Running from Food

Learning to have a healthy relationship with food through the joy of running.

My Race (and Weight) History

WARNING: It’s about to get really real up in here.

I feel like a lot of people start their weight loss story with something like “I’ve been overweight ever since I can remember.”

For me, that’s kind of true, kind of not. I remember people asking my mom growing up if she was feeding me. True story.

Someone posted this (now) embarrassing photo of me on Facebook a while back. I think this is 7th grade.

middle school

See, I told you it was gonna get real.

The weird thing is, I always felt fat. I always felt like people looked at me and immediately thought “fat.”

To this day, I can’t explain this. Or, I should say, I’ve never fully explored this, my body issues as a teenager.

Somewhere around my sophomore year of high school, I hit a major growth spurt, I shot up to just about what is now my present height, 5-foot-11, up from 5-foot-6 or so. All in the course of 6 to 9 months. And I ate everything in sight. I was the leading scorer for my YMCA basketball team (my one claim to athletic fame growing up), and I kept eating.

Problem was, my growth spurt stopped.

But my appetite didn’t.

Fast forward to my late 20s. I’m approaching 30, I have two kids and I look like this:

Rock bottom

Rock bottom – even my kid looks disgusted with me.

To be honest, I’m surprised I wasn’t bigger. For all the years of binge eating and shame eating, I’m surprised I didn’t weigh more.

Then, one night, my wife challenged me to run a half marathon with her.

I laughed in her face. Literally. I laughed. Out loud.

Then I thought about it.

I thought about how tired I was of being lazy. Of YMCA basketball being my only claim to fame when it came to doing something that involved moving my body on purpose.

But most of all, I was tired of being tired. And lazy.

So I did something about it. I got off my behind, started training for a half marathon. I told myself I would cross the finish line in less than 2 hours. I lost 65 pounds in the process. The night before the half, I was 76 pounds lower than my highest recorded weight.

And this was the result:

2010 Ogden Half Marathon

2010 Ogden Half Marathon

I was hooked. I got bit by the running bug.

Crossing that finish line in May of 2010 was easily the proudest moment of my life outside of that day I actually conned my wife into marrying me or the birth of my kids.

I had done it.

I had set a goal and *GASP* hadn’t given up.

And so I kept going. As soon as we got home from Ogden, we started looking for more races to run. We found the Pocatello Half around Labor Day of that same year. And in the course of 5 months, I had done twice what I thought could never be possible once: I ran 13.1 miles…in one day….in the course of just two hours each.


I was at the peak of my adult physical conditioning!! I felt like an athlete. I felt like a machine.

I felt like I could do anything I set my mind to.

It felt amazing.

My current inspiration photo

My current inspiration photo

And then the lazy bug bit me again.

I started to get complacent.

I fell back into old habits.

I thought I could live in my “if I want to eat it, I’m gonna eat it” world at the same time as my “I want to keep hitting PRs.”

Something in the back of my mind told me I couldn’t live in both worlds, and if I was going to think like an athlete, I needed to eat like an athlete.

I pushed that voice away.

Mostly, because I was still having success.

In the spring of 2011, as a tune up for our second-annual Ogden Half Marathon (aka, the place where it all started), we decided to run the Salt Lake Half Marathon.

And, despite a 3-minute pee stop, I set a new PR, beating my old one by over a minute.

Another go along with a few extra pounds.

Another medal…to go along with a few extra pounds.

My new PR only fueled my irrationality

“See?” the fat me told me. “You can have it all! You can eat whatever you want and the miles will wash it all away. The training makes it all okay!”

I really thought I had struck gold. Just train for half marathons, and you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.

And the addiction came back.

I started binge eating again. I started shame eating.

Binging cause I couldn’t stop. Shaming because I knew, deep down, I was sabotaging myself. And I started to hate that part of me again.

But I kept running.

The black is indeed slimming...I'm starting to gain weight again

The black is indeed slimming…I’m starting to gain weight again

That made 4 marathons to date. All just at or below 2 hours.

I thought I could just do this forever.

I even tried a 5k that summer.

Granted, there were only 35 entrants, but I finished second, behind this rascal who out-kicked me over the last 100 yards to take home 1st place.

Starting to noticeably fill out now.

Starting to noticeably fill out now.

And then, in the summer of 2011, for some reason, I just decided to take a break from running.

But, like high school, the eating didn’t stop.

I skipped over race opportunity after race opportunity in the summer and fall of 2011. And kept eating.

Looking back now, there was a void. A void from not training. From not pursuing that next goal.

And I filled that void with food, like I always had in my life.

October of 2011 rolled around, and it was time to register for next year’s Ogden Half Marathon.

On a whim, without really thinking it through at all, I signed myself up for the Full Marathon.

I’m just going to do this, I thought.

I started training. I got all the way up to a 13 mile run.

And then I let the voice take over.

