Training for last year’s Denver Colfax Marathon changed my life, even though my race-day performance ended after about seven steps. That’s how many stairs I had to climb to reach the pre-race podium in City Park.
Four months earlier, on Jan. 12, 2022, I received the news that as vice president of sales for Cigna Healthcare, the race’s presenting sponsor, it would be my role to introduce our organization to the immense crowd in attendance.
My first, incredibly alarming, thought: “I am really large.”
I was a 49-year-old formerly competitive athlete tasked with publicly preaching health and vitality to tens of thousands of people, but after years of complacency I represented the opposite of that.
As fate would have it, my college-aged daughter was home on break that January afternoon and caught me rifling through the fridge for a snack. Enough was enough, she decided.
“Dad, you’re not hungry, you’re bored,” she said, with love. “You’re huge, and I’m worried you’re not going to be around for my wedding.”
And so, prompted by the weight of looming professional embarrassment, parental shame and more fast food drive-thru visits than I cared to recount, I stepped on the scale for the first time in a decade and looked down: 301.7 pounds.
I’m 5-foot-10 and though my weight had yo-yoed over the years, for too long it was simply yo-ing. It was my moment to change.
Propelled by a vision of standing on the Denver Colfax Marathon podium and looking out at those incredibly inspirational runners as a man focused on my own vitality, and with the ceaseless love of – and for – my family, I got to work.
In the ensuing months, I made countless daily, health-focused micro-decisions. I changed the types of foods I ate and the amount I consumed. I tweaked my Starbucks obsession: pumps of vanilla out; skim milk in. I told my fitness-conscious wife, Nicki, that I needed help, and she guided me. Having a strong support network is, for me and for everyone, vitally important.
When race day came on May 15, 2022, I stepped to the microphone 35 pounds lighter at 266 pounds, with a steadily improving self-image. What’s more, there was so much energy in the Denver air and excitement around the marathon festivities, it invigorated me to keep going.
In the year since, I have walked hundreds of miles. I got back on my bike and my skis. And as the Denver Colfax Marathon takes center stage again Sunday, I am 85 pounds lighter since beginning this journey.
I lead hundreds of Cigna employees and we hold ourselves responsible for overseeing the health of several hundred thousand Coloradans. Today, I am highly focused on being an admirable example of everything we do as an organization.
☀ MORE IN OPINION
If you’ve never participated in a marathon weekend — as a runner in one of the many races or even as a spectator — I cannot recommend more highly that you join in. It is deeply motivating.
It’s also an opportunity to visit Cigna’s mobile clinic in City Park to get a free biometric screening for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and body mass index, which will help you understand where you are and set your goals. As someone who avoided the scale for too long, preferring to remember a healthier me from yesteryear, I understand why people would rather not know this data. But could this be your moment?
Sadly, I’ll miss this year’s race while attending my niece’s wedding, which I wouldn’t skip for anything. As I dance at that party — in a smaller suit than I once imagined — I’ll also give thought to my own kids’ eventual nuptials, and my gratitude to participate fully in life’s most important moments.
As for the marathon, next year I’ll participate as part of a Cigna relay team. More motivation. Until then, good luck, runners – and anyone focused on improving their health and vitality.
Brett Winingham, of Highlands Ranch, is vice president of sales and market growth leader for the Mountain States region of Cigna Healthcare.
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