EIGHTEEN months ago Sophie James would have laughed at the suggestion she could complete a half-marathon.
The hairdresser from Landford weighed 17 stone and was considered morbidly obese.
But in the space of a year the 20- year-old lost SEVEN stone, dropped several jeans sizes – and become the first woman to cross the finishing line at the Salisbury half-marathon in her first race.
Sophie had spent her teenage years crying because she couldn’t control her weight but she turned her life around after attending a Weight Watchers course. She then began going to the gym five times a week.
Sophie, who works at Elegance Hairdressing in Totton, completed the 13-mile race in one hour, 38 minutes.
“When I first started running I thought I would just go out for a jog. I carried on and my boyfriend persuaded me not to give it up.
“I was completely shocked, overwhelmed dizzy and knackered when I finished the half-marathon. I cried with emotion,” she said.
“I don’t think it had sunk in until the next day that I had won it.”
Sophie now fits into size eight jeans, but there was a time when she would struggle to fit into anything smaller than a size 18.
“It has changed my life around. I was morbidly obese, I was at risk of heart disease and diabetes.
"I always was a big girl ever since I was 11 years old but I always wanted to lose weight.
"I’d go into shops and be upset because I could never find clothes to fit me.”
Electrician Ben Gater has been going out with Sophie since she was 17 and said he is proud of her.
“I’ve always said that losing weight is for herself and not for anyone else, but then she started going on the treadmill and said she really enjoyed it so I suggested she take part in the Salisbury half-marathon.
“I was as pleased as punch when I saw her crossing the finishing line. I would be proud of her just to finish it but the fact that she was the fastest woman there, it was a very proud moment.”
Sophie will be taking her new love for sport further and hopes to join a running club.