Photo by Ben Beitzel

Photo by Ben Beitzel

Aniko Brewer could find a lot of excuses not to get out of bed every morning for training.

The Suwanee resident could say she doesn't have time to run when she has to work a full-time job. Or maybe that taking care of three kids, including one with special needs, takes up too much of her time. Or the fact that she has Type 2 diabetes.

But Brewer doesn't make excuses not to train, she finds ways to make it happen.

She'll run her second Peachtree Road Race today, the world's largest 10K, with 55,000 people that share her same passion for running.

"Last year I wanted to get under 1:20, which is not glamorous by any means, but this year I just want to have fun," Brewer said. "I think I want to enjoy it more this year than last year. Last year, I was too focused on the time."

It was 18 months ago when Brewer decided to change her lifestyle. She had just given birth to her third child and like a lot of people wanted to lose weight and get in better physical shape. That's when her friend and former USA Fit Gwinnett organizer Laura Koller told her about a local running group.

"She was like you'll have fun and you'll do great," Brewer said. "I've always been the person that does better with a group atmosphere -- competitive. I have that competitive nature in me. It's just better if I have other people to compete with."

Brewer, 38, was a member of her high school cross country and swim teams, but it had been nearly 20 years since she last ran. Although she was apprehensive about it, Brewer decided to give USA Fit Gwinnett a shot last January.

"I was very nervous because I couldn't even run 400 yards," Brewer said. "I was really nervous and was thinking everyone that joined can run a 5K in like 18 minutes or something. There are people who can do a 5K in 45 minutes and people who do it in 22, so it's a nice range. Once I started, I couldn't run a mile. My goal was to at least be able to run one mile just to start out without walking."

It took her six weeks before she was able to run a mile without walking and by March she competed in her first 10K, which is 6.2 miles. Since then she's run about a dozen 5K road races and has started competing in sprint triathalons.

"She's changed a lot since she's been running," Koller said. "She's got a lot more confidence and a lot more adventurous. Just after one season of doing a run/walk program she started doing triathalons."

Brewer keeps a busy training schedule. She runs on Monday and Wednesday, swims on Tuesday and Thursday, will take a spin class on Friday and does a group run with USA Fit on Saturday.

So how does Brewer train so often and still find time to work a full-time job, be a wife and mother to three kids?

"I don't sleep much, I really don't," she said.

Brewer has to find time to workout early in the morning. She typically does her runs at 6 a.m. or is at the pool by 6:15 a.m. before her kids are awake. Brewer works from home for a Connecticut-based financial software company, so she saves time by not having to commute to work, but she still has to be in her in-home office by 8 a.m. She alternates work shifts with her husband, Jason Phillips, so the two can take care of their three children -- Aniko, 18, Tommy, 4, and Anya, 2.

"It's an inspiration to see all the stuff she does and the way she manages it, especially with triathalon training," Koller said. "You have to run, bike and your swim sessions and she does everything."

Tommy has a mild case of autism, so he often needs a little more attention than most kids his age. Brewer has found that her running and training helps her manage the stress of dealing with his autism.

"The exercise has been a great stress relief," Brewer said. "He's a bit challenging. But the exercise has helped with the stress relief and I think it gives me a lot more patience to work with him."

In the 18 months since she started running, Brewer has lost 23 pounds, but she's quick to point out she's gone down two dress sizes. The weight loss has helped with her Type 2 adult onset diabetes that she's had to deal with since she was 30.

Her blood sugar levels have dropped reasonably in the last three months and she's hopeful she can lose another 10 pounds and get off her diabetes medicine.

The way she manages her diet and training schedule has become an inspiration to many of her family and friends. Brewer could hit the snooze button when her alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m., but she would rather kick start her day with a nice run.

"On Facebook, I'll post I just did another triathalon and you'd be amazed how many people that are like, 'You are such an inspiration, how do you do that,'" Brewer said.

"I like that. I've had a couple friends start running and they are like you started me running. I picked up the couch to 5K and I'm like yes!"