Marathoning From a Big Man’s Perspective

I’m a big guy.  Currently, I’m 6′ tall and weigh 290 pounds (give or take).  I have a large frame anyway and I should be in the 225-230 pound range, from what I can tell.  I’ve been a runner most of my life but a long set of injuries and health issues kept me from doing more than occasional walks and slow jogs for several years. Bear with me a few paragraphs so I can fill in the back story!

In 2011, a series of events started me back on the road to running.  I’d been able to get my health issues largely resolved by finding the right doctors and taking responsibility for my own treatment (I listened to the doctors but raised issues when their diagnoses and plans of treatment didn’t appear to match my symptoms and online research).  In addition, I was part of a “Reduction in Force”.  In short, I was unemployed.  The third thing was that I had participated in a diabetes fund-raiser called the Tour de Cure, a bike ride, in March of 2011.  Shortly after that ride, I got an email about an introductory fun run in May leading to marathon/half marathon training starting in September for a race in January of 2012.

As a result, I decided to start trying to get back on the road on May 1, 2011.  I created an exercise log (you can see its latest incarnation here) so that I could track my miles and see how I was doing from week to week.  From May to the end of August, when formal training with Team Diabetes began, I watched my diet (going from 306 to 280 pounds) and spent many mornings doing quarter-mile laps of the dog park.

I bought new shoes for the training and, even though I was above 300 pounds when I started, I went with minimal shoes.  Nowadays, minimal shoes are kind of old hat but at the time they were all the rage and some of the things that were being said felt like it was just right for me.  My knees have always been a weak point in my running and minimal shoes showed some promise in not transmitting the shock of heel strikes to the knees.  They worked for me, too!  I spent the summer running in them, mostly on the dirt and grass of the dog park.

By the end of August, I was averaging nearly 20 miles a week of walking with just smatterings of slow running mixed in. I decided that I would try for the full marathon with the option to drop back to the half if needed.  As it turned out, I did have to drop back.  I was fine using the minimal shoes until I got out to about 6 miles for the long runs and then I started having serious blister issues. I lost the calluses on the balls of both feet, then got huge blisters on my heels. I went through a whole series of shoes and socks trying to find the right combination for me. Fortunately, I had joined a VIP club at my local running store so I was able to return the shoes when they didn’t work out. I had started out in New Balance 1012 shoes that I’d already had, but almost immediately got MT10 shoes (also from New Balance) but I tried Brooks Ghosts, New Balance 806s, ASICS Nimbus, Brooks Glycerins, and finally New Balance 993.  I also tried several pairs of socks and wound up using Thorlo Experias. Those finally fixed the blisters just in time to run the half in January of 2012.

When still hoping to do the full marathon in January, I had registered for a half marathon as a tuneup in December.  Since I was going out more than half marathon distance before I decided to drop back, I wasn’t worried about completing the run, and I did finish it (though one of the bigger blisters started bleeding in the last 3 miles).  I also did a couple of 10K races in November and did the second one of those at a 14:05/mile pace.

I finished the half at 14:51 pace for a time of 3:21:44.

After the half, I switched to bicycle riding as my main focus for a couple months but still finished the first year with 792.75 miles.

Since then I’ve had a couple years of switching jobs, small injuries and so forth that have kept me from doing as much running as I wanted, even though I did do a couple more half marathons.  I did a lot more actual miles of running, though still doing a lot of walking mixed in.  Unfortunately, every time I get a new job, I gain weight for the first 6 months or so.  I have been bouncing between 300 and 325 most of the time between the finish of that first Rock ‘n’ Roll and this spring.

In the fall of 2015 I started to train for the half marathon again.  I slowly started to lose weight, going from 328 down to the low 300s.  I did the same half in December that I had done back in 2011 but I was sick and dropped down to the 10K for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona.  Right after that, I decided that I needed to go out and push my boundaries so I signed up for the full marathon, giving me almost a year to prepare.  I also joined a challenge on the MapMyRun application to do 1,000 kilometers of running in 2016.

In the last year I’ve run 960 miles (about 1540 km) and counting.  My longest run has been 20 miles. I’ve focused on wearing several pairs of shoes to give my body a chance to get used to the different ways that shoes can feel, sort of like running on trails versus roads versus sandy beaches.  I believe that my shoe of choice will be the Hoka One One Clifton 3, which I wore on the 20 mile run.  I’m also still wearing the Thorlo socks, though I’ve used others including the Smartwool PhD and CEP compression socks.  I have UnderArmour shorts and others from Road Runner Sports that both have compression liners (I can get chafed raw without them).  I have gone through several Body Glide sticks as well.  For my long runs, I use Jelly Belly Sport Beans and Gatorade (still old school about electrolytes).  The beans work out to about 3 or 4 a mile, or a bag every 4 miles or so.  I also run with a Camelbak lumbar pack, especially in the summer.  The one thing that I haven’t succeeded in doing is cutting back on my sugar through the day, and therefore haven’t lost the weight I should have.  I’m a lot more fit than I was, I stretch fairly regularly, and I’m going to run 26.2 miles in one long run, in just under 3 weeks.

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