Marathon Man: Y member loses 100 pounds, takes up distance running

Chris Graham didn’t set out to run marathons. That came later. He just wanted to lose a few pounds to look good on TV.

“A totally vain reason to do the right thing,” said Graham, a Waynesboro YMCA member for 22 years, who in January 2014 weighed 285 pounds, and decided to do something about it.

“Everybody comes up with a New Year’s Resolution. Mine that year was to lose 50 pounds, the thinking being that if I really wanted to get back onto TV, I wanted to look good when I got there,” said Graham, a writer, editor and radio play-by-play baseball broadcaster for the Waynesboro Generals summer baseball team.

By April of that year, Graham had lost the 50 pounds, “and I decided that I had some momentum, so I set a new goal, to get under 200,” he said.

He hit the 200 mark – 85 pounds down – by his birthday in June. He had started running a few weeks earlier, first a mile, working up to three, hitting a high of five miles.

On a trip to the Outer Banks the week of his birthday, he decided to do a 10-mile beach run, “just to see if I could do it.”

He finished in just under two hours, 40 minutes, “and I assumed that would be it. I’d done 10 miles.”

A few months later, Graham entered the Fall Foliage 5K, and finished first in his age division.

“By then, I was hooked,” he said.

His next 10-mile run, in the Blue Ridge 10-Miler, in November, he completed in under an hour and a half.

By this point, he was down to 180, more than 100 pounds below his starting weight.

More than three years later, Graham is still in the 180 range. He’s graduated from 5Ks to 10-milers to now having run three marathons, including the prestigious New York City Marathon, in 2016, with a personal best of 3:39:29.

And after a 10-year hiatus from TV work, Graham had a stint as the co-host of “Viewpoints” on WVPT in 2016-2017, and this spring will be his second season providing color commentary on college baseball broadcasts for ESPN3.

So he reached his goals – losing weight and getting back on TV.

But along the way, he realized that the real rewards are not those that he had anticipated.

“My family has a history with weight issues leading to diabetes. Honestly, I am amazed, looking back, that I wasn’t there already,” said Graham, who cites a reduction in issues with headaches and asthma that he had dealt with since childhood among the other welcome, unanticipated effects of his weight loss.

He now runs 45 to 50 miles a week, most on the South River Greenway adjoining the Waynesboro YMCA, moving his training inside onto the treadmill in cold or rainy weather.

Graham has one more running goal in his sights: qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

“That’s the Holy Grail for anyone who has ever run a marathon. You want to qualify for Boston,” Graham said.

Not bad for a guy who could barely run from the baseline to the three-point line in noon-ball pickup games at the Y just three years ago.

“I really believe that if I could do it, from where I was three years ago, weighing 285 pounds, in my early 40s, when it’s supposed to be harder to make a life change, then anybody, literally anybody, can do it,” Graham said.

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