On season seven of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Tara Costa, 25, became famous for winning a record-breaking eight challenges. But this fall, the Long Island native, who once tipped the scales at 294 pounds, took her active lifestlye to the next level — on Nov. 1, she ran the ING New York City Marathon, finishing with a time of 4:23:12. “Today, I let go of my past,” Tara told OK!. “If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.”

But the former model wasn’t in the competition just to stay slim. Indeed, Tara — who is a svelte size 8, seven months after completing the show — wanted to inspire others struggling with their weight. Here, she gives OK! the scoop on her fit new world.

Describe your marathon experience.
It was an indescribable day. I saw a man with two prosthetic legs fall and get back up at two points. I was inspired by him to continue. I did much better than I thought and surprised myself. I can’t wait to make it a yearly tradition.

Why did you decide to participate?
I realized that my stint on TBL was over and that my life was just beginning. I needed to start a new chapter — something else to look forward to and strive for. I like running and wanted to be part of something huge.

What was your training schedule like?
I followed an online training program. Every day I got an e-mail of how many miles to run (ranging from three to 20 miles). It was definitely a transition to go from weight-loss mode to training mode. Initially, I felt like I wasn’t working hard enough in comparison to the workout plan on the show. But I’ve learned you need to have some easier running days to allow your body to recover. I had two rest days a week when I would do yoga or go to a conditioning class at my gym.

How has your life changed since being on The Biggest Loser?
Before the show, I would’ve never thought I could run for more than 45 minutes straight. My mentality has shifted so much. My enjoyment doesn’t come from happy hour anymore. I’d rather round up my friends for a Friday night 5K and get a drink afterward. When I was heavy, I was trying to have a life, but I wasn’t truly happy. Now, I enjoy life to the fullest.

Any other long-term goals, aside from the marathon?
I’m open to trying anything! It’s a great new way o live. I’m not swimming the English Channel any time soon, but I can see myself getting into surfing or rock climbing — just enjoying life more and exploring. I’m not going to limit myself to anything.

Interview by Loni Albert

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