

On Dec. 8, days before her 50th birthday, Day ran in the Honolulu Marathon.

“I wanted to do it,” Day said. “I crossed the line and was laughing and crying.”

In 2013, while training for a half-marathon, Day was groped while running along a trail in Columbia. The attack set Day back not only emotionally — she started having panic attacks — but physically, too. Day had started running to lose weight. She gained back the 60 pounds she had lost and added another 20.

By 2017, Day weighed over 279 pounds and was miserable. She had high blood pressure, was pre-diabetic and had high cholesterol. After a doctor’s suggestion, she had gastric bypass surgery in February 2018.

The surgery was only the first step to weight loss. Day had to change not only her diet, but her lifestyle, and that meant overcoming a fear.

Day had to exercise.

“I got into running to lose weight and you lose weight to be a better runner,” Day said. “Running is a great exercise.”

For motivation, Day aimed big. She decided to train for a marathon, a distance of 26.2 miles.

“It was a big way to prove to myself that I was not the same person I was,” Day said. “I can do this thing I didn’t think I could do.”

She set her sights on the marathon in Hawaii for several reasons. It did not have a time limit, meaning she could walk parts of it if necessary, and it was just days before her 50th birthday on Dec. 13. She booked the flight before the race’s registration was even open, sealing the deal.

In July, with the support of her husband Royce, and two children, Day started training in earnest. She returned to the trails with a Taser in tow and started running with groups, too. She became part of From Fat to Finish Line, an online support group, where she met fellow runners who would be participating in the marathon in Hawaii.

“It was like we already knew each other and were friends,” Day said, of meeting her fellow runner friends in Hawaii.

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It took Day over seven hours to complete the marathon. To her surprise, she finished before her friends.

“It was my race and my pace,” said Day, who then walked two miles back to her hotel.

“I was never athletic in school,” Day said. “There is a satisfaction of working to a goal.”

Day is already thinking of new ways to challenge herself. She is training to run another marathon or two this year and is looking into doing something big by her 53rd birthday, the age her father, David Patton Sr., was when he died.

“Fifty doesn’t bother me,” Day said. “I know 53, the day after, I’ll be upset or sad because I will be older than he ever got to be."

She is not sure how her running goals became entwined with his memory, but she is considering doing some type of obstacle race or an ultramarathon, which is usually between 50 and 100 miles, with her father in mind.

“When I crossed the finish line [in Hawaii], I said, ‘I did it, Daddy,’ ” Day said. “I ran my first marathon.”

Her training has given her more energy. She would like to lose another 30 pounds and is adding more lifting to her routine to build up her upper body strength.

“It helped me get more organized for work,” Day added, as she watched her crew of children play in the toy kitchen area. “It helped me with my planning.”

“I think she’s really great,” said Ashley Boulden, who was attending story time with her 11-month old daughter, Lyric. “She keeps them entertained and is very energetic.”

“I love babies,” Day said. “I get new friends every year.”

And, if things go as planned, she will keep adding to her medal collection.

“It was not easy,” Day said. “If you don’t change, you can gain the weight back. I feel fantastic.”

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