Monday, March 29, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: John

If you've not joined the running community Athlinks, you really need to check it out. It's a great place to keep track of your race results not only for running but for triathlon, cycling, mountain biking, swimming and adventure racing. It's also a great way to connect with other endurance athletes all over the country and the world for that matter. Athlinks is how I met John Blewis, this week's Runner of the Week. John's story is an awesome story of rebirth. What he's accomplished in a little under a year is amazing. Read on to find out more about John and his story.

RD: Where are you from?
John: I am from Buffalo, NY originally, but now I live in sunny Southwest Florida, in a town called Lehigh Acres just outside of Fort Myers. My heart will always be in Buffalo though. You should never forget where you are from. Except during football season! Just kidding. I love that town. I am a big hockey fan so of course the Buffalo Sabres are my team. For those that follow hockey anyways.

RD: You've had quit a year. Tell us a little about yourself and how you decided to make such a huge change in your life.
John: I have a pretty busy schedule, since including running as a permanent part of my life. I am the General Manager of a large Glass and Aluminum Company in Fort Myers, FL. We do work all over the United States and the Caribbean. Not such a bad gig! I really love going to work everyday, the challenges of each day are always a little different and it keeps you on your toes. It is definitely a must to have a good attitude in my position and running has certainly helped me maintain that in many ways. I have also found great enjoyment in cooking, and take pride in building things with my hands and mind. It always gives you a sense of pride when you look back at what you have accomplished after you have completed it, just like finishing a great run! I have learned as I get older now, (36) how to appreciate life a little more. I have a great soul mate and two beautiful girls to help take care of , who inspire me to be a better man everyday. They are my rock in life!
Growing up in Buffalo as a little kid, I played Ice Hockey. I was a sprinter in track and field in High School, and thought the 800M was such a long race back then. I ran the 400, triple jump, long jump and the 200 a few times. Hockey was my sport however. After my senior year of High School I never ran again really!
Went to the military, got married, bought a house, had some kids, ate a lot of food, gained a lot of pounds, drank a lot of beer, smoked cigars and tried to do everything to destroy my body it seemed. This behavior went on for years and years until last January for me. I was working out of town in the Bahamas and was just inspired one morning to do something better with my life. I already had the "good job" and wife and house and kids, everything was great in life except for ME! I was not the person I knew I could be. I wanted something more out of life, something that made me proud of me, instead of the things that I have acquired in life. You know those things that you could replace if they were stolen or lost. We sometimes get caught up in the things we don't have in life instead of focusing on the things we do have in life. I was the perfect example of that.
So I decided that I was sick and tired, of being sick and tired! So I worked on myself. I changed my outlook on life, my health, my attitude and my focus. I started running that day in the Bahamas. I think I only went about a half a mile and it felt like 5 miles to me. When I got back to my condo out there I felt so good. It gave me a new feeling of accomplishment. It didn't matter to me how far I ran or how fast. Just that I finished my run.

RD: That trip to the Bahamas kind of provided the spark, but was there anything else that got you into running?
John: In mid May of last year a friend of mine was talking about doing a 5K and jokingly I said "I can do that!" I got some rolling of the eyes and stuff of course. You see I weighed 239 pounds last year in May. I am 6ft. I wasn't in good shape, but had some muscle still. Two weeks later I ran my first 5K. It took me over 30 minutes and I was ready to curl up in a ball and weep when I was finished. It was so exhausting. There were people running it in 15 and 16 minutes. I thought they were like Olympians or something. I was just so happy I was able to cross the finish line. The feeling is so exhilarating. I have been running ever since then. It has been almost a year of running for me now.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
John: For me I enjoy the long runs. It really helps me relax the mind and to relieve any anxiety that was built up during the week. I can just leave it all out on the pavement as I watch the sun come up on a Saturday morning, birds chirping and palm trees swaying softly from the light breeze as it cools my skin. It is just plain PEACEFUL!

RD: What are your favorite training foods? How has running affected your diet?
John: I love the pasta! Spaghetti and whole grain pasta is my favorite. Chili has be at the top of the list to. I love spicy food, but as a runner I felt I should cut back on that a bit before it catches up with me on the road. I have not done any of the "Fad" diets, as I understand nutrition better now that I have done my own research. A lot of great tips right here from you Runner Dude! It really is not rocket science. Burn more calories than you take in. I have just controlled my portion sizes and never touch carbonated beverages. I have seen may people try pills, diet plans, surgeries and others ways just to try and cheat the body into losing weight. Nothing keeps it off better than good old hard work!

