Editor’s note: All this month leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon, WTOP’s Jamie Forzato is bringing you stories of runners who have endured loss, persevered through personal struggles and found hope.
WASHINGTON — Ron Allison was overweight and confident. He didn’t see his expanding waistline as a problem because he had great self-esteem and thought he was active. But when his overweight father died after complications from surgery, he knew he had to make a transformation.
“I come from a family that’s pretty obese,” Allison said. “After high school, I got really heavy — somewhere in the high 200 mark — and from there, continued to gain weight.”
The Springfield, Ohio, resident suffered from depression and ate food to cope with his emotions.
In February 2011, his father passed away after abdominal hernia surgery. Ron’s emotional eating spiraled out of control, and by the end of 2013 he tipped the scale at 321 pounds.
“It kind of hit me,” he said. “For somebody that was so self-confident and so emotionally stable to be going through the amount of depression I was after losing my dad … I said, ‘this is silly.’ If I [could] keep from putting my family, my wife, my kids through that, then I was going to. It was at that point that I decided I was going to do something.”
His first goal was to lose 100 pounds over the following year.
“I started by eating halfway decent and exercising. The exercising started with just walking,” he said.
But it didn’t come easy.
“That progression of walking to walking up hills to start to jog … it was horrible. The only time I used to run before was to run after a food truck, probably,” he said. “At some point, it clicked and I fell in love with it.”
Nine months into his journey, he’d lost 90 pounds and completed his first 5K.
By the end of 2014, he was down 121 pounds. He was training for a local marathon in October 2015, and he was hooked.
“The person that handed me my medal said, ‘Congratulations, you’re a marathon runner.’ That’s when I broke down. If that was never said, I still probably wouldn’t have thought of myself as a marathon runner. It took me a while to even consider myself a runner at that point.”
Allison wants to run one marathon per year, perhaps qualify for the Boston Marathon one day or even finish a 32-miler.
He chose the Marine Corps Marathon this year since his younger brother is in the Marine Corps Reserve. “I thought, how fitting. I love Washington D.C. Obviously [I] have a heart for the Marines and our country,” he said.
He’s down to 159 pounds — a drop of about half his highest body weight. He stays fit by being active, but doesn’t work out every day.
“I’m extremely happier and healthier,” he said. “The good news is as you start losing weight, you will feel better.”
His message to others who are struggling with weight loss: “Just start. I tell people that all the time. If you’re eating bad right now, just start eating better. If you’re not active, just start walking. I think your body will naturally take you there.”