Jim Merklin, 54, is a CPA and partner with Bober Markey Fedorovich - and a familiar face at our Saturday group runs. Here's his story...



Physical fitness is a journey that started for me about 4.5 years ago, when I decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery and change my life. I've gone from 260 pounds to currently around 190. When I did this, I was committed to getting fit by exercising. I had never worked out before, at least not since gym class in the 70s. I started out slowly and eventually built up tolerance, and grew to really enjoy walking / running on treadmills and ellipticals - sometimes up to 2 hours at a time. That said, it is easy to work out on those because I can watch Netflix and entertain myself while doing it.

I've often heard friends tell me that if I could go that long on a treadmill that I could do long distance running outside, but I really didn't have much interest because I was uncomfortable staring out doing this and frankly thought I would look foolish.  Blue Line Beginners was a great way to get out with a bunch of other people who also hadn't been running outside, but gave me the opportunity to take my skills to another level.  I may look silly while running, but doing it with other beginners takes the pressure off.  My most recent run had been 4.8 miles near my home, and I maintained a pace of around 11 minutes per mile.

Last year, I was making plans to run a relay leg in the Akron Marathon with others from my office when I tore my Achilles' tendon. It took me a long time to come back from that, and even today my Achilles' gets really sore when I run.  I found compression sleeves at Dick's that helps a lot, but I just had to accept that, at 54, my body just isn't going to heal like it would when I was in my 20s.

Last week, I ran my first organized race, the Akrun & Crawl 5k with Torchbearers. I finished at 28:59 - less than 10 minutes per mile and much faster than the pace I have run with Blue Line Beginners. I had not realized that the competitive atmosphere would motivate me - not in trying to win something, but just because you naturally try to keep up with the crowd. I finished just a bit more than a minute behind a friend of mine, who has been running for several years, and found it thrilling to surprise my family by showing up so much earlier than expected at the finish line!

I'm planning to run the 8k on June 24th, and we'll see where things go from there. My only fear right now is I have not done any running yet in heat and am worried about how my body will react to that.  But I'm committed, I know I will make mistakes and I will learn from them.

My goal all along has been to run the September relay, and I'm comfortable I would not embarrass myself doing that. But now I'm starting to think I've set my sights too low.  After listening to our recent speaker Dawn Edmiston, I realize there is no reason whatsoever that I could not run 5-6 miles then walk my way to a half-marathon, something that I NEVER dreamed I would ever do.  I know the BLB team will help me focus on what I need to do and I cannot imagine a more worthwhile goal! I'd love to get my wife involved and I know she would be great with the walking group, but she doesn't seem interested for now - but when she sees what I can do, I'm hoping she changes her mind.

- Jim