Life Be­gins at 4.2

Get­ting in bet­ter shape plays a role in a lot of peo­ple’s de­ci­sion to run a marathon. In Rene Be­langer’s case, it prob­a­bly saved his life.

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Dave Car­pen­ter Dave Car­pen­ter is the Manag­ing Ed­i­tor of Cana­dian Run­ning.

Two years ago, at the age of 40, Rene Be­langer weighed 380 pounds and found him­self caught in a vi­cious cy­cle. “It was like I was on a sleep­ing pill. I was very slug­gish,” says Be­langer “so I fought that with more sugar, and then you can’t sleep, and when you can’t sleep you can’t do any­thing.” Be­langer went to see his doc­tor in his home­town of Cam­bridge, Ont., who di­ag­nosed him with Type 2 di­a­betes, char­ac­ter­ized by symp­toms that in­clude high blood sugar and low in­sulin. In ad­di­tion to the medicine his doc­tor pre­scribed, Be­langer cut all sugar from his diet and vowed to get in bet­ter shape.

Shortly af­ter, Be­langer planned his first walk: 4.2 kilo­me­tres, ex­actly a tenth of a marathon. A col­league who’d of­fered to go with him bailed at the last minute, so Be­langer set out and com­pleted the walk on his own. It was the break­through Be­langer needed, psy­cho­log­i­cally as well as phys­i­cally.

“I kept go­ing and push­ing the dis­tance, and then re­al­ized that I could do it on my own,” says Be­langer. He be­gan to lose weight and sleep bet­ter, which trig­gered im­prove­ments in a litany of health is­sues he’d suf­fered over the years, in­clud­ing gall­stones, an en­larged prostate, arthri­tis and a nine-year, on-and-off bout of pneu­mo­nia. Health­ier and en­er­gized, Be­langer could walk fur­ther, pro­gress­ing to 10k, then 15k, and fi­nally a full marathon on a tread­mill at his lo­cal gym (which he ad­mits was one of the most bor­ing things he’s done in his life).

But it wasn’t un­til Be­langer be­gan en­ter­ing races that he took his new found pas­sion for run­ning to the next level. “I started find­ing that the feel­ing I get af­ter any race is dif­fer­ent then af­ter ex­er­cis­ing in the gym,” says Be­langer “that men­tal part is some­thing I never con­sid­ered, and that’s why I can’t get enough of it. Even if I won the lot­tery, I would do this ev­ery day.”

Be­langer now par­tic­i­pates in marathons at a stag­ger­ing rate of one per month. He also com­pleted the Lum­ber­jack Chal­lenge this past spring, which re­quires par­tic­i­pants to run all the races over the Ot­tawa Marathon Race Week­end: the 2k, 5k, 10k, half-marathon and full marathon.

Be­langer, a nat­u­rally big­ger per­son, has dropped 60 pounds to date, how­ever, he says that over­com­ing the men­tal chal­lenges that arise dur­ing marathons and ul­tras is what make long-dis­tance races so ful­fill­ing.

“There’s al­ways that voice that says ‘you can quit and go home right now.’ The bar­be­cue is there, the pool’s open, but when you find out how strong you feel when you’re done, no­body can take that away from you,” Be­langer says.

“Plus,” he adds “what other sport can you go and com­pete in the same event as the top ath­letes in the world? It’s not like I can take my car out on the Indy 500.”

”There’s al­ways that voice that says ‘you can quit and go home right now.’ But when you find out how strong you feel when you’re done, no­body can take that away from you.”

LEFT Rene on course at the 2018 Ot­tawa Marathon

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