At 545 lbs, Derek Mitchell has inspired millions, and it’s all because this Kansas City native isn’t letting his weight bring him down. After being diagnosed with a noncancerous tumor on his pituitary gland five years ago, he began packing on the pounds because his metabolism had drastically slowed down due to the prescribed medications.
But Mitchell hasn’t let that stop him. In a brave move, he opted to conquer the field of running by completing twenty-one 5K races and not to mention two 10K runs. But perhaps his biggest feat to date was conquering a mud-loaded 10-mile course.
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Mitchell had stuffed his medals in his home in Missouri, but life hasn’t always been giving to Mitchell. He was placed on pills to shrink the tumor in his body and began using it as an excuse to start binge-eating.
Mitchell eventually peaked at a dangerous 625 lbs, which made him reevaluate his habits.
“I just knew I had to do something if I had hope for a future or anything like that,” he said.
Mitchell’s life took a turn for the good when he made a New Year’s resolution by the beginning of 2015 by practicing a healthy diet and lifestyle altogether. He eventually got into running after his own sister encouraged him to do so.
“We came up with the idea of a 5K a month as a way to keep me exercising to get ready for them,” Mitchell recalled.
Over the year, Mitchell was running race after race but his first one was probably the most memorable. Despite finishing last, that was the biggest feat Mitchell has ever done in his life. He managed to finish that particular race in 1:27:44, thus motivating himself and other runners to push toward a better life.
Among the people Mitchell had inspired was Tiffany Belt. The former army veteran had gained 100 lbs more than her average weight. Upon hearing Mitchell’s story, she reached out to him and began to shed the pounds herself.
“I was miserable and wanted to make a change, but I just never was able to find a place to start or the motivation to do so,” Belt told Runner’s World. “When I read several of the articles about Mitchell, I thought, if Derek can get out there and do a 5K, I have no more excuses.”
But it isn’t only those struggling with the same issues that get inspiration from Mitchell. Chase Knight, a Crossfit trainer, worked with Mitchell in a volunteer workout session.
“The fact is, I knew he would succeed,” Knight said,
Over time, Mitchell’s discipline and determination made him shed a total of 87 pounds that same year.
Along the way, Mitchell did encounter some hurdles especially when he continuously found himself in last place.
“I’ve had moments where I don’t want to do it anymore, especially during the 10Ks,” Mitchell recalled. “At one, the race organizers said they didn’t care how long I took, but they started shutting everything down. After I hit the 5K mark, I had a police escort because they’d opened up the streets.”
But Mitchell wasn’t ready to give up leaving this piece of advice to those going through anything similar as he is. He said, “If you can just walk to the end of the block, then just walk to the end of the block, but be consistent. If you consistently walk to the end of the block, soon you’ll find you can walk two blocks, then three, then four, etc.”
Mitchell started sharing his story online, and since then, his Facebook page has garnered over 23,000 likes to date. He doesn’t seem to be on the brink of stopping anytime soon, though, as Mitchell is aiming to reach a total of 30 races as long as his body allows it.
“It’s one of the most encouraging places to be in the world,” he said. “Everyone is like, ‘I’m going to be the biggest and slowest person out there.’ I’ve been the biggest and slowest person and I still love every minute of it.”