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Setting Small Goals Helped This Guy Go From Couch Potato to Marathoner in One Year

Chris Peck didn’t set out to become a runner. After receiving a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in summer 2015, the 45-year-old, self-described “couch potato” and “eater of drive-throughs” simply started walking during his 15 to 20-minute work breaks as a school bus driver in an attempt to lose weight. But before long, Peck’s competitive nature inspired him to turn those out-and-back walks into “kind of a contest” to see how much more ground he could cover in the same amount of time. Could he make it to the next corner? Could he explore one more block?

Soon, the 6’2” Lincoln, Nebraska resident, who weighed about 325 pounds at his peak, upped the ante by incorporating spurts of running. And eventually, those spurts snowballed in a really big way: Just about a year after he started exercising, Peck, the former couch potato who used to eat pastries throughout the work day, earned a new title: marathoner.

Pre-running, Peck’s energy levels were low. Basic tasks—like tying his shoes, walking to the car, climbing stairs—required more exertion that he thought they should. When he started walking in the fall of 2015, he’d already been changing his diet for the past couple of months, cutting back on carbs and shedding 50 pounds in the process.

Talking with fellow runners at church and seeing others on the trails—both those who were running farther and faster than Peck and those who were just walking—inspired him to keep pushing. He expanded his mid-work exercise routine to include run-slash-walks on a trail near his house. As Peck increased his endurance, he logged his workouts and set mileage goals that little by little, became more challenging. Running three miles straight was “pretty awesome,” he says. And when he hit double digits? “It was like Facebook-status worthy.”

In the fall of 2015, with a “go big or go home” mindset, Peck set his sights on the Lincoln Half Marathon the following May. He’d never run a race before—not even a 5K or 10K.

“My old self would have thought I was crazy and some of my family was pretty incredulous at the time,” says Peck. While training through Nebraska’s cold winter months for the 13.1-mile race, Peck officially caught the “running bug.” So after successfully finishing the half, he turned his focus to an even bigger challenge: the Kansas City Marathon in October 2016.

When Peck crossed that finish line, it was almost exactly one year since he started exercising. He remembers stooping onto his knees with exhaustion and giving his wife, Melissa Peck, a big hug. The post-marathon runner’s high that Peck experienced, which he describes as a feeling of accomplishment and invincibility, lasted an entire month, maybe two.

Chris Peck

Today, Peck has logged over 3,900 miles and crossed eight marathon finish lines. Even so, he struggles to describe what he loves about the sport. “It’s hard to put into words exactly, but it’s those endorphins,” he says. “It’s just that running high.”

Having recently completed the Kansas City Marathon, he’s now down to 210 pounds, off his diabetes medications, and operating with “very high” energy levels. The simple tasks that were previously arduous now feel like “nothing.”

“Ten years ago, I never would have seen myself as a multiple marathoner,” says Peck, who is running out of room on the lime green medal holder his nephew made him and currently registered for a 50-miler (yes, that’s essentially two full marathons back-to-back) in October.

So what advice would this accomplished athlete give to others who want to run, but might not know where to start? Start small and slow, he says. Just get outside. Walk. Go around the block. Run for just a little bit. With that mindset, who knows what will happen?

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