“I Ran a Half-Marathon and Lost 100 Pounds!”

Lonnie St. John lost one third of his body weight, then won his age group at the 2013 Vancouver USA Half-MarathonLonnie St. John lost one third of his body weight, then won his age group at the 2013 Vancouver USA Half-Marat …NAME: Lonnie St. John
AGE: 43
OCCUPATION: Medical Customer Service
HOMETOWN: Troutdale, Oregon
FAMILY: Awesome wife Roni; four children: Sam, 23; Nick, 21; Hannah, 18; and Christian, 16

What prompted you to start working out?
I've been overweight pretty much my whole life. 2012 started just like any other year. I made the usual "I'm going to lose weight" resolution. A funny thing happened though; I didn't stop once I hit a certain point like I had so many times in the past.

How did you start? The first 20 to 30 pounds I lost just by changing what I ate. I didn't really start working out until later. Given that my physical base was pretty limited, I stuck to the elliptical machine for the first few months. By March I started venturing over to the treadmills at the gym and seeing what I could accomplish, which wasn't much. But I stuck with it and gradually built up to being able to run one mile. Then it was just a matter of showing up every day and putting in the effort.

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Describe your regular workout routine. I run Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. I do speedwork (tempo or mile repeats) on Thursday and my long runs on Sunday. I meet with a personal trainer Monday and Wednesday nights as I'm trying to improve flexibility, strength, and overall conditioning. Saturdays are my day off. I'm training for the Portland Marathon, and aggressively training at that, so my "easy" runs on Tuesday and Friday are still double-digit runs. I'm trying to focus on maintaining my current pace level while increasing my endurance. I'm right on target for my pace when I race a half-marathon, now I just need to be able to do it for twice as long.

What was the biggest hurdle to working out and how did you get over it?
Time is the biggest hurdle for everyone. We all have the time, we just have to make it a priority. Once I got into racing, my workouts started becoming more of a priority for me. You can't show up half the time and expect to get the kind of results you want. There have been many mornings where I wake up (usually at 4:30 a.m.) and don't feel like going to the gym. It's those days where you find out how bad you want it.

What's the most rewarding part of your running life? Without a doubt it is the people I have met through running. The running community is such a tight-knit group and so supportive. I can honestly say that I would not have accomplished what I have in such a short period of time (or at all) if not for the support of those that I have met in the last year.

Did you have a weight-loss goal? On January 1, 2012, I weighed 295 pounds. I know there were many times prior to that where I weighed more. In 365 days I got that down to 197 pounds. Right now I fluctuate between 185 and 190. I'm definitely at a comfortable weight now that I know I can maintain it. At this point it is about being healthy and fit.

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What kinds of changes did you make to what and how you ate?
The first year was all about portion control and eating fewer calories. I had to focus on eating lean proteins and lots of veggies. I completely cut out desserts. Only a handful of times did I splurge on something like pizza or burgers. All of those were my biggest downfall before. Now that I've lost the weight and have a pretty aggressive training regimen, I'm able to be a little more liberal with my diet, at least from the standpoint of gaining weight. Poor food choices still negatively impact my training and performance in races.

What advice would you give to a beginner or someone just starting out?
Stop being afraid! It's going to suck, but it is going to be so worth it. I had heard that before and I can say that as good as you think it will be, it will be even better. Just commit to making as many good decisions with your diet and exercise as you can every day. If you stumble and fall, get back up! And it isn't going to happen overnight. You didn't get that heavy and out of shape in a week, so don't expect to lose it all in a week.

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What are your favorite motivational quotes? I have so many: "Get fit in the gym, lose weight in the kitchen," "Don't run with your feet, run with your heart," and "Wake up and be awesome."
What is your long term goal? The main goal for me right now is to qualify for Boston in 2014 when I run the Portland Marathon on October 6. I coined the hashtag #C2BQ as a play on the couch to 5-K. I'm trying to go couch to Boston Qualifier in less than two years. After Portland I will see where I am and evaluate what I want to tackle next. The 2015 Dopey Challenge is definitely on my radar.

--As told to editors of Runner's World

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