Monday, August 15, 2011

Runner Profile: Yaniv

One of the rewards of coaching is meeting inspiring athletes who come from all backgrounds and run for different reasons- some are former high school athletes looking to reclaim the "high" of competing, others are busy parents carving out some time for themselves. All remind us of the rewards of running and being active, but Yaniv is one athlete in particular that proves with dedication, determination and perserverence, even the seemingly "impossible" is possible.

Age: 38

When I started running: April 2011.

How I got started: In 2010 I had decided to have some kind of weight-loss surgery. By January 2011, I was officially denied surgery by my insurance company and was pretty devastated. I weighed 368 lbs. and had difficulty doing any kind of physical activity. I once tried to teach my girls how to ride their bikes but I couldn't keep up running by their side to guide them. I was out of breath just running a very short distance. I thought that surgery was my only option.

I had enough of living like this and I wasn't going to let the insurance company decide my fate. I took matters into my own hands and began to eat right with a low calorie diet. Surprisingly to me, the weight came off pretty quickly. After a month or so, I was able to start exercising as well. I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill. I also started taking long walks during my lunch hour.

My wife and Lisa encouraged me to join a training program for beginners, targeting a 5K race. I was a little intimidated by the notion that I could actually eventually run a 5k but it seemed intriguing so I gave it a try. The training program was an excellent introduction to the wonderful world of running. I am currently down to 248 lbs. and am still going strong.

Why I run: I run for many reasons. I run for health. I run to lose weight. I run because it's something that I thought I could never do. I run for the challenge. I run for the sense of accomplishment. I run to be a better role model for my children. I run because I can.

Favorite local race: I've run 4 races so far so this will probably change as I do more but so far my favorite has been the Rockville Twilight 8k. It was a beautiful night and I ran it with my wife which was fun to do. It was also the first time I ran 5 miles which once seemed impossible.

How I stay motivated: I stay motivated by the reminders of why I run. The feeling I get when I'm done with my run is so great that I easily carry that over until the next run. It's also a great feeling to post my accomplishments on Facebook and have my community cheering me on and encouraging me to keep going. Of course there's the added bonus of the weight loss and fitness I get from it.

Most memorable running moment: I have now completed 4 races including a triathlon but my most memorable running moment is without a doubt the first time my 5K training group switched from walk/run intervals to a 2-mile nonstop run. I didn't even think about the possibility of completing it without stopping. I had already planned my break points in advance. When the run started, something in me decided to just keep going and push through until all of a sudden it was over. I had done the impossible. I actually ran for 30 minutes without stopping. It felt amazing. Afterward, I sat in my car and started to cry with disbelief. I was so proud of myself and couldn't contain my emotions. I think about that day often.

Future goals/race plans: My future goals are to continue with this lifestyle and to keep building on it. My goals for 2012 are to complete a couple of marathons, an Olympic triathlon, and a century (a 100 mile bike ride.) I have 5 more races in 2011 scheduled including the Kentlands 5k, the Point of Rocks 10k, the Rockville 10k in November, the Hot Chocolate 15k, and the Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon on December 15. I have also registered for the 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in Washington DC in March.

Advice for new runners: My first bit of advice is to say "YOU CAN DO IT!" Running seems like something that only thin people that have been doing it since their youth could do. I'm here to tell you that you can be a runner too. Trust me, I went from not being able to run for more than 30 seconds to completing a triathlon in 4 months. It's not only that I didn't put out the effort, I honestly didn't think it was possible. I couldn't even imagine being able to run for 5 minutes nonstop let alone an hour.

Another bit of advice (that I sometimes forget as well) is that your speed is not important in the beginning. I was and still am self-conscience about my slow speed. There is so much emphasis on winning races, and being fast that it might get discouraging for us slow pokes. Your speed and endurance will increase with time. I started at a 15+ minute/mile and now am at an 11+ min./mile. Even if you come in last place, you're still way ahead of the person that never got in the race.

Yaniv in August, 2010 and August, 2011- What a difference a year makes!

Yaniv and two of his daughters after his first 5K in June 2011