ChiRunner Finishes First Half Marathon in 1:37
Around Labor Day 2011, I weighed 234 lbs. At 6'0", that's a BMI of around 31, several pounds into the "obese" category. I hadn't run in 4 years, and couldn't go 300 meters without breaking a sweat. Every once in a while I would go downstairs to the treadmill and run for about a kilometer before jumping off and heading back up to my desk. Then a friend decided to start a diet, and being ever the challenger, I said I would accomplish the same weight loss with just calorie counting and exercise. So I set my mind on finally dropping the weight and getting into better shape.
I started by forcing myself to run 5 km on the treadmill. It took 40 minutes the first time. Then I decided to give it a crack outside, and signed up for the Airport 5K. Not wanting to look like a fool, I started running outside every other day, determined to use the three weeks before the race to shave my time down by several minutes. I crossed the finish line in the race at 30:31, so that was a pretty big and encouraging improvement. I've attached a photo for reference.
After that, I kept running 3-4 times a week, always 5K, and the minutes started to come off, albeit more slowly. I ran another 5K in December and finished in about 25 minutes. All the while, I was losing weight at a steady pace of around 1.2 lbs per week, so that was helping greatly with the speed increase. It's amazing how much more quickly you can run when there's less to carry. My first attempt at a 10K was the Hot Chocolate 10K in January. I finished that in 54:20, and it's still the only 10K I've done.
After the 10K, people started inquiring about me doing a half marathon. At the time, I still weighed over 200 lbs, and running the 21 km of a half marathon seemed impossible, but I decided to try running a little farther. One day, while visiting my family in April, I ran around my hometown just to see how far I could go, and ran about 17 km (11 miles) with fairly little trouble. That was when it seemed like doing the Half might be attainable. Incidentally, the Chi Running training program was announced not long after we got back to Asheville, so my wife, Laura, and I signed up and started attending the classes.
The group motivation turned out to be exactly what I needed to push myself over the hump. Having the group together on Saturday mornings to encourage each other was a priceless piece of incentive to keep going. The incredible friendliness and helpfulness of the Chi staff was just spectacular to look forward to each week. I was in a very serious marching band in high school, so much of the technique of traveling on one's feet without injury is something I already knew (posture, breathing, relaxing shoulders, pelvic rotation). It was very nice to see how well it all translated over into running. But the Chi courses filled in the few things I had no experience with, like running uphill, and especially DOWNHILL. The day Jeff taught us how to lower our hips and shuffle down a hill was a very a-ha moment for me, and I still keep it in my mind to this day when I run down a particularly steep hill.
I finished my weight loss campaign in mid-July, having lost 72 pounds and now tipping the scale at a much healthier and more modest 162 lbs, a BMI of 22, squarely in the middle of the normal range. My "secret" has been to simply eat fewer calories. I snack less during the day, and I've cut out most all liquid calories. There is no food that I've completely given up, because I believe that a change in diet has to be a permanent lifestyle change if you expect it to stick. I wasn't prepared to give up chocolate forever, so I didn't. I still eat everything I ate before. I'm just careful to eat less of it and make up for a big lunch with a lighter dinner.
The half-marathon came around, and I went into it believing I could finish in 1:45:00. Once the race started, having run parts of the route so many times and mastering the technique gave me not only the physical ability to destroy the race, but also the confidence that I always knew what was coming and exactly how I was going to handle it. I finished the race nearly 8 minutes ahead of my goal, with a chip time of 1:37:07. I really can't thank you all enough for not only the technique, but the support and encouragement, which proved to be every bit as valuable.
Scott S., Asheville, NC