Couch Potato to Marathoner

I asked my brother Jason to share his journey from overweight couch potato to lean marathoner.

Strangely enough, I used to have absolutely no interest in running. I just wanted to get in better shape. In high school, I probably weighed around 270 lbs. My friends were extremely encouraging of my desire to become a runner like them (they were all cross country runners). During the first cross country practice, I fell far behind. My friend Mark Ecker came back, and finished with me, offering me plenty of encouragement along the way. Unfortunately, I just felt defeated, and that was that last time I would try running for a long time.

It was the summer of 2008, and I was living in Philadelphia. I had gained considerable weight since high school (at one point maxing out around 295 lbs) thanks to laziness and bad eating. In college I had started playing racquetball, and had improved my eating habits to a small degree. I had dropped down to 250 lbs but was still particularly unhappy. I’d had enough. Sure I’d made progress over the years, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be better, healthier, happier.

My sister was signing up for her second half-marathon in Hartford. Growing up, she had had weight issues just like me, and if she could lose the weight, get in shape, and become a RUNNER, so could I. So I started running that summer and I couldn't even run a single mile without stopping to catch my breath. But I wanted it. I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted something so bad in my entire life. At that time, it was an unobtainable goal. I signed up for the Hartford 5k and didn’t look back. The summer of training was difficult, but I’d managed to get up to running over a mile without stopping for a break, and around 2.5 miles total. I completed my first 5k in around 36 minutes (I don’t know the official time because I got confused with the black timing chips, and left it in the expo center by accident). Pleased with my first race result, I was excited with the challenge when my sister suggested running the Disney half-marathon in 2010. I signed up.
Hartford for Jason's first 5K!
The training was difficult, but little by little, I increased my mileage. Unfortunately, I was severely under prepared for the race. I hit the wall around mile 9, and not all the biofreeze in the world could make the cramps in my knees go away. I was at a run/walk (emphasis on walk), and Steph stuck with me like a good sister. We  finished the race at a rather lackluster 2:57:45. I’m pretty sure if I had finished over 3 hours, I would have given up on running altogether. Luckily that wasn’t the case, and I finished the race sore, tired, but proud.
After finishing Disney 2010
That winter, I took a brief break from running to do P90X. In addition to running, this was probably one of the best decisions of my life. Fresh off of my P90X training, I signed up for another 13.1 in June of 2010, with a goal to improve my previous time. When race day came, I knew I was more prepared than I had been for Disney. The course was EXTREMELY hilly, but I still managed a new PR, 2:34:53, to-date this remains my official half-marathon PR (though I’ve gone as low as 2:15:00 in 15+ mile training runs since then). I was extremely happy.

With a total of ten races, 2010 was a busy year. Among those races was  another half-marathon in Hartford (my favorite race apparently). Training for Hartford was tough -- I injured myself two weeks before the race (tendon strain), and was sick, but I did the best I could that day, 2:47: 00. Not bad, but I already had a new goal in mind: The Goofy Challenge, 2012. What is the Goofy Challenge you ask? The Disney half-marathon is Saturday, the full marathon is Sunday. Add them together and you get the Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge. Runners are crazy; I’m a runner; I’m crazy; let’s do this.

With the Goofy Challenge on the horizon, I enlisted the help of my high school friend Sara Bernard to be my coach. Having run a few marathons herself and having recently become a licensed coach, she gladly took me to be her first marathon trainee. She suggested that before running Goofy, I try running a full marathon so that I could get an understanding for the level of commitment required for training. I started 2011 weighing around 225 lbs. Unfortunately I developed Achilles tendinitis early in the season and had to push back my original plan of attempting a marathon in July, to October (Hartford again! Yey!).

Funny how marathon training changes things. I now weigh about 185 lbs, am leaner, fitter, healthier than I’ve ever been. I started to get cranky towards the end of my training, but I guess that’s to be expected when you’re running 44 miles a week. It’s been just over 3 years since I couldn’t even run a single mile. Now I can call myself a marathoner, having ran 26.2 miles, at a steady 11:14mm pace, for a final time of 4:54:28. So not only did I finish, but my 13.1 split thunder-crushed my current 13.1 race PR. Am I proud? ABSOLUTELY.

I’m addicted. I’m a marathoner.

(Oh and I’ve given my sister permission to post these before-middle-after photo’s of me so you can get an idea of where I was circa 2005 in college, to 2010 at the Disney half-marathon, to now at the 2011 Hartford Marathon)
Before shot
Disney Packet Pickup 2010
Run to Home Base 2010
Run to Home Base 2011
Hartford Marathon  Packet Pickup 2011

Sister, Brother & Mom, all race finishers 2011!


I'm such a proud sister!


Running Ricig said...

What an awesome story! This was a great post! Serious bummer I didn't get to meet up with you guys at Hartford. Next year! :)

Aimee said...

Incredible!! Very inspiring story. Thanks for sharing. Best of luck at Disney. I'll be there too running my first full marathon.

LoriV. said...

Awesome story indeed! I can see why you're a proud sister.

Suz and Allan said...

Wow, what an awesome and inspirational story! Good luck in your next race!

Lisa J said...

such a transformation both physically and mentally. I would be a proud sister too!

Wells L said...

Awesome story - soooooo impressive!