Submitted Red Boiling Springs resident Mearl White lost 150 pounds after he took up running in the late 2000s, and frequently attends local 5Ks like the annual Makin' Macon Fit, scheduled for Saturday this year.

Submitted

Red Boiling Springs resident Mearl White lost 150 pounds after he took up running in the late 2000s, and frequently attends local 5Ks like the annual Makin' Macon Fit, scheduled for Saturday this year.

Mearl White was never a fan of running growing up, and he thought nothing short of a bear chasing him down could change that.

However, after weighing in at 365 pounds during a doctor's visit, he knew it was time to do things differently.

Today, the 215-pound Red Boiling Springs resident is a fixture on the local 5K circuit, logging thousands of miles while competing in events like Makin' Macon Fit (which will be held on Saturday at Macon County Junior High).

"I never had (persistent) heart problems or anything, but sometimes I'd feel pains or skip a beat," White said. "The doctor said my body mass index (BMI) was off the charts. I remember getting on the scales and thinking, 'I weigh the same as how many days are in a year.' (It was) unbelievable that I let myself get in that kind of shape."

White credits God for keeping him alive during that time and giving him the strength to meet his goal weight, which he has maintained for six years.

"What changed me was, I decided to propose to my wife," White said. "I wanted to look halfway decent when we got married, (even though) she didn't care either way because she loved me for who I was."

At that time, White set out on a mission to lose 70 pounds before the wedding, which gave him approximately 10 months.

"I also knew I'd need to get the weight off if we were going to have kids," White said, noting that he now has a 6-year-old daughter. "If you're going to play with your kids, you need to be in shape. I'm glad to know my daughter won't remember me for the weight I was at then, but I have shown her pictures to motivate her. (I'll say), 'Your daddy was here at one point in time,' and try to make it a learning experience."

White started with simple lifestyle changes, from parking in the furthest spot from a building to cutting fried foods and drinking more water. From there, he started hitting the gym and realized he was capable of running a 5K as his strength and endurance grew.

"I wanted to run a 5K (3.1 miles) every day," White said. "I can now say that I surpass that number every day when working out. After the first 70 pounds was lost, it was (much easier). It became natural, and I started participating in all the 5Ks around the Macon County area."

Throughout his effort, White was supported and encouraged by his wife, family and friends, who never made him feel ashamed of his weight, wanted him to become healthier and knew that he could do it.

"I'm from Trousdale County, and everybody knows each other out there, so I was fortunate that I was never bullied for my weight," White said. "I know people out there will pick on you for looking different. If somebody had called me fat, it would have hurt my feelings, but I take no offense to someone who's genuinely concerned about my health."

White did recall an incident where he nearly had his identification confiscated while out with friends because of the change in his appearance.

"The guy didn't believe it was me, because I was so much heavier in the picture," White said. "Fortunately, one of the other guys had my back and told him, 'Leave him alone. He's lost a lot of weight.' If I'd been bullied back in the day, I know my friends would've put up for me too."

Since dropping down to 215 pounds, White has also seen a difference in his overall health and energy.

"After I lost the weight, my body felt amazing," White said. "I slept better, and all my lab work came back at the levels they were supposed to be. I can tell you a lot of overweight people have sleep apnea, and I was never able to get a full night's rest before."

Overcoming his own struggle has allowed White to reach out to others going through the same thing, especially when meeting them at 5Ks.

"I know most of the people at the ones I go to, but if I don't, I will by the time I leave," White said. "I try to keep pace with someone different at each event and motivate them, and a lot of times, I'll see a heavier person and think, 'That was me.' You can't truly speak to people about being obese unless you've been there."

White's current goal is to attend between three and five events per year while staying within his ideal weight range (205-215 pounds). Last year, he was able to log more than 3,000 miles competing.

Along with Makin' Macon Fit, White has participated in events such as the Easton Goad Foundation 5K, Cason's Cause, the Jordan Hackett 5K in Carthage and the Zombie Run (where he won the 22-35 age division last year).

"The first event I ran was probably the hardest one, the Haley's Hearts Foundation Forever 5K," White said, referring to a Hartsville-based run. "It's a very hilly route, which can be difficult. It was a challenge within me to get a better time at each (5K I ran)."

Back then, he finished the route in approximately 35 minutes, but today his times are closer to 25.

"The best advice I can give anyone who is trying to get healthier or wanting to start exercising is to remember it's not a sprint, it's a marathon," White said. "It's going to take time and will not happen overnight ... (so) set goals ... make new ones and continue to push yourself. If Mearl White can do it, anyone can do it."