I have posted several times about running as well as other fitness and health issues over the past year; I have also started a weekly ‘Monday Mile’ feature – and everyone has been amazing and supportive throughout, with loads of great discussions and tons of new stuff I have learned. At this point, I have no hesitation calling myself ‘a runner’ – something I would never have done before last fall. But when I look back to when the moment was that I turned the corner from being a ‘guy who jogged to control weight’ to ‘a runner’, it was Easter weekend last year, making this (well, yesterday) my ‘My One-Year Runnerversary’!
I chose the top picture of my brother and I before we headed out to run the Wineglass Marathon last fall for two reasons – first off because he was the inspiration (ok, boot in the butt) that got me going out running again, and second off because a week ago he had a very serious heart attack. While doing much better, he has a long road to recovery ahead which may never include another Marathon.
So for starters, we can go back to my heaviest: I weighed ~375lbs when I graduated college. I have shared a couple of pictures with Judie, Dan & Carly, and honestly people have a hard time recognizing me. I had started high school weighing ~215 and just got progressively larger, with a minor surgery that sidelined me from most activity for a few months triggering a faster increase in weight that continued throughout my undergraduate years.
As I noted in a post I wrote after my first two 5K races, in early 1989 I decided to lose weight and started jogging (actually I notice in that post I didn’t note my top weight). The combination of eating better (and much less) and exercise made the weight drop off, and as a result I was under 200 pounds by the time 1990 rolled around. Over the next 22 years I spent the majority of the time between 190 – 210 (mostly 200-210), with two increases to ~225-240 before getting close to 250 when my thyroid crashed and burned just before we moved to Corning in early 2008.
The thyroid medication helped propel me to rapid weight loss, but an inability to maintain a solid exercise routine (I joined the local gym but quickly the kids’ school schedule made that impractical, and I simply couldn’t stick with a running routine) and the fact that I did a mediocre job with my eating habits meant I slowly increased my weight over time.
Here is a picture of me just over a year ago – the intent was to show off my gorgeous new Epiphone Joe Pass guitar, but it also is a look at me weighing ~275lbs. That was the heaviest I had been since the middle of 1989.
One of my ‘resolutions’ for 2012 was to lose weight, and in 2011 when my brother did his first marathon I said I wanted to join him for the following year. But while I had gone out for a few occasional runs, I never stuck with it, and too often made the classic mistake of rewarding a couple of days of exercise with a binge of unhealthy eating. So I wasn’t getting any lighter or in better shape or even starting on my goal of preparing for a marathon.
In the post last year I also wrote about how running with my brother on Easter weekend was a wake-up call since I learned just how pathetic my running was – I was going ~2.5 miles per outing at ~15 minutes/mile … whereas I had convinced myself it was more like 4 x 10 minute miles. I knew something had to change – I was NOT on the road to a marathon!
Fortunately I have an iron will, so the Monday after Easter I got up, had decided my route and used a smartphone (at the time I was using the Droid 4) to track myself. I did ~4.5 miles and actually managed ~14 minutes/mile. Really not a bad start – and repeating it the next day wasn’t a problem … for me it is always the third day when I feel it! And that did happen, but I also increased to ~5.25 miles and improved to ~13.5 minutes/mile. I kept that route for the rest of the week. The next week I started out at 5.75 miles and ended at 6.25 miles. From there on out I was running at least 5 days a week and a minimum of 30 miles per week.
Here I am in late May after my first 5K. You can see decent weight loss compared to the previous picture, but still a way to go to get to the marathon. As I noted, I had a long-time aversion to running in public, so this was a major step for me. Also, although I set a goal pace of 12 minutes, I did the race at a 10:18 pace, so I was thrilled!
Something else started to happen as I was losing weight and actually trying to develop into a ‘real runner’ — I began to change my attitudes regarding food. I used to deny myself foods during two meals, eating very small breakfast and lunch, and then pretty much doing what I wanted at dinner and desserts. Now I was taking a balanced ‘food is fuel’ approach, ramping up my breakfast intake and streamlining the rest of the day. I also altered my parking and other habits to ensure I was constantly active – it is crazy to think that someone who was running 8-10 miles in the morning all summer was still parking as close to the entrance at work as possible!
My family had made some significant cooking changes when my wife lost weight with Weight Watchers several years ago, but some bad habits slipped back. Things like baking with yogurt, using cooking spray, using broth in mashed potatoes and other substitutions returned to our cooking. I also spent a load of time researching new ingredients – and learning more about how the so-called ‘low-fat revolution’ was really a terrible thing for our bodies!
The combination of constantly working on my running skills, eating better foods and maintaining activity all day helped me quickly lose weight, but also helped me feel better. They say you don’t know how bad you feel until you feel good – and that is so true! Whether it was deep-fried foods I would occasionally enjoy, packaged candy, or other things that we would have as ‘treats’, I found myself not enjoying the way my body felt after eating them, and as a result I simply stay away.
The pre-marathon picture above has me at ~190lbs, down 85 pounds over 5.5 months. I wrote about my marathon experience here, so I won’t belabor it again. Suffice to say I consider it a major life milestone for myself as a runner.
After the marathon, I ran a half-marathon in November and then began my 65-day ‘running streak’ with nothing organized since. But while we have seen snow, ice, and wind-chills down to -25 in a very cold winter, I have kept up running at least 5 days and at least 35 miles a week. Most weeks it is 6 days and more than 45 miles; I continue to feel great and thoroughly enjoy it, in fact it is one of the great joys in my life.
Here is a recent picture:
As of now I am down 100 pounds from last year; I am the lightest I have been since junior high (before I finished growing), and in the best shape of my life. This is when I was getting ready for an early morning run around Coronado during my recent Hyundai trip to check out the new Santa Fe. Looking at the difference from top to bottom is stunning to me, and showing it to my family prompted surprise as well. As Lisa put it ‘I knew you had put on weight, but seeing it like this REALLY shows how heavy you had gotten …’
This has been an amazing year, a transformative year, and it has been a reminder that you are never too old to learn new things and get a new outlook on life. I have just passed my 47th birthday, and I while it seems like my work travel and other family plans will prevent me completing my goals of two marathons and an ‘ultra’, I will definitely do at least one marathon this year. When I do, I will dedicate it to my wife and older son who cannot run at all due to joint issues; to myself for what I have accomplished; to all of the amazing supporters including the awesome Gear Diary crew and a couple of Corning friends who braved 35 degree temps to cheer me on; and I will also dedicate it to my brother for being my boot in the butt, in the hopes that he can join me again soon.