FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 9, 2017) -- In September 2015, CASCOM employee Omar Delgado received an email asking if anyone wanted to participate in a walking challenge for the holidays.
Delgado, having retired about four years earlier as a sergeant first class in the Army, thought it sounded like a good idea to help lose a few pounds he added. He went out and purchased a step counter and signed up for a session at the Army Wellness Center, which was a requirement of the walking challenge.
He worked with Joanna Ward-Brown at the AWC and went through a battery of tests. The staff helped him set up a diet and walking plan.
“I figured the wellness center was a step in the right direction,” said Delgado.
After a month in the “challenge,” Delgado learned he was the only person sending in information from his section, and by Thanksgiving, he was the sole person competing. He returned to AWC for a follow-up appointment.
“After my weigh-in, I realized I was making significant changes in my body and the way I felt and ate,” he said. “I started getting more information from the center about topics like nutrition, exercising better and the Army Performance Triad. I just kept going at it.”
Shortly after the CASCOM walking challenge fizzled out, Delgado learned of an IMCOM-sponsored one that included installations worldwide.
“I started challenging myself with that program by bringing the Fort Lee walking average up,” he said. “Only about 6-10 people participated on Fort Lee. You needed 10 people, so I was constantly trying to recruit others.”
Throughout this time, Delgado continued his monthly – sometimes quarterly – visits with the wellness center, with a goal of improving his overall health. He kept up with his walking and eventually found himself wanting to get more steps.
“I started running,” he said. “My first race was the Pineapple Express – a 5K – with the Fort Lee Area Spouses’ Club. Then, I just started running more 5Ks and 10Ks. There was a possibility of running a half-marathon, and I decided to go for it. It was a challenging course, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about running for that long of a distance at once. I had never even run more than 6-7 miles at a time in the military.”
Delgado said he didn’t have a goal in mind other than finishing, and once he completed it within 2 hours and 4 minutes, he challenged himself to complete one in under two hours.
“Something that is kind of funny in the running community is that immediately after a race, you say you’re never going to race again,” said Delgado, “but the day after, you signed up for your next race. I signed up for another one within 10 days of my first one.”
After getting those two half-marathons under his belt, Delgado decided to stick with local 5K and 10K races. That is, until a friend urged him to complete a 50K – about 31 miles – race. The race took place in July 2017, and the duo thought they were prepared for it.
“We didn’t really think about how hot it would be in July, but we just went for it,” he said. “It was painful, but we completed it.”
Shortly after the 50K, Delgado wanted to run his first marathon, so he signed up for one that was set for Oct. 21. Then, a few weeks later, he learned he received a free entry to the Marine Corps marathon on Oct. 22. Delgado decided to challenge himself by completing two marathons in one weekend.
“I ran the first marathon in North Carolina in 5 hours. 21 minutes, and I was tired,” he said. “I was more worried about having to recover enough to finish the marathon the next day. The next day, though, I woke up in Washington, D.C., to run the Marine Corps Marathon and actually finished it 14 minutes faster.”
Delgado had worked with the wellness center to make a game plan for the back-to-back marathons, and he attributed their help to his success that weekend and during the past two years. He encourages everyone to give the clinic a shot at improving their health.
“When I first went to the wellness center, I thought they were going to put me on a strict diet and tell me all the things I couldn’t do,” he said. “But it wasn’t like that. It’s all about fine-tuning, and we tweak the plan each time to make sure it’s working for me. I try to get everyone to go and they sound interested but don’t always go. I think they have the same fears I had, but it’s worth the trip.”