Sunday, 8 March 2009


I started running marathons 7 years ago, just about when I turned 50. At that time I hardly ever weighed myself. I didn't know I had a reason to. I thought my body had gone pear-shaped due to heredity. My dad had a belly, a so-called barrel-chest, and hardly enough butt to hold his pants up, even with a belt. It just seemed to be my lot.

Signed up for the National AIDS Marathon Training Program almost by accident. My wife sent me out to a local produce store to retrieve an onion. While standing in the line there I noticed a brochure put out by the aforementioned training program promising to get me through my first official 26.2 miles AND pay my way to and from Vancouver, BC, for the big event. All I had to do was jog with these guys once a week for four months and convince enough friends, co-workers and loved ones to part with a combined total of $2600. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

At the time I weighed somewhere near 200 pounds. Most days, I'm certain, I was a couple of pounds under that but, I'm also sure now, looking back, there were days that I topped the double century mark.

I finished the training, the fundraising and my first sanctioned marathon. Doing so perhaps reinforced my misconception that all was right with me, health-wise. After all, at 50 I had just completed something most people in the world never even try to do.

This is me and my dear, departed friend, Lori, on the comfortable side of the Vancouver Marathon finish line....

As I crossed the finish line in Vancouver my first thought (really!!!) was "what's next?" I soon decided "Portland" was the answer to that query. My stepdaughter decided she'd train for and run the Oregon race with me. While we pounded the pavement in the City of Roses she told me she'd read that every time a runner's foot hits the ground his/her joints bear some riduculous multiple of his/her body's poundage as shock. I did some quick math in my head and determined I didn't relish the numbers.

My post-race celebratory meal was, admittedly, a cheese burger. But, I didn't have the fries. From then on I've been on a quest to get down to 175.

It has not been an easy journey, mostly due to my own tenacity. I don't like to be told what to do. I love all things dairy and, for a time, I brewed my own beer. Brews and butter might well have been the death of me had it not been for this goofy running thing that took over my thought processes. I also fell back into the mindset that I was okay because I was doing marathons and lots of them. I had managed to drop about ten of those unwanted pounds, but they didn't stay off for long. And, I didn't look any better. But my training was not paying the dividends I was hoping for anymore and I thought about quitting, until I attended a Jeff Galloway Running School in San Jose. Jeff talked about fat, pace, walk breaks, and, somewhere in the mix, someone said if I wanted to get better at this running thing I'd have to step things up.

After that I added hills to my training, bought a Garmin 305, so I couldn't cheat on times or distance anymore, and poured myself back into the effort to improve. My 12in12 challenge was born there. It was either going to push me out of the sport altogether or give me reason to keep going.

My first race in the 12in12 challenge was California International Marathon in Sacramento last December...the first time I broke the 5 hour barrier in 21 marathon tries. Just a few weeks later I did Carlsbad in 5:10. Two weeks later it was Austin in 5:23....and last weekend it was Napa Valley in 5:01.

Prior to Napa I got on a scale and was surprised to see the rising needle stop at 177. I knew I was nearing my goal, set so long ago in Portland. I just knew that following Napa I'd hit it. Turns out, the day after that soggy race, I stepped on the scale and saw it top-out back over 180.

Since Napa I hadn't run until this morning...but I have been monitoring the weight thing all week. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, the numbers have been falling. Last night I was back down to 176 and knew that if I ran today I'd almost surely hit my goal.

Did 10 miles this morning along the San Francisco waterfront. It's been raining in the Bay Area for weeks, so it's been hard to get out there. Today it was overcast, but dry. It was a joy to be out there paid off. Raced home, after grabbing a cup of Peets coffee and a piece of their divine shortbread, stripped down and, gingerly, stepped on the bathroom scale. 175.4. Awesome.

This is from Carslbad. Evidence that this marathon thing works.

My number one problem now is...just like my dad...I'm having trouble keeping my trousers in place.

Next stop? 170?

Gotta run!


kch said...

mmm. Homebrew.

On a more serious note, a hearty congratulations on meeting your goal. I love that you put the older picture up when you were at the higher weight - you look great!

Joe Scherb said...

Nice job & Nice post Michael. After coming home from a weekend visiting my parents in Arizona my wife said I looked thinner.

I ran hard while out there.

and my parents are on a diet (so I was too).

Checked my scale 172 down from 177 a few weeks back. I'm with you, buddy.

kristen f said...

oddly enough, I find 2 or 3 days after a race (13+ miles or more) I am always up 5-6 lbs. for instance, I usually go between 145-150 lbs. prior to running 16 miles on Saturday, I was 146-ish. This morning I was 150. I am told this additional weight is because of the swelling of the leg muscles. weird!

Lynda L said...

Good Job on hitting you're goal! Keep up the good work =)

Karoline said...

I love the first picture and the last one. I'm all ready to try your Mars secret at mile 17 (I'm in Europe, so I had one last week. GOOOOOD!)Man, if I keep reading this blog I may be tempted to do a marathon a month like you! Keep up the good work!

leslie said...

Kristen is right -- after long runs, and esp after marathons, your weight will be up! This is because of swelling in your leg muscles because of the micro tears that you create as you run long distances. So it's not an accurate picture of your true weight. And speaking of pictures, WOW! You've come a long way, baby!

Keep up the great work, Michael!

kara said...

You met Jeff Galloway in person- WoW
; )
I have his very first book... He's my guru.

PS. Keep on Running - looks good on you.

Laura said...

I've said it before about you, and I've had it said about me before, but your story is certainly an inspiration to many. About 2 years ago, I lost nearly 70 pounds. I had been a runner in high school and decided that I needed to try it again - here I am training for my first marathon with my close friend, Karoline. I don't know that I'll ever do the 12 in 12, but for the time being, I am happy to do the ONE in APRIL. (and, I'll be trying the Mars Bar as well!) I love reading your blog - keep up the good work.

Bluebunny said...


I agree about the weight being up after a marathon/long run - I've found that to be true too. Also, everyone's weight fluctuates throughout the day/week and can go up or down depending on everything from how much salt you eat to how much water you drink. The important thing is to look at the overall trend in your weight, which has been down (and falling!). Soon you'll have to go buy new pants!

Kim said...

You look great!! What a great journey you are having!