Back in 1974, I weighed 216 pounds and several incidents coalesced together that motivated me to lose weight.
One was I read an article in Reader’s Digest in which the author blamed doctors and mothers for some forms of obesity. He said doctors urged people to eat three meals a day, and what did our mothers urge us to do at every meal? Clean your plate.
Shortly thereafter I was teaching Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” to a class and read a question that Thoreau asked, “Why eat three meals a day when one would suffice?”
I immediately stopped eating breakfast and alternated skipping lunch or supper.
Another episode that spurred me to lose weight occurred when my wife took a picture of me taking surfing lessons down at Port Aransas, and I looked like Moby Dick beached.
Finally, at the invitation of two friends at church, I took up jogging.
These two friends invited me to run with them in an upcoming 5K race taking place at L.D. Bell High School in northeast Fort Worth. Of course, I had to ask them what a 5K was, and they said a 3.1-mile race.
I thought, “How hard can that be?” and agreed to join them.
On the morning of the race, my two friends lined up toward the back of the pack while I chose the front. When the gun fired, everyone on that front line jumped out like jackrabbits, and I joined them. After about 200 yards I was already gasping for air. Naturally, I was barely able to finish the race, but at least I beat my two friends.
Running that race hooked me on jogging. I laid out a four-mile route around my house there in North Richland Hills and ran it three to four days a week. After two months of cutting back on meals and running, I dropped from 216 pounds to 169 pounds.
I continued this running for a number of years; then in 1976 I started on those backpacking trips with Herb, and my being in running shape really helped.
Then in December of 1981 Bill Holt, another English teacher at the South Campus, invited me to run with him in the approaching Cowtown Marathon, a mere 26.2 miles.
I’m thinking, “Wait a minute! That’s the distance from Fort Worth to my home town, Cleburne! Do I want to do that?”
Unfortunately for me, I looked at it as a challenge, and as my wife Freida would quickly point out today, when my pride is at stake, I will always rise to the occasion or die trying (in this case, running a marathon, I felt like I came close.)
Bill suggested that I up my daily run from four miles to eight miles in the two months remaining before the race in February, building up my endurance.
Then he added that about three weeks before the race, run 20 miles around my home, five laps, to see if I would hit “the wall,” a point in the race when a runner just feels like quitting.
I dutifully did so and did not hit the wall, but I did get powerful thirsty, but on my third lap I passed my house, and my son Jim was playing in the yard. I told him to grab some water and get on his bike and bring it to me, which he did.
The day of the marathon arrived, and typical February weather, it was cold and wet, with a breeze out of the southwest, in our faces, naturally. I thought that would be okay, for when we hit Hulen Mall and turned around to come back, the wind would aid us. Wrong!
Later on in the race, the wind switched around from the north. Oh, well — I knew the race would not be pleasant anyway.
The race started down on Exchange Avenue in front of the Stockyards. Somebody fired a gun, and we were off. I set an easy pace, my usual one, running at about nine minutes a mile. Actually, the cool weather felt good, and after getting my second, third, and fourth wind, I was doing all right.
As I neared my second hour in the race, I had reached Hulen Mall, and the group I was with turned to the right and started back north on Hulen. Just as I started up Hulen Street Bridge, my wife pulled up beside me, and yelled, “The winner just finished!”
Now that really was not what I wanted to hear at the moment, especially being at the foot of the bridge, starting up. I could care less that Hector Ortiz, one of the best runners of the day, had run the race in just over two hours while I still had two hours to go!
I told the wife later that she would never understand the psychological kick in the gut that news had been, but then again, I knew this race was going to be sheer torture.
As I was jogging through Forest Park, I did see some peculiar sights. One guy was jogging right beside me when he ran right into the back of a parked Volkswagen.
Sorry — I did not dare stop to help him; besides, there were already spectators running to his aid. Another man had stopped running and was just walking around in circles, mumbling to himself (probably cursing himself for being this stupid to run in this race.
As I finally reached North Main and turned left to head down to Exchange Avenue and the finish line, my son Jim, who was 9 at the time, came running up beside me to finish with me — and he nearly finished me all right! He bumped me and nearly knocked me off my feet.
If I had fallen there, I don’t believe I would have been able to get up. Fortunately, I was able to keep my balance and told him to stay clear of me.
Boy, was that finish line a welcome sight! I had three goals in mind when I started this race:
1. I wanted to live through it, to survive, which I did, barely.
2. I wanted to run it non stop, which I did. I figured if I stopped, it would be hard to get going again and it would ruin my time.
3. Lastly, I wanted to run it in under 4 hours, which I did. I finished in 3 hours and 57 minutes.
I have now run two marathons, my first and my last. I made a vow that I would never be stupid enough to run another, and, believe it or not, I have actually shown some intelligence and kept that vow.
Weldon Reed is a Cleburne
resident who recently
returned to his hometown.
He can be reached at