One man’s love for medals motivates meteoric running progress
At 53 years old and 285 pounds, Greg Breaker was a sedentary man unhappy with his weight and lifestyle, until a Biggest Loser-style challenge at work motivated him to make a change. At the end of the contest, Greg took second place honors for losing 40 pounds in 40 days–and it was just the beginning of his amazing transformation.
Greg next signed up for a competition sponsored by a popular gym chain, similar to the first contest but with national stakes. A grand prize of $10,000 for weight loss and life transformation was up for grabs. After watching what he ate and exercising regularly on a treadmill for 90 days, Greg earned first place in his region, losing 57 pounds. He ranked 10th in the nation, and the experience sparked his competitive nature and inspired a new passion in life. He was ready for more.
Hit the Ground Running
Now 177 pounds and with much less joint pain, Greg’s coach felt he was ready to add more strenuous cardio into his workout regimen. He started with interval sets on his treadmill and learned how to mix running and walking for a tougher workout.
When Global Running Day rolled around, Greg decided to give the 5K a shot. He enjoyed the race so much that he joined a local running group. The group met on Saturdays to run and encourage each other to improve their paces and complete longer distances. Soon after, Greg signed up for his first 10K.
The newly-minted running enthusiast could hear the call of a 26.2, but didn’t feel quite ready. “After I did my 10K, I thought, ‘Eventually, I need to do a marathon, but I’m not ready for it right now.’” Greg’s run coach, however, thought differently. He encouraged Greg to set his sights on the BMW Dallas Marathon using a 16-week training program.
A few months later, the day of the race arrived. It was windy, and Greg had to walk the last eight miles, but he still finished under the deadline. He bought an iconic 26.2 oval sticker to put on the back of his car and pledged to himself, “I have to keep training. I don’t want to go backward, I want to go forward.”
Eye on the Prize
After completing his first full marathon at the age of 55 in 2016, Greg’s run club asked him frequently about his next race. He looked into several options, including the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. Featuring unique, music-filled experiences in cities across the country and around the world, Rock ‘n’ Roll offers a TourPass that includes multiple races in a single bundle. What’s more, by completing 15 races runners qualify for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series Heavy Medals Hall of Fame.
“I thought I could treat myself to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure every month and get into the Hall of Fame,” Greg says. And just like that, a new goal hung before him like the carrot he needed to keep training.
Into the Hall of Fame
Greg kicked off his adventure in January 2017 with the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, followed quickly by the series’ New Orleans race. There, he met ACTIVE’s Online Marketing Manager, Aaron Trujillo, a Boston Marathon-qualifier runner–and the two remain friends and running buddies to this day.
All told, in 2017 Greg completed an astounding 14 half and three full marathons. This secured his spot in the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series Heavy Medals Hall of Fame. His journey included a run in Dublin, which earned him an additional international medal. Boasting a grand total of 29 medals, he proudly showcases his collection in a custom-made display.
He loved the music that permeated the race experience, from the concerts along the routes to the music-themed medals. “I can’t sing a note,” he says, “but I found myself in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame!”
Greg ran a total of 313 miles in 2017. He also became a member of a Facebook Group called the Marathon Maniacs, which includes international runners who have completed three finishes in 90 days. Greg earned his place there in 60 days by stacking his Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon finishes.
His focus for 2018 is quality over quantity. He recently set a new personal record at the Little Rock Marathon, completing the race in 5:32:07–and the goals don’t stop there. “At my age, I should be at 3:40,” he says. “I need to run fewer races and include some major races. I’d like to qualify for the Boston Marathon, because those are the top 1% of runners.”
And no matter where his next race takes him, Greg’s favorite part of the journey remains the same. He says, “It’s about traveling and sharing these moments with my teammates, about being able to realize these dreams coming together for everyone.”
Words of Wisdom
As someone who started late in the game, Greg has accomplished more than he could have dreamed. For anyone who wants to get into running marathons–or any sort of physical exercise–but doesn’t know where to begin, his wise advice follows:
“Just get started,” he says, “Even if you’re walking, you are always faster than the guy who’s just sitting on his couch. Having a team to support you and keep you accountable is helpful, too. Find a group that will encourage you to change your life, or something that motivates you to keep going. And remember that once you get that first finishing medal, nobody really cares how fast you were–they’re just excited that you finished.”