We could all do with a little inspiration every now and again. This is truly inspirational! When you weigh in at over 400 pounds, you probably think that there is no way you could ever run a marathon. Not so Barry Brokaw. Over seven years he dropped 260lbs and now looks and feels fantastic and is now also trail running.
When Barry Brokaw lines up to pace the 1:40 group at the Wild Hog Half Marathon in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on Saturday, those who race alongside him will likely have no idea that their leader weighed more than 400 pounds nearly seven years ago.
For much of his life, the 43-year-old registered nurse from Superior, Wisconsin, said he was “good at losing weight but not at keeping it off.” His on-again, off-again relationship with running didn’t help. Brokaw started running when he was in the military in the early 1990s, he told theGrand Forks Herald, but he couldn’t seem to keep it up consistently because he admitted he never truly loved it.
Brokaw’s tipping point came in 2008 when he realized he couldn’t pull his young daughter, Alexa, in a wagon around the neighborhood without having to stop and catch his breath. He actually doesn’t know his heaviest weight, because he couldn’t find a standard scale that could measure more than 400 pounds without giving him an error message.
So Brokaw stepped on a StairMaster—at first, he could only manage 10 minutes—to try to lose enough pounds so he could start running again. This time, he hoped, would be the last time he’d have to endure the arduous weight-loss journey ahead of him.
“I thought I was going to pass out,” Brokaw told Runner’s World of that workout, “but I knew the first two or three weeks would hurt really bad, and then it would get easier.”
Over the next two years, Brokaw gradually shed weight and gained speed. When he got down to 205 pounds, he ran the Grandma’s Marathon in 3:57. Then Brokaw started adding mileage to his training and began chipping away at his marathon time.
Last year, he ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 3:23, and this spring, he lowered his time to 3:18. That time put him within three minutes of a Boston qualifier, a goal that Brokaw said was never even on his radar. But with the carrot in front of him, he got a coach, signed up for the Last Chance BQ2 Marathon in Chicago held on September 12, and ramped up his mileage.
He ran 3:05 and said he got confirmation of his acceptance into the 2016 Boston Marathon earlier this week.
“That first 10-minute workout on the StairMaster was way, way harder than running 3:05,” Brokaw said. “When I look at pictures of myself when I weighed 400-plus pounds, I was so miserable. Back then, I knew about running, and I knew about Boston. I used to think, am I really going to be this big the rest of my life. To think about where I started, getting into Boston is one of the most exciting moments of my life.”
Tomorrow Brokaw, who is now down to around 160 pounds, will lead the 1:40 pace group where he’ll have to maintain 7:48 minute-per-mile pace.
“I’ve been practicing, and it’s a natural pace for me,” said Brokaw, whose half marathon best is 1:27. “I’m hoping to help people through the race and maybe tell them my story.”