On October 16th, I completed my first marathon. Four years ago, almost to the day, I quit drinking cold-turkey and decided to live a healthy life. I went from 625lbs to 235lbs, conquered high blood pressure, and prevented Type-2 diabetes. October 13, 2012 is the day I turned things around, and to celebrate this year, I ran a marathon.

After months and months of training, I had run three half-marathons and two 25k races, then I ended up having surgery to remove my excess skin. This amounted to four separate procedures over six hours each, with a total of over 30lbs of skin removed. Throughout this, I spent about six months in recovery, and wasn’t able to lift more than 10lbs or get my heart rate up. Once all the incisions had healed, I had to start over again. I walked for weeks before I could attempt running, and when I finally did run, it was very slow going. Ten months after my last surgery, I completed the marathon.

Running a marathon was a goal of mine as soon as I realized that I could run. I was never a runner when I was young, and as I grew older and gained weight, I gave up any hope of being athletic. When I began the race that Sunday in Detroit, I was nervous—but I knew that I had trained for it, and I knew that I was capable of finishing. Five hours and thirty-one minutes later, I crossed the finish line. I felt a deep satisfaction. All of my hard work had led me to this moment, to this victory. After the initial rush of satisfaction wore off, all I could think about was the mile long walk back to my car.

Brian Flemming First Marathon

I was very sore after the marathon, and I took the next day off. I didn’t do anything strenuous, and made sure to stretch a lot. On Tuesday morning, I woke up, put my running gear on, and went out the door. I walked for a while and decided to jog a little. The trees were beginning to turn for fall, and golden yellow leaves scattered on the ground as I went by. I felt pretty good, and kept going for three miles. As I rounded the last corner and slowed down for my cooldown walk, something occurred to me. I woke up this morning and ran as I did every Tuesday. The difference this time was that I had just ran a marathon two days prior. I had accomplished my goal, but I was still out running.

While I was losing weight, I used to worry about what would happen when I got down to my goal. Weight loss was a drive that kept me going from day to day, and I worried that once it stopped coming off, I would lose my motivation. The same thing happened this past weekend. I wondered what would happen after I completed my marathon goal.

The thing that occurred to me was that everything I’ve done with healthy eating and exercise was never just a means to an end. It was all a process. It was something that had become so ingrained into my life, that it just kept perpetuating itself. I was eating to be healthy. I was running because I enjoyed it.

The marathon was something I strived to reach, but it was never the end of my work. I still struggle sometimes to eat healthily, and I struggle to get out the door in the morning and exercise. But this is all part of a process. A process that will forever be a part of my life, and I now embrace it.

I will always have goals to strive for. Once I complete these goals, I don’t know what comes after. I do know that tomorrow morning, I will put on my running shoes, go out the door, and continue the process.

Brian Flemming First Marathon