Meet Paul who went from a "pack a day" to Marathon Maniac!!!
I never set out to become a runner… I started exercising fall 2009 because I was tired of the way I looked and felt. I weighed 250 pounds and had a pack a day cigarette habit that spanned 25 years. I stopped going to beaches or pools because I was too embarrassed to take my shirt off in public and simple tasks like walking up stairs or playing with my kids were becoming tiring efforts. Since 2004 I’d lost one sibling to colon cancer, one to heart disease and was about to lose another to breast cancer. With all this going on, it didn’t take a genius to figure out it was time to change. One day I got up my courage, walked to the nearest Bally’s and signed up. I was still smoking then, so exercise for me was weights, treadmill walking or the elliptical machine. Weight loss came slowly and so it wasn’t until someone mentioned the benefits of running for weight loss that I considered it. I played neighborhood league baseball and football for many years but never considered running as a sport and no clue how to get started.
I began incorporating running in my workouts early 2010 and I’ll always remember the first time I tried. It happened on the treadmill and like all good “Treadmill-ers” I set my speed and went. I ran for what seemed like an eternity and found myself gasping for air, so I nervously found the stop button and took a moment to compose myself. I looked down at the display to see what I’d accomplished and boy was I disappointed… 5 minutes, .2 miles. Part of me was discouraged initially but there was a part of me that said “try again tomorrow”. So the next day I got right back on that treadmill and did so every day after that. The more I did it, the easier it got and soon I was running a mile, then two, then three. Feeling confident in my ability, I signed up for my first race June of 2010 which was a 5 Miler. I completed the race in 52:52 for a 10:34 pace and was hooked!
The sense of accomplishment left me wanting more so I did what came naturally and signed up for my next race, a 10k. It was a muggy July day and I started the race well but by mile three I felt that familiar gasping for air, only now I couldn’t catch my breath. Ultimately, I finished the race but by walking the last three miles. Feeling demoralized and lucky I didn’t pass out in public, I decided that day to say no more to smoking. I went home, destroyed all my cigarettes and anything else related to smoking. I haven’t picked up a cigarette since.
Feeling good about my decision to quit smoking, I began running all the time. The weight began to fall off and a month after that hot July day I did my first half marathon. By the end of 2010 I’d run four halves, four shorter races and began training for my first marathon. Running the 2011 Disney marathon is where my passion for the sport really changed. I not only found my preferred race distance, I officially became a member of TeamUp with Autism Speaks. Choosing to run for Autism Speaks was a no brainer, my daughter Gabriella was diagnosed at age 2 so running events on behalf Autism Speaks is personal. I’ve participated in Disney and the NYC Marathon 2011 and am currently fundraising for 4 future events, the 2012 NYC Tri, Chicago Marathon, NYC Marathon 2012 and Ragnar Relay-Miami to the Keys, 2013. I feel blessed to have an opportunity to turn my passion into fundraising, especially since it’s in honor of my Gabby.
Since that fateful treadmill day in 2009, I’ve participated in sixty-three running events. I’ve done twenty-seven marathon distance or greater events since January 2011 and I’m scheduled to race another 25 marathons/ultras before the close of 2012. I am a proud member of the Marathon Maniacs and 50 States club where I’ve accumulated 20 states so far. I’ve lost a total of 82 pounds and have been smoke free for almost two years. This sport has taken me to places I would not have otherwise visited and introduced me to people who will forever impact my life positively. I breathe, eat and sleep running and I wouldn’t have it any other way.