Q&A with Marathon Brian

I've been a part of Daily Mile for two years now and feel like I have gained a lot of true friends, many of whom I have yet to meet in person. One of those people is Brian, who is far and away one of the top commenters on my workouts. I look forward to hearing from him after most of my runs. He has a weight loss journey that I greatly admire -- he lost 70 pounds in 2010 and blasted through an awesome race year in 2011. He also launched a blog somewhat recently -- Marathon Brian. If plans fall into place, I'll meet Brian in person later this year at the Richmond Marathon.

It is my pleasure to welcome Brian to my blog today with a Q&A. I hope you enjoy!

What was your first race? Describe your thoughts? My first race was AIDS Run Walk Chicago on September 15, 2007. I was 40 years old at that time and participating in employee/client events like this were "part of the job" of being a senior executive in a company.

I had been a consistent recreational runner for 11 years, but never pulled the trigger on participating in an actual race. I was confident that I wouldn't embarrass myself pre-event, and placed 9th in my Age Group and the top-29th percentile in a fast track 5k event.

I emerged from my first race with the "vision" that I could actually win Age Groups and an overall event if I focused, trained consistently, and put my heart into it.

I've finished second in my Age Group at the AIDS event for the past 2 years and finally won an event Age Group title in 2011, but the vision and groundwork was established in my first race.

You are scaling back your marathon schedule this year a bit. What are you looking forward to most? I participated in 16 events in 2010, the first full year of my "return to fitness," but many of those events replaced regularly-scheduled training runs and workouts, setting 14 new Personal Records (PRs) that year. I participated in 16 events in 2011, but it was much more difficult to improve upon 2010's strong results, only setting 9 new event PRs last year.

However, I experienced tremendous growth as an event competitor in 2011 that wasn't always reflected in placements and timing results. I went from running 0 marathons to 6 in 12 months, including debuting at Boston.

I also became a serious contender in short and middle-distance events, with expectations that I'd be in the running for high overall placements and Age Group hardware.

Unfortunately, I lost the "organic spark" that made training and event participation enjoyable for me in 2010, often doing events because it was on the schedule or that I paid it.

So I made a decision to leave several events off 2012's schedule, cut down on flying and travel, and allow more legitimate time for growth and experimentation. I'm enjoying my current training and preparation efforts, so I'm hoping that carries over to actual events this season.

Your weight-loss journey and continued fitness is admirable. What keeps you so driven to continue to improve? I'm motivated by many of the same factors that spurred me on after my first race; you realize that you can improve more after you've improved more. I've finally achieved my goals to win Age Groups and place higher, but I still haven't won an overall event title. The dream of an overall win keeps me humble, dedicated, consistent, and motivated.

How has your healthier lifestyle impacted friends and family? Those close to me have probably gotten used to it now, but I think I flipped a lot of them out in 2010, losing almost 70 pounds by time I crossed the Chicago Marathon's finish line. I was also in training all the time, on a diet all the time, and that's a jolt for some friends who were accustomed to my well-stocked "snack food cabinet" in the kitchen and a refrigerator loaded with soda and beer in past years.

There's still the friend who says "you're too skinny," every once in awhile, but most people are happy that I've found something that works for me.

I now store organic specialty tea in the former snack food cabinet and haven't had beer or soda in my refrigerator since last summer. I don't miss them.

What's one piece of advice you have for someone seeking to make a lifestyle change? Writer Malcolm Gladwell in his book, "The Tipping Point," describes how human behavior is influenced by one's environment. By early 2010, I was heavily involved on Twitter, Facebook, and Daily Mile; most of my "friends" being athletic individuals participating in events and meetups; actively celebrating their joy and accomplishments.

One of those "friends" called me out in January 2010, because I wasn't adding much to our online friendship with my lack of consistent commitment to training and event preparation. I was ready to make a permanent change, but that particular individual's message was my "tipping point" to move forward and achieve the goals and dreams first crystallized in 2007.

The tipping point is different for everyone. It may be staying healthy for your family, staving off obesity or diabetes, squeezing into those "skinny jeans" you've been saving since high school, or to win a race, but someone desiring to change their lives has to tap into what pushes them towards success.

What's one non-running thing many people don't know about you? A few of my online friends and followers may have picked up on this, but I've become a bit of a "Nutrition Czar," railing against the insanity of consuming processed food, junk food, soda pop, etc.

At the end of 2009, I needed snack chips, ice cream, frozen pizza, soda, and greasy food to get through stressful days. It took time, but I slowly "kicked" my need for those food items out of my daily life replacing them with healthier, more nutrient-rich food choices, such as oatmeal instead of packaged breakfast cereal, brown rice instead of white flour pasta, apples and bananas instead of ice cream, and water or tea instead of soda.

It's amazing how you feel when your regularly active with physical activities you love, fueled by healthy food choices. I can't imagine returning to the largely inactive, junk-fueled life I led before 2010, and that's pretty exciting.

You can find Brian on Daily Mile, Twitter, and his blog. You can find previous Q&As with other bloggers here.