You know that voice you have in the back of you’re head when you’re running that tells you “Why are you doing this? You’re tired, you’re miserable, this hurts and you could be at home relaxing. You’re crazy.”

The voice wouldn’t shut up that day. It just wouldn’t shut up. I had lost the will to push it back like I had learned to before. I wasn’t mentally equipped to push it back. I wasn’t fully committed. I wasn’t invested.

And I let it win.

I still know exactly what road and what spot on that road I stopped running. I ripped my hat off my head, tore my headphones out of my ears, threw them both on the ground and screamed at the top of my lungs. Screamed in frustration that I couldn’t get the voice to shut up. Telling it to shut up. Telling it to go away.

There are two ways to make that voice go away. One is to keep pushing, keep training and envision that finish line. The other is to give up and stop running.

I gave up.

I was done. I was done training. I was done running.

I gave up.

I gave up on running and I gave up on myself. And worst of all, I gave up on my wife.

She had been my biggest cheerleader, my biggest support and my inspiration.

We trained together, taking turns watching the kids so the other could go running. We kept each other accountable. We shared our successes. We lifted the other up when one of us was down.

And I just gave up on her. I told her I was done running. She was already registered for Ogden the next year, and I told her she’d have to go it on her own.

I spent the winter of 2011-2012 feeling outwardly that running was a nice phase I went through for a period, but that I was “over it.” Inwardly, I was battling the same old demons. I was eating too much, becoming too complacent and lazy, and hating myself for it the whole time.

The next spring, the guilt of giving up on my wife, who had been the reason I fell in love with running in the first place, was too much.

I transferred my full Ogden registration for the half, then signed up for the Salt Lake Half Marathon again and ran it with a friend under the auspices of “training” for Ogden, only a month away.

But, in the two years since my first half, I had gained back more than half of the 65 pounds I had lost.

My body couldn’t handle it. The pounding of the extra pounds. The lack of training.

I finished…barely. I almost had to crawl across the finish line.

Can you see the emotions that smile is masking?

Can you see the emotions that smile is masking?

A month later, at Ogden, which used to bet the Super Bowl of running for me, the result wasn’t much better. I finished. And got a medal. But not much more.

ogden 2012

And then, with my obligation to not abandon my wife for a race we registered for months ago fulfilled, I put away the running shoes.

Oh, sure, I dusted them off a few times in the early summer, trying to get that spark back. But I just wasn’t the same.

You often hear people who lose weight talk about the “person they used to be.”

That’s how I feel about myself. It’s certainly how I felt in the spring, summer and fall of 2010. I was a different person.

I think it’s important to relive past failures just as much as past successes. That’s where this post is coming from. I became a different person when I first fell in love with running.

Somehow, I lost that person.

I’d like to find that person again. I’d like to hold onto that person.

I’d like to tell him when I do find him, “Don’t ever let this go again. Appreciate this. Appreciate who you are and what you’ve accomplished. Appreciate how much more you could do. Remind yourself every day how hard this journey was and that you don’t ever want to have to do it again.”

That day is coming.

And although it feels so far away, I know it will be here before I know it.

Can you relate to my story? Leave a comment below, or visit me on Twitter or Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.

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3 thoughts on “My Race (and Weight) History

  1. Wendy Vincent on said:

    James, your story is awesome! It motivates me to not only run more, but work on mike and i’s food. we love soda. ugh. i am pregnant right now, ran really frequently before pregnancy and now (22 weeks in) I keep listening to the voice that says to quit. Even if I can’t run fast and I have to take it easy, I can still get out there and try. And I can eat an apple instead of a cupcake…. Well, most of the time, anyway. And tell your cute wife I miss her. She’s awesome.

  2. Your story is very interesting to me. The breaks I’ve had from running were because of pregnancies or nursing babies. Running was taken from me, not my choice. But the end result was still the same. Once the babies were born, it became my choice again to run or not run. The voice of negativity and discouragement is very very strong. So I can relate to everything you wrote down. I once wrote a post about this very thing. I connected the voice of doubt as coming from the Adversary. I don’t know, running just connects me to spiritual thoughts a lot of the time. To get back into running, I know I must of made a conscious choice one day to just do it, but I can vividly remember that without really thinking, I just put on my running shoes, told Arik I’d be back and headed out the door. My old running music blasted in my ears and it brought up wonderful memories of races and the feeling you get from beating yourself and flaunting your successes in front of the voice of doubt. I hope you and running will rekindle your friendship. Thanks for the post. It was a great read.

  3. James, Your journey is like looking back at my success and failures. I know what it is like to lose a ton of weight and get in a comfortable mood,then regain some of it, thinking well I am running I can eat whatever I want. This is a lifetime journey and there will be ups and downs the good news is that you have put on the breaks and realized what you need to do. Live it a day at a time and do not beat yourself up to much when you do slip, look at it as a learning experience. Feel free to give me a shout if you need any motivation. Happy running!

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