Lindsay Walter began losing her hair in clumps when she was two years old. Within a few weeks, it was all gone. She was diagnosed with alopecia, a rare autoimmune disease that affects nearly 2% of the general population and causes total body hair loss.
Growing up was tough. As a child, she hid behind wigs and was constantly bullied because she had no hair. She grew insecure and ashamed for not having any eyebrows and very few eyelashes.
Despite how painful this was for her, Walter developed physical strength and agility early on, and discovered her passion for basketball.
“I would work hard at school and then just shoot in my driveway for hours, pretending to be just like everyone else, like I didn’t have Alopecia,” she said. ”I felt so alone.”
Little did she know that her new hobby would play a pivotal role in shaping the rest of her life.
“Basketball really became an outlet and helped me to cope with my alopecia, because I had that to distract myself in a positive way.”
After playing basketball for several years, Walter became fascinated with running. Always up for a new challenge, she signed up for her first marathon. She began training and quickly fell in love with the sport.
“I would go on long runs by the lake and loved being outside, it was also such a great stress relief” she said. After completing her first race, she couldn’t wait to sign up for the next one.
“The feeling of the crowds cheering, crossing the finish line and being able to say ‘I’m a marathoner’ was the greatest athletic high I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “The feeling was infectious and I was hooked!”
When she runs, Walter feels empowered, like she can do anything: “I feel strong, beautiful and fierce kind of like Wonder Woman — I really feel invincible.”
Discovering her inner strength
The more she ran, the stronger and more confident Walter felt, which completely shifted her attitude and thought process. She turned her focus to all of the things she loved about herself and learned to embrace them.
Her goal was to run 27 marathons by the time she turned 27. Not only did she reach her goal, she’s just finished running her 30th race.
Today, she’s found gratitude and self-acceptance, and is determined to help support children living with alopecia.
“It’s my responsibility to show them what true strength and beauty looks like,” she says.
“We’re given things in life (in my case Alopecia) for a reason and it’s the way we respond and choose to act that make us who we are,” she said. “I’ve learned how to be strong and that I can do anything I set my mind to, hair or not.”
A dream come true
The key to success, according to Walter, is a combination of hard work and determination, but most importantly self-belief.
“It’s crazy and such a dream come true when I think of the 30 marathons I’ve run and the kids and people I’ve met through this journey,” she said.
“Alopecia really is the greatest gift I never knew I needed and I am so thankful for it!”