An east coast kid growing up in northeastern North Carolina, I always wanted to be an astronaut, scientist, or engineer of some childhoodkind. Due, in part, to idolizing my older half-brother (although I always just thought of him as my brother), I was always trying to investigate and figure things out. Summers were spent down on the Chowan River fishing, swimming, and water-skiing (though I never really got the hang of that one!).

When I was just into upper elementary school around 4th grade, my mom, dad, and I moved to central Florida, known as the Space Coast due to its proximity to Kennedy Space Center. This was a dream for me as we were close to all things space program, not to mention Disney World. However, dreams never last all that long and in about a year and a half we moved to northeast Louisiana, where my dad would live out the rest of his life and where my mom and my family currently live.

Experiencing both the culture shock of moving to Louisiana and just the general adjustment to middle school life, it was like my whole world changed. I had never been hunting (still haven’t come to think of it) and that seemed like all the guys footballaround my new area did. The main sport was football where I had come from schools that focused on soccer. I was quickly encouraged by my classmates to join the team though “because of my size”. I really had not been aware of being any larger than my peers probably until this particular moment in my life. The teenage years are not particularly kind in this regard and led to a lot of emotional scars to this very day over size and body image. Looking back, a program from a home football game back when I was a sophomore had me listed at 6’2″(I have no idea where those other 2 inches went or came from for that matter) and 208 lbs. seniorSo while I was overweight, I was nowhere near as bad as it would get.

I continued to gain weight as my life grew more sedentary as I pursued more academic pursuits towards the end of my high school years and into my young adult life. I had always been strong and so I would use this to my advantage to meet physical education requirements in college by taking weight-training. I would then barely get by on the aerobic firestartersrequirements of personal fitness classes. As the years went by and I graduated college and moved into working life, some of my college friends and I all seemed to get relatively larger together (shared perception kinda eases and lulls you into a complacency like that). What should have been some of the most happy active times of our young lives were spent wasting time consuming empty calories.

In the summer of 2003, me and my wife moved from central Louisiana to New Orleans. Within a year of tgifridaymoving there, I began graduate studies in education ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. So I was an IT professional (translation: sit at a desk most of the day) and a seminary student (more desks and sedentary life) living in a city known for it rich and hearty cuisine. I did have one more fitness class, Total Wellness & The Minister, that sought to bring me back from the edge. I even got down from the brink of 300 lbs. to around 275 during the semesters of taking that class. However, it was just a speed bump to the direction I was heading.


Out of seminary, I took on my first full-time vocational ministry position as minister of education and outreach for the First Baptist crawfishChurch of Opelousas, Louisiana. I tried to stay on the right track and even joined one of those 24/7 fitness clubs but living in the heart of the cajun crossroads, it didn’t take long for me to head back in the wrong direction. I remember once that my wife and I and a couple of our closest friends even made a group challenge/pact to lose the weight we had gained. I also remember recording my highest weight ever at around 335-340 lbs. I was crushed! Even still, it would take nearly 5 years for the switch to finally click in my brain and for enough to be enough.

The final straw after bouncing through about three more jobs following that first and only full-time church role was moving back up to northeast Louisiana and deciding to attempt my first 5K, the Grin & Bear It at Poverty Point Reservoir. On October 19, 2013, I walked it in 43:50.7 (14:08/mile pace) and was gabi_3just under 4 minutes from placing third. That intrigued me to try it again the next year (though I really didn’t dedicate myself to training any better) and managed to improve to a 42:52.7 (13:42/mile pace). In the 2014 race, that finish was good enough for me to receive my first ever medal for “running”. (I got third out of three in my age group but that doesn’t matter!)

I decided that if I could do a race a month, maybe I could gradually get some of this weight off. Since making that “first step” decision, training has become a much more regular part of my life. It has led to me dshm_2015completing numerous 5Ks (and even legitimately placing in some), a few 10Ks, multiple half marathons (13.1 miles for the uninitiated), a full marathon (with more on the way), and three 50K distance finishes (31 mile ultramarathon distance). I reached my lowest weight at 215.3 lbs on the day of the Dirty South half marathon before coming
back up to around the 230s. After a season of letting the body adjust to such a drastic loss of weight (>100 lbs in ~1 yr.), I am now back on the journey to get to the place where I feel even better and can do the things that only a couple of years ago I would have thought completely impossible.

What will flip the switch for you?