It’s hard to believe that the same man who has run over 500 races was once a teenager who weighed over 300 pounds. At 15, Mark Vescio knew that if he didn’t change his ways it would mean the difference between life and death. Following the example of his parents, who both ran for exercise, he took that critical first step toward leaving obesity behind and leading a healthier life.
What were some of the struggles you had to overcome because of your weight?
Accepting defeat. Admitting out loud what I always knew was the hardest. But even though I lost the battle, I won the war. I can’t change the past but I can control the future.
Can you describe the point in your life when you knew you had to change your diet?
There was never one really defining “I’ve had enough” moment. It was all one step at a time, slowly building confidence. The more confident I became, the more I was willing to change.
What was your biggest motivator to get healthier?
Not wanting to die. Once I saw the changes, I was able to open my eyes and realize I was on the fast path of self-destruction.
How did you start running marathons?
It just was a natural progression. I got fairly competitive in my younger years and I talked my running buddies into running Marine Corp with me. Once I completed that one, the marathon bug hit!
What is The 5K Challenge and how do you hope it will impact the fight against childhood obesity?
The 5K Challenge is my new baby. The intent is to create a support network so that the whole family is engaged in making better lifestyle choices. We try to make it easier with fun, healthy recipes, weekly family exercise challenges and of course, the 5K races to use as motivation to stay on track. We also give discounts to the schools, and the school that wins the challenge (by having the most participants vs. total enrollment) gets a matching donation of $5 per runner for their school from the race to be used for exercise equipment. I am really looking forward to this one.
How did you begin speaking on the subject of childhood obesity in local schools in Cobb County?
I was asked to arrange for a group to speak, and they had to cancel at the last moment. Someone suggested I step in and tell my story. The rest is history. I can relate personally to the subject so it is easy for me to speak about it to a group of kids.
What made you decide to form the Locomotive Race Series and Anything is Possible 5K?
I wanted to share my love of running with others. There is nothing more thrilling than creating a race from scratch and putting all the pieces together. It is a lot of work but it is a labor of love. The series is designed to create a full year’s worth of racing and gradually step up the distances to help people complete a half marathon. The races are spread apart so that they create benchmarks, and by getting people to agree to run for an entire year, they are making a yearlong commitment to health and fitness. The Anything is Possible race started more on a dare. It was out of the box and I truly expected 100 people to show up. When I saw 1,000 people show up, I knew I was on to something. So we made it a big party and celebration. Runners look for something unique, and my races tend to fit that description.
Besides running, how else do you lead a healthy life?
I have been a vegetarian for 20 years now. I hike, bike and walk. I used to climb when I was younger but I have a family and need to be more responsible!
As a person who has experienced being overweight, what is some advice you can give to people who want to lose extra pounds?
Don’t get wrapped up in a number. Break it into small pieces and make small adjustments gradually. For instance, skip one fast food meal and replace it with a healthy meal. The little subtle changes will pay great dividends in a friendly atmosphere.
What inspires you every day?
My kids, knowing the future is wide open for them and doing everything I can to make that happen for them. Also, knowing I can change someone’s life today, every day.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I plan on continuing the races and developing new ones. I also plan on growing my coaching business to help others, as well as expanding on the childhood obesity program. I was fortunate enough to change my life around, and I feel it is only right to give back all I can to help others.
For more information, www.locomotiveraceseries.com