Some people get the opportunity to be great by birth. Some people get the perfect genes and a peaceful start at life. I am not one of those people.My mother at age 16 was forced to adopted me to an abusive family at 3 days old. The first 16 years of my life I don’t remember much, I remember the beatings that I look at the hands of an angry father. I remember as a child explain or hiding bruises, blood noses or other scars from my father. At age 5 my father took his heal and drew a imaginary line through the carpet of our home. He told me that this was the line and I was either on his side of the other. He told me that I didn’t want to cross that line and see what was on the other side. When I asked him I remember him saying ” You dont want me to show you what is on the other side of this line boy”. I stood there wondering what could he do. Because I knew he couldn’t break me or my spirit. I stepped over the line, opening my eyes to the feel the striking of my fathers fist upon my face. Unknowingly to me, these horrendous circumstances would later fuel my life motivations.
The emotional and physical abuse I suffered through childhood severely contributed to my struggles with obesity. I used food to hide my emotions to satisfy the happiness that I yearned for. I went through school larger than life and running would always be something I knew I could never do. Soon after high school, in 1999, I married and settled into life. As the pounds piled on I thought it was just natural. I was the big, fat and funny guy who used food and humor to mask all the pain inside. Later, at 30 years of age, after my divorce I slipped into a dark place where food and alcohol became my coping mechanisms to avoid acknowledging my past.
At 31 I was 347 pounds in September of 2009. I was a morbidly obese, smoker, and alcoholic whom had never run before in my life. The day after this picture was taken my best friend on the left told me that I was spinning out of control and I was eventually going to kill myself with this unhealthy lifestyle. I started making life changes soon after and met my wife to be in April 2010. She was then a student studying Nutrition at the University of Houston studying to be a Registered Dietitian (RD). As the year progressed I started understanding healthful eating and began modifying my diet. By changing the way I ate and doing minimal exercise I lost about 50 pounds that year. Exercise was a big challenge to me since I was still a pack a day smoker.
On January 17th 2011 my now wife made a statement that would change my life forever, “Quit smoking, or I’m leaving you.” She hated that I smoked and finally let me know how serious that hate was. It was the first time that someone had cared more about me than I did myself. I quit smoking that day. Jan 19th I began a runner. I still have my first mapmyrun on my desktop: 1 mile, 17 min. I can still remember the agony that I felt as I sprinted 30 yards only to start walking. I can remember wondering how in the world people even ran 1 mile. Once I started running, I decided to run a half marathon with my other best friend, Jeremy Hanson, in San Antonio for my birthday that November. I began to love the challenge of running and completed the half marathon in Nov with 6 other friends. As soon as I left that race I began to wonder if I had more in me, if I could run farther. The next weekend I ran 20 miles. Through the running and weight loss I experimented with vegetarianism and went completely vegetarian in December of 2012.
In the midst of all the healthy choices I was making, I was still continuing to abuse alcohol. Fat Tuesday (Februrary 20th, 2012) would be the last night I would be alcoholic. I had promised to quit drinking for years, but this night was unlike others. As I laid there unresponsive my wife asked me why I had been drunk yet again. I had no answers for her or myself. That day I went to an AA meeting and quit drinking. I then decided to run the Grasslands Ultra 50miles in March 2012 sober. I will admit I had never run on the trails, and was completely in over my head, but trained hard and thought I was ready. Mile 17 of the race I hit a rock with my right foot and fractured it in 3 places. I decided to continue, but ended up DNF’ing (Did Not Finish) at 33 miles- which was my longest run to date.
After 6 weeks of healing I was back to running. At the end of May 2012, I was running the circle around memorial park and I was bored. I ended up going up the street and coming back when I saw a white fence that looked like an opening. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. As soon as I made my way through the fence on that muddy day the rain started to come down and my life as a trail runner began. I always tell people that trail running found me. I was looking for something different that day and trail running was it. Since that day, I have continued to loose weight, (I’m down 163 lbs), continued vegetarianism, remained sober (and counting), and completed the Cactus Rose (50 miler).
After Cactus Rose I realized that it was time for me to give back to the community that had supported me during all of my major life changes. On December 17th, 2012 (my one year wedding anniversary) I started Houston Area Trail Runners (HATR). Houston Area Trail Runners is a trail club that will enable us to give back to the trails we run, encourage those who run with us, and inspire those who want to change. We recently debuted our club at the Bandera 100k Trail Championship a few weeks ago with a great amount of support.
So if you have read this far then you can see from above that one man’s change can make a difference in the lives of many. But it is my time to give back and to share to people the real story of real people. I wasn’t a track star in high school; I didn’t come from great genes or run a 2:12 mile. But I am a real person who despite all the worst situations in life decided to take a stand and take my life back one day at a time. These sacrifices and tribulations have led me to the place where I want to share the power of change. Through the pain, the gain and the running I have found the life that God had intended me to have. I am happy, I am healthy and I am running.