By Stephen Last
I often wonder where to start when I tell this story. I have always been large, being 310 at 22. During my twenties I went back and forth from 310-360 lbs depending on if I had a desk job or an active job. However, starting 10 years ago around my brother’s wedding when I was 320 lbs, I started going up beyond 360 lbs.
I did not take a whole lot of pictures in that time frame. I was ashamed of how I looked. I knew I was gaining weight but ignored it. Pictures with my nieces were ok because I loved them. In 2012 when my youngest niece was 9 months old, I was 465 pounds.
What made me get help? The moment where I could no longer ignore it, came in the summer of 2012. I went swimming for the first time in at least 5 years. I was over my head in a pool, and floated upright with no effort, as if I was wearing a life jacket. At that moment I knew it was bad, because that had never happened before and I knew it could only happen if I was extremely high in body fat.
I had not weighed myself in many years either. It was not until I started getting help at a local health clinic where they took my weight and blood pressure, where I found out I was 465 lbs with a 183-105 bp, in October of 2012. The kindness given to me by the nurse practitioner I saw, as well as the many nurses, staff and volunteers is what helped me feel good enough about myself to begin to do something about my weight.
It was hard at first, I only lost 35 lbs in six months and stayed there until October 2014. I had been referred to the Ottawa Weight Management Clinic at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus. I first met with the Doctor there in the spring of 2013. He said something to me I will never forget, and is a large part of my success. He said “It is not your fault.” I always blamed myself for my weight, but after hearing him say that and his explanation, I actually cried. I felt like a huge weight was lifted.
He gave me a couple of options. The first was the gastric bi-pass surgery, and the second was a six-month program that used Opti-Fast 900 shakes for three months to help lose weight fast, while coming up to the clinic once a week to participate in a 1.5 hour class on nutrition, behaviour, or fitness. I chose the second option. I started it at the end of September 2014 and the picture of me in the brown shirt was just after I started, it was the first time I was genuinely happy in a pic, because I was full of hope.
I lost 80 pounds on the shake and at Christmas 2014 I was 350 lbs. I succeeded in losing more after the shakes because of the information the program armed me with. During this time I was participating in a local walking program through my health clinic. The picture of me in that group was in March when I was 320 pounds.
By May 31st 2015 I was 290 pounds. This was the BIG milestone for me. I was far enough below 300 lbs to celebrate that fact. I met a friend that day, which is how I remember. She has been my biggest inspiration for running. She got me to try a few charity runs, which I had to mostly walk. I started to train to run, in July after a 10 km I walked in 96 minutes.
By October I ran my first 10 km in 65 minutes. I did that having only run 5 km before. During the winter, with the online support of my friend who was at school in Toronto, I started training up to run 10 km on a regular basis. It was in March 2016 that I took a picture with my old pair of shorts. On April 30th 2016 I ran my first half with my friend. It was the Cornwall Run to End MS.
This past year, I have met so many new and amazing people because of my running. The Cornwall Multisport Club has some amazing athletes and inspirational people. Two of whom also appeared in your 150 runners issue. In July of 2016 I, with the inspiration of my friend who was travelling in Holland, participated in a 4 day walk, 40 km per day. It took 9 hours per day.
The fall of 2016 consisted of improving my 10 km time to 54:37 and running another half in 2:08:10. Then began my training for this marathon, in the winter. I made some mistakes, missed a few runs, perhaps did not carb load enough, but in the end, I managed to complete my first marathon on April 29, 2017 in 4:53:51.
“Be the person you want to meet,” has taken on a whole new meaning for me. As I progressed I kept meeting new people, all of whom seemed to come along at the exact right moment to make a positive impact on my journey. From the people at the health and weight clinics, to the people in my walking groups, my friend who got me running, and those in the Cornwall MultiSport Club. To everybody reading this, I want to say two things: 1) You can change. 2) To everyone who helped me along the way, thanks. You saved my life.