Running has the power to transform lives. Sometimes the transformation is visible, but often the most profound changes take place below the surface.
Meet Joe Buckley. A self proclaimed junk food addict, Joe spent much of his young life sitting in front of the TV, drinking heavily, and avoiding anything resembling cardiovascular exercise. At 335 pounds Joe was disgusted at the person he saw in the mirror. He knew it was time to make a change or to pick out his coffin.
That’s when Joe went for a run with his sister-in-law, Mel. Every muscle in his body revolted during that run. He hated every second of what seemed like an eternity. When it finally ended and he could find enough air between gasps, he asked Mel, “When can we run again?” Joe had finished the first run of his life and was hooked. He had run 400 meters.
Slowly and carefully, Joe and Mel increased his miles. He began to eat better, reduced his beer intake, and quit smoking. Soon the weight began to melt away. He could not believe how much better he felt as he grew stronger and stronger. People started to notice Joe’s transformation; he got compliments and questions. Still a very large man, Joe loved the looks on astonished faces when he told people he was a runner. For Joe, “every mile was a new victory,” he says, and nearly four months after that first run he was ready for his first 5K. He finished the race in 34:57 and was overwhelmed by the feeling of freedom and empowerment. He wanted more.
After 10 more months of training, eating right, and slowly increasing his distances, Joe traveled to New York City with his family to run his second half-marathon. His entire support crew was there: His wife Karin, several members of his extended family, and Mel all made the trip to seeJoe cross the finish line in 2 hours 17 minutes. He was 90 pounds lighter than the day he ran that first 400 meters, but he felt like much more of a man.
Crossing that finish line was an affirmation of almost a year-and- a-half of hard work and dedication. Yes, Joe had lost significant weight, but his transformation was not just a physical one. It was mental, emotional, and even spiritual. He has changed just as much on the inside as he has on the outside. He is happier, more confident, and full of energy as he continues his journey. He still battles junk food addiction and allows himself cheat days. He still wants to push himself to longer runs and races. He craves the feeling of satisfaction he gets from pushing his limits and directing his life towards positive goals. Of course there are hard days and difficult moments that challenge his resolve, but Joe is a runner. He has taken thousands of strides to get to where he is today and is looking forward to thousands more as he continues to chase the person he wants to be tomorrow.
There are countless people like Joe who have taken control of their lives through running. Each has an equally inspiring story to tell. Each has experienced challenges, doubts, and fears along the way. What keeps them going is the personal satisfaction gained from meeting those challenges, overcoming those doubts, and facing those fears. Personal victories can be measured in pounds, pace, distance, and time, but what really matters is the invisible triumph of the human spirit.
Below are three more inspiring stories of male runners like Joe. (Check back on August 9th as we highlight the transformations of four female runners.) Although their physical transformations are remarkable, the changes running has brought to their lives are what matter most:
Before: He weighed 425 pounds in 2008.
After: Now 250 pounds, Mark has run 10 marathons, four 50k ultras, and one 40-mile ultra.
Quote: ”I made a decision the afternoon after my surgery that I would walk the Little Rock Half Marathon on March 7, 2010. Well, I did that with ease and decided two days later that I wanted to run.”
Before: At age 30 he was 210 pounds and completely sedentary.
After: At age 39 he ran the Boston Marathon in 2:43.
Quote: ”Then my father passed away when he was only 54 with congestive heart failure and I woke up one day and saw myself on the same path. I still remember excitedly telling my wife I ran a whole mile non-stop when I first began to get after it.”
Before: In 2011 Chris weighed 350 pounds.
After: Down 110 pounds, Chris has run a 5k, 10k, 15k, half-marathon, 25k, and a full marathon all in one year. He’s currently preparing for his first ultra.
Quote: ”I’m living outside my comfort zone and loving it. I am again addicted to running.”
Tell us: How has running transformed your life?
** Special Note: We are super excited to announce that Run the Edgehas been picked up by Nissan’s Innovation for Endurance from now through the Olympic games in London. We will be writing twelve blogs for IFE in the coming months. This is our 9th post.