Will Running a Marathon Make You Skinny? A Surprising Answer is Not Necessarily

The marathon is the iconic distance shrouded in mystery, and crowned with glamor. Just finishing it is considered an accomplishment.  At one time it was widely believed that just running a marathon would make you immune from a heart attack, and this belief was widely held until running evangelist Jim Fixx, and best selling author of The Complete Book of Running, died of a heart attack – while running:

Fixx often quoted California pathologist Tom Bassler who stated that any nonsmoker who could run a marathon in under four hours would never die from a heart attack.


So, can people run marathons without necessarily losing weight?  The study is small, the exact implications are not clear, but fitness researcher Mary Kennedy of the Harvard Medical School was surprised to find  that for whatever reason some people who run marathons will not necessarily loose. weight. There are many breathless iterations of this story on the web, and I have not been able to find the original research, but New York Magazine’s “The Science of Us” web page carried the most reasonable version of the story stripped of the sensationalism. Here is a quote from that story:

She conducted a small, simple pilot study, limited to her group of 64 charity runners, comparing their weight before starting the training program to their weight after completing it. About 11 percent of them did lose weight, but just as many gained weight (and of those who gained, 86 percent were women). But for the remaining 78 percent, their weight stayed almost exactly the same, even after three months of running four days a week.

This summer Runners World ran a remarkable article about Mirna Valerio who is a 250 lb, and they actually use the term, “obese runner.”  She is a distance runner who also runs the occasional marathon.  You can read the story here:  http://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/ultra  and I urge you to visit her  interesting blog Fat Girl Running.

So now we know that running marathons does not guarantee that you will not have a heart attack, and there continues to be reports of runners who look fit, but who die while running like my friend and mentor Arne Richards, of whom Joe Henderson has written so movingly.

We need to understand that being thin, my friend Arne was very thin with practically no body fat when he died while running at age 42, does not guarantee being physically fit or healthy. Same thing applied to Jim Fixx.  Conversely, we need to understand that running long distances is no guarantee of shedding pounds.  It is more complicated than that.

A life of holistic moderation lived mindfully is the target that I am aiming for.  That includes a good diet, adequate sleep, reducing stress, and an exercise regime that is backed by empirical evidence rather than wishful, and simplistic, thinking.  All of these things work together.  I will close now by referring you to an article in Women’s Running by Rachel Cosgrove which is simply outstanding.  It is entitled Weight Loss Fact and Fiction.  Please read it.


Before & After: What Running Ugly Did for Me

What a winter!  Every February is a trial and now that we are into March we are one day away, this Friday, from mild weather.  It is not so much the cold here in Missouri as it is the huge variability. If the weather would stay the same I would be able to get used to it.  It is amazing that after all these years it still effects me so strongly.

Instead of running as much as I would like,  I have been working out inside at home, and at the gym.   I found a great weight routine that I will be sharing in my next post.  However today I thought I would share a before and after picture of me.   I found them this evening when I was going through photos.

man and women running outside
This is a picture of me running my first 5k after loosing about sixty pounds. You can see I still have a long ways to go.

The first picture is what I looked like over two years ago after I had already lost around sixty pounds.  This was my first 5k in over thirty years and I ran it with all my kids – three young women, and my son, as well as my daughter in law. It wasn’t pretty but I got it done.  My maiden voyage.  It was a bit cool, but otherwise a beautiful day, and it was good to be with my family. By the way, the shoes pictured in the masthead are the very ones I was wearing in the above picture.  I still have them in my closet. I lost a lot of weight walking and running in those shoes.

Man holding bab with three young women.
Me holding my first grandchild, pictured with my three daughters. Very blessed to have them all.

This next picture is the after picture – about a year and a half later.  In the meantime I have lost  another forty pounds or so, and gained a granddaughter. You can see my three beautiful daughters, as well as my granddaughter, in this picture. I have a lot to be grateful for.  It has been a wonderful journey.

When I started running again (after a thirty year layoff following the untimely  death of my running mentor Arnie Richards), I had made the decision to start running ugly.  I decided to throw my ego to one side and do it regardless of what I looked like.  I didn’t even think about it.   Otherwise I would have never moved on.  And, if  I can do it anyone else can.  You just have to start.  You don’t have to run fast, you don’t even have to run far, and you don’t even have to start running at all – just walk.  The secret is to just start.  I started by walking one mile and kept at it.  I was absolutely thrilled when I worked my way up to running a mile without stopping. Every time I run I am thankful for one more opportunity to move, feel alive, and be in this wonderful world.

Coming up a story about weight lifting for masters/senior runners as well as an article about running safety.

