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.
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