Confessions of a former couch potato

My name is Rik Akey, and I have a confession:I haven't always been a runner. In fact, for a large part of my life, I was an obese couch potato. It was never an emotional thing; I just come from a long line of fat people and great cooks. Family gatherings always centered around food, and my social circle consider ourselves to be serious foodies.

And one day in early 2008, weighing 275 pounds, as I sat in a hospital room with my dad, who was recovering from having a heart stent put in, it hit home for me. My dad was also a big guy, diabetic, with back trouble. And now, he looked old. And tired.

And, I knew suddenly that I was looking at a preview of coming attractions for myself. In my late 30s, I already had borderline high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and very low energy. I lacked confidence. I avoided cameras at all costs. I couldn't join friends when they invited me to do something active and outdoors. And eventually, they stopped asking. I was missing out on life. And I hated it. With this realization, I had to do something, it was time to change. For real this time. For good.

I finally resolved to take control of my health and fitness. I worked with a great fitness coach, someone who supported me, and believed in my ability to change my life, even when I didn't really believe it myself. With that belief to fuel me, I decided to keep at it. And to my surprise, I slowly found it getting easier. Every week, it seemed, I was discovering something new that I literally couldn't do the month before. My confidence began to grow.

 This was me in 2009 as I was preparing for my first 10K.

From couch potato to distance runner

Along the way, I learned that running is a very efficient and effective way to burn a lot of calories, lose weight, and get fit. And so, with my developing confidence, I decided to learn how to run. It was terrifying at first, because I thought it was something that only fit people, healthy people, "other" people could do.

I learned the basics of a running stride on a treadmill, After about six weeks of work, I was able to go a mile without stopping. It wasn't fast or pretty, but it was a whole mile! It made me feel like I could do anything!

And it led me to take on new challenges. I quickly set a new goal: to run a 5K (3.1 miles). I trained diligently for 3 months. On race day, I was nervous, concerned that the runners would judge me, or question why I was even there. But no one paid me any attention. And I met my goal: I ran the whole distance without walking. I was hooked.

My confidence soared! After that, I set a new running goal every three months, leading me to my first 10K (6.2 miles), 15K (9.3 miles), and half marathon (13.1 miles), and then eventually to my first marathon (26.2 miles) 18 months later, in late 2010. To this day, that first marathon stands as the dividing line between who I was before, and who I am now.

My weight fell significantly during those first few years that I began investing in my health. I dropped 90 pounds. Blood pressure down 30 points. Cholesterol down 100 points. My doctor was amazed. No more medication, no more staying home while everyone else goes out to have fun.

Now, I have a lifetime goal to run a marathon in every state in the US, including qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon.