This is my first blog post from 2014, archived here. Obviously much has changed since then! I now coach runners full-time, photograph endurance athletics occasionally, and am fully engaged in the running community. It's my greatest privilege to help others not only meet their goals, but feel as engaged and at home in the community as I was.
I wanted to start off with a quick story. I don’t often talk about the full story of my start in running, but it is my hope that some people can use it as motivation that ordinary people can change their lives.
I choose to begin my story in late 2012. I was 200+lbs, prediabetic, and had moderately high blood pressure (which had always been low, so this was a warning sign.) I’d been overweight since high school, even when playing soccer and basketball, but during college it really spiraled out of control. I had tried to lose weight and been able to lose 5, 10, even 15 pounds at a time, but it always came back. The stresses of constant semesters with 10-12 college classes at once really took a toll. (Only now do I realize that exercising would have probably helped my grades.)
After graduating in December 2012, I found myself with much more spare time (only working full-time!), and resolved to lose some weight. I didn’t have any lofty goals… I wanted to lose 20-30 pounds so I could be healthy as I got older. I wasn’t looking to run competitively, or get six-pack abs. I honestly wasn’t positive losing 20 pounds and keeping it off was even possible for me. I was very unsure of myself, as I’d tried so many times and failed. My self-esteem was very low, though I like to think I hid that well.
After a lot of work on the elliptical in the gym, for as much as 2.5 hours at a time, I had lost enough weight that I could start to run without hurting my back and knees as much. I had lost about 20 pounds at this point. This was in the beginning of March, 2013. Almost immediately, I set a goal to run a marathon. I was very doubtful I’d succeed, so I didn’t pay the entry fee until 3 weeks beforehand. Even then, I researched the cancellation and transfer policies, I was that unsure.
Four months after starting running, on July 7th 2013, I finished my first marathon in 4:02. I realized then that we write our own story; it is not written for us. I was down to 136 pounds, a 60+ pound loss from my heaviest weight. The race was the beautiful Mad Marathon in Waitsfield, VT, which I highly recommend if you have no interest in running a personal record. It has more (pretty) hills than some trail marathons!
More fun for me, I’ve found my legs on mountains and trails. I finished 9th in the USATF-NE Mountain Series, and I came in 89/1100 at the Mt. Washington Road Race, and 83rd at the (INSANE) Loon Mountain Race, which served as the USA Mountain Running Championships. I ran my first Presidential Traverse the weekend between the Mt. Washington race and Loon, and completed the 18+ mile, traverse with 8800ft of climbing in under 7 hours, including breaks.
I’ve lost 60+ lbs. I am healthy; I am strong. My blood pressure is lower than ever, and I have more energy. My ADHD and mild depression, which have plagued me since high school, is all but gone. I can do things I never thought possible. Yes, I have a few percentage points of body fat to lose, and I need to get more consistent with my training, but I’ve found something that I love that keeps me healthy, happy, outdoors and around other people.
In 2016, I dipped my toe in the ultra marathon waters with a 3rd place finish at the Pineland Farms 50k, in a time of 3:50. I then ran my first BQ and first successful marathon in 2017 at the Oregon Marathon, finishing 3rd in 2:53. A few weeks later after running the Aspen Backcountry Marathon, I unintentionally ran my longest run ever at Leadville pacing Michael Wardian for 50 miles.
My goals are still not lofty; my primary goal is to stay uninjured so I can do this for a long time, because it’s what I love to do.
Just like writing a story begins with picking up a pen, changing your life begins with a single step. I gulped down my fear, took that step, and am so thankful that I did. Never give up on your goals!
Below are the best before/after photos I could find. I was so afraid of photos back then, I had to pull a screenshot from a video assignment I did in college. The after photo is from the USA Mountain Running Championships at Loon Mountain in 2014, 364 days after my first marathon. This is also the day I met my now long-time coach, David Roche!