‘They set their minds to it, and they did it’

South Surrey walkers go from sedentary to completing the Honolulu Marathon.

Semiahmoo Peninsula resident Sarah Whiting (centre) and a group of fellow walkers completed the Honolulu Marathon last month. The group plans to do it again this year.

Semiahmoo Peninsula resident Sarah Whiting (centre) and a group of fellow walkers completed the Honolulu Marathon last month. The group plans to do it again this year.

When it comes to losing weight and improving fitness levels, it’s easy to talk the talk – especially this time of year, as a flurry of resolutions are made, but so few kept.

But a group of Lower Mainland residents – including some from the Semiahmoo Peninsula, have been backing up such talk with action, with the help of South Surrey’s Live Well Medical and Exercise Clinic.

Last month, a group of 21 from Live Well – including local clients Sarah Whiting and Ted Myrah, founder Sara Hodson and Dr. Ali Zentner – walked the entire Honolulu Marathon. The endeavour – covering 42.2 km – took the team about eight hours to complete.

The preparation, however, began months earlier, as the group of walkers transformed themselves into healthy, active people capable of completing a feat such as a marathon.

Beginning in late summer, the group would meet at Stanley Park in Vancouver, and walk a route that would progressively get longer and longer, until it neared marathon distance.

“Prior to this, I was quite unhealthy and sedentary – but through Live Well, I was encouraged to try different activities, such as the marathon,” said Whiting.

“Now I’m 70 pounds less (than when I started), and I’ve made a lot of changes to my lifestyle.”

Myrah, 62, also noticed big challenges in his health since he began focusing on fitness in the summer of 2013.

“I’ve lost 55 pounds, and I’m diabetic. I used to be on insulin but now I’m not, and I used to be on a lot of blood-pressure medication, and I’m not on as much anymore. This has been the perfect thing for me,” he said.

“I believe I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my life.”

He called completely the marathon “a great feeling of accomplishment.”

Though they’d been training for months for Honolulu, both Myrah and Whiting admitted that it was a grueling task – “At first you’re pumped, then it got tough, and then you just want it to be over,” Whiting laughed as she described the Dec. 13 event – and even Hodson said it was a tougher task than she expected.

“I’ve run some half marathons, and I consider myself to be pretty fit, but I underestimated the challenge,” she said. “It was tough, being out there that long, in the sun.”

That said, she said the joy she felt crossing the finish line paled in comparison to how she felt when she saw her group members – many of whom had been referred to Live Well by doctors, and had exercise “prescribed to them” – cross the line.

“Our members inspired me, they really did. They were fierce, they were all-in, and it was emotional at the end,” she said.

“It was special, to see people who, before, weren’t the most enthusiastic exercisers and who, maybe a year or two before, would’ve thought this was impossible. But they set their minds to it, and they did it.”

Myrah said the sacrifices were “well worth it” to get to the point he’s at now, and is looking forward to another year filled with half-marathons. As well, the group is planning to walk the Honolulu Marathon again this December, and has already re-convened for weekly walks at Stanley Park.

“It’s been a big change, even to have something like this on my radar,” he said.

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