Jeff Goad inspires many to live healthier, happierJuly 25, 2019
Column by Brandon Butler
You have to be alive to enjoy the outdoors. A basic truth. But how many people actually think about the fact that investing in your health will most likely allow you to enjoy your passions across the span of a longer life? I ignored my health for too long. Now 40, and ever increasingly aware of my own mortality, I’ve decided to do something about it. Last week I ran my first 5K race and I’m not looking back.
The 5K I ran in Rensselaer, Indiana was in honor of Jeff Goad. He was my cousin’s brother-in-law. I knew him, but not well. We were extended family through marriage. Yet, I was aware of his journey and found it courageous. Jeff’s story is both inspiring and tragic.
Jeff was a big guy. He was very overweight. One day, he said enough is enough and he went to work. He bought a pair of running shoes and hit the road. Walking, then jogging, then running. He didn’t try miracle diets. He didn’t have surgery. He used willpower to eat right and exercise, thus changing his life for the better. Over the course of two years, Jeff lost around 250 pounds.
With his life improved from his enhanced physical and mental health, because being in shape and exercising does make you happier, Jeff was living high. You can see it in his smile in every picture taken of him through his journey. He beamed enthusiasm. This was a man who put in the work and was enjoying the outcomes.
One of the results of Jeff’s extreme weight loss was a lot of excess skin that he wanted to have surgically removed. Through a horrible, tragic turn of events, what was supposed to be a simple procedure, ended Jeff’s life. I don’t believe an exact cause has been determined but after his surgery, Jeff lost consciousness and never regained it. He passed away at 40 years old.
This story hit me hard. I think it bothers me so because of how much I admired him for the work he put in. I am constantly saddened by the ever-declining state of the American work ethic. Our nation was built by incredibly hard-working men and women seeking their best lives. Today, our society has been poisoned by an attitude of instant gratification. Expectations of desired results without effort have turned so many citizens away from the “do it” attitude that built our country to one of whiners crying “give it to me.”
Jeff was a shining example of earning a better life as the result of extremely hard work. I admire him so much for what he did and the attitude he did it with. One of his favorite sayings was, “Don’t talk about it. Be about it.”
My cousin Derek and I talked about taking part in the 5K. Personally, I was just going to show up and participate. Then another inspiring person gave me the final nudge I needed, to stop talking about it and start being about it.
James “The Iron Cowboy” Lawrence did the unthinkable and finished 50 ironman competitions in 50 days in 50 states. That means he completed 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and a 26.2-mile marathon run every day for 50 days. Include the complexity and logistics of traveling each day to a new state and the feat is truly hard to fathom. But it was possible.
James did it.
During his motivational speech, James talked about how hard the physical aspects of his accomplishment were, but emphasized the mental struggles were harder to overcome. He said every day his mind tried to convince him to quit. Yet, every day he beat back those negative thoughts and pushed through to the finish line. The moral of his story was that your biggest obstacle is yourself and overcoming the excuses you provide yourself to not achieve what you desire.
James told a story about an older woman who showed up one day to complete a 5K held in conjunction with one of his ironman races. He said it was super hard for her just to walk the 3.1 miles, but she did it. Then she showed up the next day at his next race and did it again, then again and again and again. It was his mother, and she put her mind to it and started completing daily 5K walks. This was the final piece of inspiration I needed to finally start my own journey towards a better me. If Jeff could do it, and James’ mom could do it, then I could do it.
To prepare the Inaugural Jeff Goad Memorial 5k, I started walking then jogging then running a 5K every day. I completed 10 in 10 days before the race. In the last three weeks I have walk/jogged/ran nearly 50 miles. I’m eating healthy, rarely consuming alcohol and I’ve lost eight pounds. I feel incredible mentality and better physically. I have heard of people feeling this way about exercise, but I never experienced it myself before now.
Thanks to Jeff and the example he set, I am working towards losing 30 pounds and getting into to much better shape. I’m nearly a third of the way there and I feel a greater purpose every day. I hope the tragedy of Jeff’s story motivates many others to do the same. It was certainly evident that he left an impression on many because nearly 300 people completed the 5K in his honor.
What Jeff did was impressive, and I appreciate the work he put, and I am thankful for his story and the motivation it has provided. Hopefully, his loss of life will be a motivator to extend the years of my life and countless others he inspired.
If you have been putting off the pursuit of a healthier, happier version of yourself, “Don’t talk about it. Be about it.”
See you down the trail…
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