Our ExtraOrdinary Runner Award for August goes to Gregg (glpaxton). Gregg shares his story about "Why I Run". He talks about his victorious battle over weight loss but also how running changed his life. Read his story today!
And after you read his story, take a few minutes to learn more about the man behind the story! Gregg is an active member of the Lounge, has a great blog, "Confessions of a Fat Runner", and is the moderator/founder of the Lounge Group - The Fat Runners Society.
In your story, you tell us about your first run - a 5 mile run - with a friend. What came next for you? What kept you running?
My best friend Dale, a police officer, kept bugging me to run with him. I had been riding my bike around 50 miles, or so, a week at that time. I had no desire to run. Running was something you did from dogs, the law, and when trying to catch the bus. Finally, I caved and went out to a local park with him. I had some running shoes that I used when I rode but they had never been used for running. Dale set his watch and off we went. We ran at a modest pace. At the time, I probably weighed around 220, having lost a ton of weight but had put a few pounds back on. We made the first loop, then the next, and I lost track of time and distance as we talked and laughed. I always kid Dale that he's my real soul mate as we are both goof-offs, jokers, and are the only two people that would sit together in a room. It was a great afternoon that day and as we finished our run, he asked me how far I thought we had gone. I had no clue--2 miles? Maybe 3? He chuckled and said, "How about 5?" I couldn't believe it. It felt great. That began a long and wonderful partnership for us (Dale and I) as we began to run together, faithfully. Running made me feel strong and I felt fit. What kept me running was the photo I keep of myself, taken at a school dance. I weighed over 300 pounds and I look terrible in that picture. Little did I know it would be running that would get me through some of toughest times in my life.
What has been the biggest challenge of your running?
My biggest challenge in running is staying motivated. As I age, I'm getting more and more tired and don't always feel like lacing up my shoes and hitting the road, but I do. I like to eat, especially pancakes, so I know I need to pay the Piper if I'm going to dance.
What are some of your favorite nonrunning activities?
My favorite non-running activities include writing, doing some art whenever I can, spending time with my family, and reading The Runner's Lounge. My goal is to become a full-time writer in the near future. I'm working on a book about my wife's incredible life story.
Tell us about your job as a middle school teacher? Highlights? Lowlights? :}
My job as a middle school teacher? Well, I'm also an administrative assistant which means I fill in for principals when they are off campus and I act as administrator at ballgames. The highlights are definitely working with the future of our country. I tell my kids I firmly believe I'm teaching the next doctor, lawyer, teacher, plumber, mayor, President. And I KNOW I'm teaching the next husband, wife, father, and mother. If I fail at the latter, the former won't matter much. The lowlights include discipline and seeing how our state and federal governments are failing our schools. We get less funding every year and that costs everyone in the form of teachers leaving the profession and our kids not getting the best possible education our affluence can buy.
In your story and profile, you talk about your daughters challenge of diabetes. Tell us how your running supports that cause.
My running only marginally supports the cause of diabetes because I haven't been able to take it to the next level. I would love to run from Amarillo to Austin, right into the state capitol building to raise awareness for this terrible disease--a disease that claimed my stepfather last year and afflicts my wife, daughter, and sister.
What did you do thi summer? (Come on, you are a teacher, I had to ask the classic question.)
At the beginning of summer, I taught bilingual pre-kindergarten at my wife's elementary summer school program. Yes, you heard right. I'm a middle school art and career education teacher, but I've taught elementary summer school the last three years. Also, I spent a week in a gifted and talented education training. Contrary to popular beliefs, most teachers don't enjoy the "luxury" of being off in the summer. We attend trainings or teach summer school to offset rising gas prices and an ever-increasing cost-of-living. I got a 3% raise this year.
What is your running dream?
I guess I have two "running dreams." The first would be to someday run the Boston Marathon. Actually that's more of a fantasy! Second, and probably more doable, is to run across the U.S. to raise money and awareness for the cause of diabetes. Diabetes is the least funded of all the major illnesses and one of the fastest-growing in terms of numbers diagnosed each year.
What has been your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment, by far, has been raising two daughters that know and love Jesus Christ. Failure is not an option in that case. I am extremely proud of my girls. My family is my life.
How does your family support your running? How do you repay their support?
My family supports my running by calling me "Imelda Marcos" in jest of how many running shoes I have at any given time. To sequester my guilt, we began gathering shoes to send to Zimbabwe. My good friend Jason, a Lounger and big runner, says that gave me more of an excuse to get more shoes. Seriously, my wife appreciates how I want to stay healthy to take care of our family. My girls brag their dad runs every day and that makes me feel good. I repay their support by continuing to run and by giving them time away from cranky dad.
What are your near term and long term running goals?
I have two running goals for September. My dear friend and colleague Anne is fighting a battle against breast cancer. So, I'm planning to run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in late September here in Amarillo. I don't get to travel much to races so I pick whatever is close. We have our Mayor's Half Marathon here in town in about a month that I want to run. Our budget prohibits me from traveling out of town to run. My daughter's insulin pump costs a pretty penny so I'm content with running locally and just anonymously hugging the curb each day after school, dreaming of Heartbreak Hill and crossing that finish line in Boston.
What advice would you give to other runners?
The main advice I would pass along to bigger runners is to never quit. You don't have to look like a Kenyan marathoner to be a "runner." If you have on your shoes and have made the commitment to get out there on the road or treadmill, no matter what your size, you ARE a runner! Stay the course, keep your chin up, and keep moving forward. You can do it!