Sunday, October 2, 2011

How I got Into Running and lost 50 lbs in 2001

By the end of 2000 I had ballooned to 220 lbs. Here is how I looked at 210 lbs at Grand Canyon AZ (this picture is really shocking to me and everyone who sees it now – my family claims that they do not remember me being that big ever):

I remember after a company lunch at Angie’s pizza in December 2001, I stepped up the scale at work and I was 230 lbs (108 kg). Despite this weight, I continued to play competitive basketball 3 times a week at lunch time, and also rode my bike, walked and played racquetball. I had some pain in my knees and I could not really run fast, but basketball involves some sprinting and a lot of walking, not continuous running, so I was doing OK.

It was January of 2001 when Ken Mondak, a coworker who was 10 years older (I was 40, he was 50) told me that he was running 3 miles every single day. I was stunned! “That’s not possible”, I thought. And then “If he can do it, I can do it to!” So I started going to the Brecksville Rec Center, every day after work, running 3 miles in the track (5k, 50 rounds, about 30-35 minutes). At the same time, I monitored my weight. I would weigh myself every day, and then average the reading for the week (a habit that I have kept ever since). I would then plot my weight as a function of time. Here is how the graph looked after a year of running:

It is an interesting graph.  There were times when my weight stayed constant for as long as 4 weeks, sometimes it went up for a while, and then boing, drops.

Bottom line: In 2001 dropped 50 lbs going from 225 to 175 lbs (from about 100 kg to 80 kg). By early 2002 I had dropped under 170 lbs. My life was transformed. My basketball and racquetball improved, my energy increased, my knee pain disappeared. I felt better than ever.

I should note that I lost the weight without any attempt to change my eating, just by the excitement of running, working full time in an office and playing basketball or running during lunch.  On a typical day, I would start my day by eating a banana (I was not a big breakfast eater) then pack a small lunch (tuna, vegetables, an apple) which I would sometimes eat before lunch. I would either play basketball or run during lunch at work. After work, I’d go to the rec center to run 3 miles. Then at home, I would not have much appetite and there is so much I could eat in one meal. By Friday afternoon I would be at the lowest weight of the week. I would then make up lost calories by eating during the weekend, but my weight would drop with time as you see in the graph (interestingly, weight drop usually comes in steps, not gradually).

In the process of running to lose weight, I fell in love with running.

I entered my first 5K in 2002 (Towpath) and finished at 21:27, good for 3rd place in my age group. I was ecstatic!   In 2003 I ran my first 10K and my first Half Marathon.  In 2004 I ran my first marathon (Towpath Marathon) under 4 hours (3:55).  As time went on, my times improved.  Most of my Personal Records right now are from 2009-2010: 19.19 for 5K, 1:30 for half marathon, 3:19 at the 2010 Cleveland Marathon.

A highlight for me was running the Athens Marathon in 2009 (report here) and then again in 2010, a historic occasion, celebrating 2,500 years from the battle of Marathon. 

In 2005 I overheard that one of my Saturday running friends would not be coming on Saturday because he wanted to run trails on Sunday, training for the Buckeye 50K. I had never run trails, but decided to join the training group on Sundays. I did all training runs and the last minute I signed up for the race. I did great, finishing at 5:14. Then I fell in love with trail running and ultra marathon running. So, in the course of a year I alternate trail and road running. I think this keeps me injury-free.  The Buckeye 50K remains my favorite race.  We live cloes to the Buckeye trail and regularly run in it, going from home to the rec center in Brecksville.

My goal now is to run a 100 mile race (Burning River) next summer under 24 hours!  My longest run so far has been the Mohican 50 mile (80 km) race (see report here).  My ultimage goal is to one day run the Spartathlon, 250 km (~150 miles) from Athens to Sparta, that needs to be finished under 40 hours.

A couple of years ago, my wife, Liz, starting running.  So now we go to races together.  She has run several half-marathons and many 5K and 10K (she ran the 10K in Athens in 2010, faster than the Prime Minster of Greece, George Papandreou!)  Our daughter Lea runs on and off, joining us in some races.  Our son Tony so far is not interested in running, only basketball.

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