A Run Down Memory Lane: Manhattan, Kansas

This post is about a special run I had this week in Manhattan, Kansas.  I am still working on the post regarding the two pedometers I am reviewing.  I was surprised that one is completely useless, and the other good, but not great.  I failed to explain what piqued my interest though, and that both are worn on the wrist.  I will explain. My father is 79 years old and I am looking for a way to motivate him to walk more, and he agrees with me that the pedometer would be helpful.  We also thought that something worn on the wrist might be more user friendly for him.  However, I decided this week that I would continue to report “news” type stories as they occurred in order to preserve their timeliness.   Now about my return to the streets of Manhattan, Kansas, after an absence of 35 years.

We are currently in Denver staying in a wonderful house we found through Airbnb.  To get here we had to drive from Columbia, MO., and on the way out I wanted to take the opportunity  to stop in Manhattan, Kansas. It is a long story.

Man in running clothes standing in front of a house.
Me standing in front of the house where I lived with a bunch of KU students.

Years ago I lived at the corner of 12th and Vattier, right next to Aggieville, and about a block away from Kansas State University, while I was in the Army stationed at Ft. Riley. In this picture we had just arrived. It was an emotional moment for me.  Manhattan is where I met my running mentor, Arne Richards, and where I trained for two marathons and one ultramarathon (the first 50k held in Manhattan in 1979 which was the year I was discharged).

Aggieville is only a block and a half away, and my wife Jenifer  was gracious enough to camp there while my daughter Rachel ran with me. Aggieville is a small piece of real estate dense with businesses that cater to students from KU. It has character.  It is a great place with interesting restaurants, a theater that is still standing where I watched the first Rocky movie, and Varney’s Bookstore

Varney's Bookstore in Manhattan, Kansas
Varney’s Bookstore in Aggieville next to the KU campus.

which is still in business after all these years.  I used to shop at Varney’s and was delighted to see it was still standing, but disappointed that Brothers’s Tavern is no longer among the living.  I remember purchasing  a copy of Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha at Varney’s.  This was also back when bookstores were more important, and before they unfortunately started becoming scarce with the advent of the internet and Amazon.

After making sure that Jenifer was settled in at Starbucks Rachel and I started our run. The first place  we headed for was “the hill” that Arne and I used to train on The hill is a steep quarter mile from the lowland areas to a ridge overlooking the town.

Girl in running clothes standing on a rock.
Rachel at the top of “the hill” at the Manhattan Country Club.

At the top of the hill is where the Manhattan Country Club is located and the view is spectacular.  Especially at night.  We used to sneak up there and run on the grass after dark, but otherwise we would just run up, enjoy the view, and then run down. Not all parts of Kansas are flat.  As a matter of fact, Manhattan is located in the Flint Hills which is very hilly, and, I think, beautiful.

We continued our run and then we just sort of meandered around the neighborhood where I used to live.  It was so enjoyable to go back there after all this time and remember old friends and old times.

Hilltop view of Manhattan Kansas.
View from the top of “the hill” overlooking Manhattan, Kansas.

I am  so thankful that Rachel, an accomplished runner in her own right (cross-country and track).  agreed to run with me.  It was nice being with her for this moment that was so rich with emotion, and especially to be able to share it with somebody.

Me running down "the hill," while Rachel takes my picture.  Thanks Rachel!
Me running down “the hill,” while Rachel takes my picture. Thanks Rachel!

After running through my old neighborhood we double-backed and ran back to Starbucks where Rachel joined her mother who with her usual patience was waiting for us.  After dropping Rachel off I continued my run on the KU campus.  Again, so many of the old landmarks and places were still there.

I was especially glad to see the outdoor  track was still standing, and that it was still open for anybody to come in and use.  I used to go there and do interval training.  So, I allowed myself a lap around the track for old times sake as well as a run up to the top for the view.  I had it all to myself, and as a matter of fact I only saw a handful of people while I was there.  The campus was practically deserted over the holiday break adding to the surreal feeling of the day.  Like so many of the other things I have mentioned it was good to see that the track was still there, and is even being rennovated.

The outdoor track at KU that is still open to the public.
The outdoor track at KU that is still open to the public.
Outdoor track and playing field at KU
Outdoor track at KU

I have to say that this was the most meaningful running experience I have ever had, and I have had a number of them.   To be able to go back to a place that is so rich with memories, from running and otherwise, and experience the atmosphere again, relive some of those times, was simply wonderful.

Before closing I want to give a special thanks to my wife and daughter for indulging me the time to revisit a special place and time.  Thank you so very much.

Two women in Starbucks.
My wife Jenifer, and my daughter Rachel. Two of the best people I know. Thank you for everything. I took this picture of them at the the table where they sit together after I dropped Rachel off before heading off by myself to run on the KU campus.

I do want to apologize for the quality of the pictures.  My waterproof camera case decreases the quality of the pictures my iphone takes.  As mentioned earlier I am still working on my review of the pedometers, and I am also working on a new story on Nordic, cross-country, skiing.  Today I had my first opportunity to try Nordic skiing.  It was not pretty, but I did manage three miles.