Few and far between are the tales of those who fulfill the description of their fifth-grade career ambition. More often, it seems, people wind up in a field they would have never anticipated at such an early age in life. Some of this is due to later-developing skillsets, but much of it can also be attributed to life circumstances.

In the fitness world, not many companies are hotter than Peloton. One of the faces of the company is Robin Arzon, who is Vice President of Fitness Programming and Head Instructor at Peloton, as well as an ultra-marathon runner and a New York Times best-selling author. As it turns out, Arzon never planned to make a career out of helping people exercise, according to a recent profile of her on ESPN W.

Story author Lindsay Berra shares Arzon’s remarkable journey in the article, writing:

Arzon found herself at New York University for undergrad, where in the summer of 2002, she was taken hostage, along with 40 others, at a wine bar in Manhattan’s East Village. A man, armed with three pistols and a samurai sword, shot three people, doused the group with kerosene and threatened them with a barbecue lighter. He grabbed Arzon by the hair and held the gun and lighter to her head while using her as a human shield to communicate with police. Two patrons eventually tackled the man, giving police the opportunity to enter the bar and subdue him. 

“That incident is the reason I started running, because I physically needed to run the trauma out,” Arzon says. “I don’t recall when it became something that is a historical reference, but at some point it became something that happened rather than something that was happening to me. That shift happened with training.”

It was a little more than a year later, shortly after Arzon started law school at Villanova University back in Philly, that she ran her first race, a 10K. It was the very first athletic endeavor Arzon had undertaken in her life. It was done on a whim, after she saw a flyer in a bank on a Friday afternoon for the race the following morning.

“It was awful,” she says. “I had no training. I remember walking to water stations and thinking, ‘I’m never going to get there.’ Side stitches, terrible shoes. But when I crossed the finish line, I vowed that it would never be that hard again. Because I actually loved it.”

Since then, Arzon has run more than 20 marathons, including five in five days in 2010, three 50-mile ultramarathons and one hundred-miler. Along the way, she picked up more than 200,000 Instagram followers, an Adidas sponsorship and, most importantly, the confidence to finally, after years of reluctance and denial, call herself an athlete.

Arzon’s story serves as a good reminder of the power that fitness has to alter an individual’s life goals once they experience the incomparable feeling of staying active.

To read Berra’s full writeup, click here.