Friday, August 17, 2012

Mark Rucker's Journey: From Couch Potato to Triathlete

Mark after the 2012 Iron Horse Half Marathon
I've been thinking for some time to mix in some guest posts. I've been fortunate to get to know some amazing people through Twitter, DailyMile and the blogsosphere, that I want to share their stories as well.

Finally, I'm adding guest posts, and I could not think of a more perfect person to feature - Mark Rucker.

I met Mark through DailyMile and then got to meet him in person as we ran the Iron Horse Half Marathon in October of 2012 - his first half marathon. His upbeat, positive and encouraging personality you see online is exactly what you get when you meet him in real life.

Over the past couple years, Mark has been waging the Battle of the Bulge, and he is winning as he's gone from a couch potato to a soon-to-be Ironman! His story is so compelling, he was recently featured on CNN.com.

So without any further ado, here's Mark in his own words:

“I’m SO embarrassed”, I thought to myself. I looked at my daughter. I could see the look of disappointment in her eyes. I was crushed. I knew she was too, but an 11 year old little girl would never say that to her dad. “It’s ok Dad. We can go do some other stuff”, she said. I wanted to cry. Honestly, later that night, I did.

The before photo of Mark
This wasn’t where I planned on being at the age of 40. So overweight and out of shape that I couldn’t even fit on a rollercoaster. My wife and I had taken my kids to Gatlinburg for vacation and my 11 year old, “dare-devil” daughter could not stop talking about riding all of the rollercoasters. All week long that was all that I heard. And when the big day at Dollywood came I couldn’t fit into any of the rides.

I promised my daughter on that trip that the next time we came back things would be different. I was determined to change my life. I was going to get fit and healthy. I was going to change everything immediately and be Superdad. But it didn’t happen. The desire to change was there, but the motivation to do so was lacking.

I continued on my downward health spiral for another year or so after that trip. I had developed sleep apnea and was forced to use a CPAP machine to regulate my breathing at nite. I was also on high blood pressure medication. I was also, most likely, borderline diabetic. I say “borderline” simply because I was too afraid to address the issue with my doctor to find out. I honestly didn’t want to know. At my highest weight I was 365 pounds. Well, I think I was actually closer to 385, but I also stopped weighing myself. 365 is the last weight I remember from the last time that I stepped on the scale.

And then one day, I happened to reconnect with an old friend from high school on Facebook. Anita was always such a great person. She was also someone who had battled weight issues her entire life, like me, maxing out at almost 400 pounds. But something was different about her. She had changed her life. Through diet and exercise she had managed to lose, at the time, almost 180 pounds. (She has since gone on to lose a total of 240 pounds).

I became intrigued with her story. We talked back and forth about how she did it. I was SO amazed at the difference in her. And the fact that she had done it all through healthy eating and exercise absolutely blew me away. I thought “If she can do it then I can to.” But I didn’t.

And then came the 2011 Super Bowl. My wife and I spent the evening with friends and I, of course, ate and drank too much. I woke up early the next morning and felt terrible. I had eaten so much that I had made myself sick. And at that moment something clicked. I realized that if I didn’t do something RIGHT THEN that I was going to have a very short life span. I’d leave my children without a father and my wife without a husband. That thought terrified me.

So I immediately got to work. I decided that the best way to change my life was to make small changes. I had tried to change in the past but I always tried to do everything all at once. That plan usually worked for about 2-3 weeks and then I’d fall apart. Any weight I had lost would immediately be regained and usually more. I started with small changes to my nutrition. After a month of dietary changes I added exercise by walking. After about a month of that I began Couch 2 5K. From there I moved on the Bridge 2 10K, a half marathon, a full marathon, an Olympic distance triathlon and on August 26 I’ll compete in Ironman Louisville.

Mark on a ride this spring with his daughter
I’m still amazed at how this incredible journey started and how far it has taken me in just 17 months. I’m down to 260 pounds and feel amazing. My blood pressure is normal, my sleep apnea is gone and my symptoms of diabetes have all disappeared as well. People have asked me “what made you change?” Honestly, there is no single answer. I’ve thought about what happened. What it was that made the switch flip. I’ve come up with something of a multi-part answer. I had the desire to change. The experience at Dollywood and the promise I made to my daughter provided that. I also had the inspiration provided by my friend Anita Mills. Those two elements, combined with the realization the morning after the Super Bowl that my life has to change, I believe are what led to the creation of my “Perfect Storm.”

I know there are many people out there who have the desire to change. Now I hope that I can do for others what Anita did for me. I want to provide the inspiration. It’s my way of “paying it forward.”

Good luck to all of you on whatever journey you happen to be on. Just know that with small steps you can achieve anything that you set your mind to achieve.

Connect with Mark on DailyMile and Twitter.

3 comments:

  1. Making major lifestyle changes isn't easy at all!! Keep up the good work, Mark! :)

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  2. Great guest post, and a great story. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. Whenever I see someone just carefully walking the track near the river where I run, I always hope this is just a beginning for her/him. Even a walk with stick is better than just sitting in front of TV and waiting for...Godot. Thanks for sharing. astrosailor.

    ReplyDelete