My name is Lonnie St John. I’ve been overweight my whole life. Even though I was always active as a kid playing sports, the best you could probably describe me on a good day was “big”. Not much changed when I became an adult, and with each passing year I became less active.
As 2012 approached, my wife and I made our usual “we are going to do it” pledge to get healthy. I weighed in the morning of January 1st…295pounds. I was actually surprised it wasn’t higher. Even though we said we were committed to making a change, nothing seemed all that different from every other time we had said this. On several occasions I had dropped anywhere from 20-30 pounds. Then for any number of reasons I would stop what I was doing and go right back to doing what I was doing before. No big shock, the weight would come back.
This time we decided to try something different. We had heard about this radical idea of eating fewer calories and increasing our activity. I know, it sounds pretty far-fetched. I told myself if I was going to restrict my calories, then I was really going to do it. Healthy or not, I started eating no more than 600-800 calories a day. I’ve always been an analytical person, so it didn’t take long of eating so few calories before I realized that I needed to get as much food as I can within those limitations. Salad and vegetables became my biggest weapon. After being hungry 24/7 for a couple of weeks, I made drastic changes to what I was eating. Soon after I was able to still limit what I was eating in regards to calories but still be eating a large quantity of food.
I dropped 10 pounds pretty quick. Just as quick, 10 became 20. By the end of January I had lost 30 pounds. The most important thing was that I was hooked. My clothes were fitting better, I had more energy and people were starting to notice the changes.
I was in between gyms at that time as the gym I was going to off and on had closed down. My wife had been going to a new gym in our area and really seemed to like it. Once I started going back to the gym it all started coming together. I was going to the gym more days than not, watching what I was eating and you could almost see the changes daily. It did require some constant tweaking of what I was doing though. With the increased activity level there was no way I could survive on so few calories a day. With encouragement from friends I was able to refine my eating habits to make sure my body was getting the fuel it needed.
Around April, after I had lost a good chunk of weight, I started incorporating running into my workouts. One day, I was running my mouth to my varsity cross country running daughter about my running, who fired back about running the Starlight Run 5K. Feeling overly confident, I eagerly agreed. Letting my ego get the better of me, I just figured I needed to go as hard as I could for as long as I could with my runs each day. That’s how I did all my workouts before. It didn’t take long for little injuries to start popping up, causing me to miss some serious training time. By the time the 5K rolled around I had only had a handful of workouts the few weeks leading up to the race. But I kept my word and I ran. I finished and my time was disappointing given my level of fitness.
During the pre-race festival for Starlight, my daughter had picked up a flyer for another race in July that was going to be 4 miles. Since I was eager to run races with her I said we would do it. Doing some research on the race I noticed that it was part of a larger half marathon event. 13.1 miles…what kind of insane people run that far?! My education about running began at that very moment.
By summer, I had lost about 70 pounds and had quite a few friends and family following me on Facebook, constantly encouraging me. I off handedly posted the question of whether I was insane or not for considering running a marathon. I was floored by the responses I got that said I should definitely do it. I wasn’t so sure about it but I did decide to buy a couple of books on the subject. One by Hal Higdon and the other The Complete Guide to Marathons by Runner’s World. I read both cover to cover in a very short period of time. Although I was still not sure about a marathon, I knew that if I followed the plans in the books I could do a half marathon. I immediately laid out my workout plans and got busy. I had some bumps along the way and even had to postpone my planned half marathon by a few weeks. But I did finally do it on 9/22/12 at the North County Wine Run.
2013 was a year of huge accomplishments for me. I set big PRs in every distance I ran. My current PRs are 21:05 for the 5K, 1:36:15 for the half marathon and I just completed my first marathon in Portland in 4:07:18. For a fat, old guy, I found out I’m not half bad at this running thing.
I’ve come along ways the last two years, but still have a long ways to go. I have an awesome support system of friends and family who constantly push and encourage me to be the best I can. I know I could not have done it without them. I’ve gone from someone trying to lose weight by running to someone that considers himself a runner who has lost weight. The person I was before no longer exists. He will always be there as a sense of motivation but I’m no longer as concerned about becoming him again.
So what makes me special? What could I possibly offer other people? The fact that I’m NOT special is what makes me special. I’m just like everybody else. I have a full time job with an hour commute each way. I have a wife and kids who require my time. I have a mortgage, a car payment and credit card debt. I have the same crap in my life that everybody else does. And yet, in 22 months I went from couch potato to someone who lost 100 pounds and ran a marathon. I am proof that if you truly want something bad enough and you are willing to put in the effort, you will be able to achieve it. It is my hope that through the sharing of my successes and failures that I can help others reach the goals they are struggling with.