The ongoing inspiration of Ben Davis

Ben Davis' outlook remains sunny and bright after his inspiring transformation from from overweight non-athlete to marathoner and triathlete. Submitted by Ben Davis

It has been almost a year and a half since we first met a runner named Ben Davis. Like many people, we were inspired by a Youtube video of Ben and his “120-Pound Journey.” In the video Ben transforms himself from an overweight unhappy young man, into a super-fit runner who enters marathons and Ironman triathlons with his father and brother. He is happy again. It is a story that resonates well with runners of all ability levels. Ben is one of us, fighting the same battles, overcoming the same doubts, challenging himself to get out the door each and every day to "do life" his way with purpose and direction.

Even if you have seen the video before it is worth another look.

As inspiring as the video is, it does not fully encapsulate the man. After speaking with Ben on the phone we found that we have way more in common as runners than we could have imagined. We wrote a blog about him in October of 2010 detailing the common ground we share in running and the fulfillment we gain from exercising. We felt connected as runners and asked if we could incorporate more of his story into our book Running the Edge. Ben agreed and is featured in Chapter 15 in a story titled “Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After.”

So much has happened in the past year, that we decided to catch up with Ben to see how he is doing. No surprise that he is still running, still inspiring, and still brutally honest about the struggles and joys of his journey. Below is a brief Q&A with Ben where he discusses weight loss, running milestones, being on the cover of Runner’s World, and much more. To read more about Ben and follow his journey, please like his facebook page and his newly launched website dolifemovement.com.

Thank you Ben for reminding us again and again that even though runners come in all shapes, sizes, and speeds, we are more alike than we are different! Do Life!

It has been 15 months since we last talked to you. Your story remains one of the most popular blogs we wrote in the first year of ”Run the Edge.” In the past year what have been the biggest challenges and biggest accomplishments in your life. Milestones? Big news?

It's been a really great year. Lots has happened since we talked. I've done a lot more races (four marathons and a second Ironman). The highlight, race-wise, was definitely finishing our second Ironman. My dad, brother and I do all the big races together; it adds another level of excitement. I broke 15 hours which was a pretty big deal for me as I had kind of expected 16 or 16:30. And I got a book deal! So that's what I've been working on the past few months. It's a dream come true, really, and I've never been so excited to work.

Struggles? I think, for me, the struggle will always be with food--it's the constant thorn. Over the last six months of 2011, I gained a good 15 pounds. Now, though, with the new year I've started back training for spring marathons and I'm shedding some pounds again. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll be battling the rest of my life, but I'm okay with it.

You have been on the cover of Runner’s World and had some brushes with celebrity. Describe those experiences.

Oh man. The Runner's World thing was amazing. I was able to meet some really remarkable people through that whole experience--people I will never forget. And yeah it was definitely surreal walking through airports and grocery stores and seeing my face.

I did actually get my heart broken by John Mayer, which is fun to laugh about. But yeah, some pretty fun things have been happening, no doubt.

How does it make you feel to know that you have inspired so many people not only to lose weight but to find running and take control of their lives?

I think you hit the nail on the head with the running thing. I get a lot of emails from people who have lost weight after reading my blog or seeing the video, and it's always a really awesome thing to see, but yeah, there's something special about seeing people crossing the finish line of a 5K or a marathon and saying that I had at least a small part in their journey. That's pretty cool and I've been fortunate enough to meet and hang out with a lot of them. That always means a lot.

Is there a story from one of your followers or readers that has inspired you?

For sure. I always go back to Nancy. Nancy was a woman I met at a “Do Life 5K” in Buffalo. She had been on her journey for 12 weeks. As we were running together she shared with me that we were running her first 5K ever. She went on to say that she had always been afraid to run outside for fear of ridicule; it's a common fear, I know I dealt with it a little bit. She told me that she had done all the training for the 5K in her house. A treadmill, I assumed. Nope. She had literally run through her house from room to room to train for the 5K. Her first 5K, her first time running outside. It was incredible. And she finished! That was an inspiring moment and one I'll never forget.

Statistics suggest that upwards of 90% of people who lose large amounts of weight gain it back. You struggled with this in the past but this time seems to be different. You are beating the odds. What do you think is the key, or keys, to your success of maintaining your weight?

It's all about the shift of mindset from "losing weight" to "leading a healthy life." In the past I was only focused on calories in and calories out. But now it's about the racing, and enjoying life, and doing it in a healthy manner. You have to find something bigger than the number of pounds. Once you find that, it becomes a lot more reasonable and a lot more fulfilling.

There is always a dark side to fame. As soon as you become a public figure of any size there is bound to be criticism. How have you dealt with negative people and how does it effect you?

It's a strange world we live in, especially when there is a blanket of anonymity. And the Internet is the perfect breeding ground for that. People say things that they absolutely would not say if the two of you were out to dinner. Yeah, it sucks sometimes to see mean comments, but you have to understand that it means literally nothing. And it's such a small percentage that it's a lot easier to let them roll off. For the most part, people are awesome and those are the comments I put stock in.

What does being a runner mean to you? Is it a love/hate relationship?

Being a runner means just that: running. No matter how much or how fast, if you're out there pounding the pavement, you are a runner. Most of the time I love it. Yeah, it takes a couple minutes to get out the door and getting into a groove, but that's pretty universal. But once you hit that stride? That's a good place to be. And I'm here in Vancouver BC, which is just the most beautiful place in the world, so I'm lucky.

You are in a new relationship since we last spoke. How is that going and how has it changed your life?

I'm engaged! Her name is Brooke and she's the perfect girl for me. We balance each other out really well. She's a runner too, and a very talented graphic designer. Which, you know, works out really well when “Do Life” needs a new shirt design. No, she's wonderful and we're getting married next spring in Arkansas.

How has the “Do-Life” movement expanded in the past year? What is next? How can people get involved/help?

It's been a big year for “Do Life.” We did a nationwide tour last summer and it turned out to be a huge success. We did 32 5Ks in 32 cities in 40 days and met 1,600 or so incredible people with incredible stories. We just launched our new website--dolifemovement.com--a community of folks who are looking to improve their lives through fitness; it's really great to interact daily with like-minded individuals and we've been very happy with how it's going so far.

Right now we're in the midst of planning for a UK tour. We'll be there March 25th-April 1st and will be doing a “Do Life” 5K and multiple speaking engagements across the country. I'm psyched--I've never been to Europe. Party in Britain!

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