Get ready to be inspired when you read Keith Long’s story. Keith’s wife, Mary Ann Long, is a Nurse Practitioner, in Ansley Park Pediatrics!
From the Rome News Tribune on Sunday, March 27th
Personal Best: Love of family and an eye-opening documentary prompt local dad to make a dramatic lifestyle change – Rome News-Tribune: Rome Life
t wasn’t so long ago that Keith Long couldn’t take a walk without having trouble breathing. In 2013 he weighed 275 pounds. Today he’s training for next year’s Boston Marathon.
Like many people, Keith was active in his youth but as family and work responsibilities added up, he didn’t make time to stay in shape.
In high school he played tennis and his tennis coach encouraged him to run cross country to stay in shape.
“I was good at tennis,” Keith said. “But I was never good at cross country. I only did it because my coach told me to. It was never something I enjoyed.”
Keith has been working at Norfolk Southern for the past 25 years on track and bridge gangs and in 2000, began working at the company’s Atlanta office. This is when he said a downward slide into unhealthiness really began.
“I just wasn’t making the time to stay active,” he said. “I wasn’t eating good food and shift work just didn’t allow me to get out and do stuff.”
He began to gain weight and said even walking was a chore. His weight gain was affecting his sleep and his general self esteem. But he didn’t know how to change it.
Then one day Keith watched the 2011 documentary “Forks Over Knives.” The film advocates a low-fat, whole food, plant-based diet as a way to avoid or reverse several chronic diseases and recommends a vegan diet.
“That documentary really opened my eyes to a lot of changes I wanted to make in my diet and my eating habits,” he said. “It’s not graphic or anything but it talked about the bad things that certain foods do to your body. So that’s where the change began.”
Another reason Keith said he and his wife Mary Ann wanted to get healthier is because they wanted to be able to enjoy life with their children — Caroline Long, Katie Chestnut, Emma Chestnut and in particular 19-year-old Thomas Chestnut, their special needs son who continues to need their care and attention.
Topping out at 270 lbs. in 2013, Keith began his road to a healthier lifestyle by simply walking down Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta. He would use his lunch hour to walk 30 minutes then turn back for the remaining 30. Each time he went a little farther and a little bit faster until he could jog some of the way.
Eventually he could actually run the entire way.
“And for me that was like winning the Olympics,” he said. “It was a huge accomplishment and it gave me a lot of motivation.”
Along with his regular exercising, Keith also switched to a vegetarian diet and in 2014 switched to a vegan diet, cutting out meat and animal products including dairy.
He lost 110 lbs. and now weighs less than 160 lbs. depending on his training.
His was always a runner and she encouraged him to run his first race right here in Rome in March, 2014 — the Leprachaun-a-thon 5K.
“I’m so competitive that when I saw older guys and kids passing me in that race it really made me want to become a better runner,” he said.
Then the Longs ran the Berry Half Marathon and Keith knew then that he would run a marathon.
His first was in November, 2014 in Chickamauga, finishing in three hours and twenty-four minutes. He kept training and running various races and earlier this month he ran a marathon in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in three hours, three minutes and seventeen second, qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
He now runs every seven miles everyday and on Sundays wil run 18-22 miles. If he doesn’t run outside, he’ll run all the stairs in his 14-storey office building 10 times.
Keith has come a long way from a size 44 pants to qualiftying for The Boston Marathon, a race most runners can only dream of participating in.
When asked how he would respond when others think his lifestyle change is unrealistic in their own lives, he smiled and said that when he first started running he didn’t enjoy it. But known its benefits was what kept him going.
“It takes hard work,” he said. “I’m not gonna sugar coat it. I think today a lot of people want that pill or that magic cure for being overweight and unhealthy. For me it just took a lot of hard work but it was worth it. You can always find an excuse. I have to work. My child kept me up all night. I’m not feeling great today. When I was sick I’d run and it actually made me feel a little better. You just have to know that in the long run you’re making changes that will make your life a little better.”
And he owes a lot of his success to his family.
“A lot of credit goes to my wife for putting up with all this running and the diet change and for motivating me,” he said. “And my kids were a motivation too. My youngest daughter, Emma, always encourages me. And if one day I feel like having a beer while I’m training she’ll say ‘don’t do it dad. Wait till after your race.’ And she’s right.”
Keith said his lifestyle change took work and commitment but encouraged other Rome residents who might want to make similar changes.
“Along this journey, I have lost 110 pounds, had a dramatic drop in blood pressure, and gained energy and stamina,” he said. “I will keep running because of how much better I feel and because I know how important it is for me to be active and able to take care of my son.
“A healthy diet has become a habit, and now whenever I eat unhealthy foods, I am reminded of how much better I feel when I eat well. I recommend that anyone who wants to make healthy changes starts today. Don’t put it off or wait for a better time, because there is no better time. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else — only to yourself before you decided to make a change. Don’t let yourself make excuses. We all have a lunch break, and walking is helpful for knee and back pain. Make yourself a priority.”