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
John: I am a lone runner for a couple reasons. It lets me think to myself instead of having to carry a conversation with someone. I need to focus on whatever I do. Now with that being said, I do have runs when I talk to a lot of people, usually on the longer ones. I like to make people laugh. Laughter is necessary in everyday life.

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
John: Since I have only been running for 10 months or so, I have not encountered to many odd or funny things. Well, just a couple weeks ago I was doing my Tuesday interval run and this guy on rollerblades dressed up in full hockey gear, helmet, gloves, shoulder pads, stick and no jersey was barreling down the asphalt towards me. That was pretty odd! I actually saw him again this past weekend on my long run, this time just with gloves and stick. Still odd! Hey at least he was exercising! It was about 7:30am

RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
John: My biggest running accomplishment has to be the desire to start running! Since last May I have completed 7-5k's, 3-10k's, 1-10 Miler and 3 Half-Marathons. I have decided back in January of this year to train for my first full Marathon! I am running in the Buffalo Marathon, May 30th, 2010 which is exactly one year from my first 5k that I could barely finish. Training has been going really well. I have done numerous hours of research on how to run without getting injured and have followed a plan every step of the way. Luckily for me I have only encountered one hip ailment early on, and a measly blister on my heel once. Now do I recommend running a marathon within a year of running again. Not really! I have such a desire to accomplish something great! I am looking forward to crossing that finish line! All the hard work is going to pay off, I just know it!

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
John: I have gone through 2 pairs of New Balance so far. One 769 model and the new 760 model so far. Just this past Saturday I went to the local Run Shop and they hooked me up with the Brooks Defyance. I Supinate slightly and am a mid foot runner. I thought of the Newtons but I figured now was not the time to really break in those shoes. I heard it could take a bit to get used to the technology. I plan on staying with the shoe that is the most comfortable no matter what the brand is.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
John: My favorite race distance is actually the 10K. It is the perfect balance of speed and endurance. There are not too many of those in my area, though. One is actually coming up in a couple weeks here in Naples and Hal Higdon is going to be signing his books. Plus one of the coaches of the U.S.A bobsled Gold Medal team in Vancouver will be there. He is a local hero from Naples. I am just not sure if I should do it considering it will be my 11th week of training for the Marathon. What do you thing Runner Dude?
RD: Hmm...a 10K a month or so before your marathon, is probably fine. You could replace it for one of your tempo runs or one of your "shorter" long runs.
RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
John: We can all make excuses of why not to do something we should be doing, whether it be going to work daily, dieting, exercising, spirituality, calling family more often and of course others... but the choices we make right now will have implications on the rest of our life, positively or negatively. We need to take the effort and force ourselves to be better as humans. Our lives can be filled with joy or sorrow so why not live each day at its full potential. Open the door for someone, be the first to say hello when you pass by someone, smile more, help that elderly person at the gas station, call someone you have not talked to in a while just to say hi. We forget how simple life is in our busy lives. It will make you feel good to do little things like this and in the process you may learn to appreciate life a little more often.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
John: I have had a lot of support from many people since I have started running. All whom have had made sacrifices in there own lives to help me better mine. I wanted all of them to know how much I appreciate everything they have done for me. It does not go unnoticed at all! I did have something exciting happen to me over the past couple months too. A writer from Time Magazine had a blog she put out about people running there first marathon so I replied of course and told her a little bit about my story. I had a 30 minute phone interview with her last month about it and the story is supposed to be published in the next magazine. TIME MAGAZINE!!!! I thought is was scam at first because things like that do not happen to me. I did my research on the reporter though and she is completely legit! She emailed me last week to let me know it is in proof reading and she will send me the link on the story as soon as it is printed. It is very exciting and a bit overwhelming.
RD: TIME, that's awesome! I'll be on the look out for your article. Hey, pass my name along to your TIME contacts. LOL! (Readers: [click here] to check out the TIME article on John!)

Well, I don't know about you, but John's story has helped rekindle my already steadfast love for running and fitness. To make such a huge transformation in just a year is incredible. I know John's family loved the "old" John, but is now extremely proud of the "new " John. Keep it up man, and I look forward to the Buffalo Marathon recap!


Lauren said...

I love stories like that. Nice interview.

Caratunk Girl said...

Inspiring interview - terrific year John!

RunnerDude said...

Thanks Lauren!
I agree Caratunk Girl! John's had a great year with even more great things to come his way!

Unknown said...

Runners make up such a strong community of support and motivation. John is proof of both (and he is obviously giving right back).

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone! As we all know it is hard work to balance our running and other things in our personal lives properly. We just have to stay positive and focus on the net results.

Chad said...

THis was great thanks!