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Binge-Eater Turned Marathon Training Coach Loses 100-Plus Pounds

Kevin Collier, who is running the St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll Nashville Marathon this weekend, lost more than 100 pounds and became a marathon training coach.

Three hundred and eighty-seven pounds. Kevin Collier might stand a sky-scraping 6 feet, 9 inches, but 387 pounds? And this is on a guy who weighed 170 pounds his senior year in high school, a guy who played football, basketball and ran track.

“I like to eat. I like to drink, and was pretty lazy is the best way to put it,” says Collier, 45, a middle school technology specialist in St. Louis.

Today, Collier is a sliver of his former self, weighing at 274 pounds. He’ll be among the 34,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes pounding the streets on April 30 for the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon & 1/2.

“Running truly saved my life,” says Collier, who will be running his sixth marathon

So how do you go from 170 pounds in high school to 387? One bite of pizza at a time and one sip of beer at a time. Before he turned his life around, Collier says it was routine for him, four or five nights a week, to order a 16-inch pizza, garlic cheese bread, and a deluxe salad. Then, over the course of five to six hours, consume an entire case of beer.

At 24 12-ounce brews, that’s 288 ounces of beer.

“I wouldn’t throw up,” says Collier, who was also smoking almost two packs of cigarettes a day. “I could probably pass a field sobriety test. I guess I was blessed with a high tolerance level for alcohol.”

One day at work at a different technology job, Collier began feeling chest pains. His boss told him they needed to call 911. Collier declined, reasoning the feeling wasn’t uncommon, that it was probably indigestion.

That night he told his then fiancée about the incident.“We’re not going through with the [wedding] until you see a doctor,” she told him.

On Dec. 31, 2007, at 37 years old, Collier visited a doctor and experienced what he calls his “ah-ha” moment. The doctor told him he was pre-diabetic. His cholesterol numbers were shockingly high.

“It scared me to death,” Collier recalls. “More than anything, it was the first time somebody finally told me, ‘You’re obese.’”

That same day he signed up for a 5K nine weeks down the road, and found a running program online called “The Couch to 5K Running Plan.”

“I remember telling people, ‘Hey, if you want to come make fun of me and see the fat guy running a 5K, come out,’” Collier says.

Wearing high-top basketball shoes, Collier finished the 5K, and thus began a metamorphosis.“That’s when I was reborn,” he says.

Raw vegetables and salads began replacing 16-inch pizzas. He weaned himself off cigarettes, quitting completely seven years ago. Workouts combining walking and jogging shifted to just jogging.

He ran as many 5Ks as he could afford in 2008, stretching himself to a 10K later that year. In 2011, he ran his first half marathon. His weight dropped to as low as 262 pounds when he ran the Chicago Marathon last October, finishing in a personal best of 5 hours, 16 minutes.

“And I’m not done,” Collier says. He longs to drop his half marathon PR from 2:10 to sub-2 hours. He vows to break 5 hours in the marathon.

Now, Collier is paying his love of running forward. He’s a marathon and half marathon training coach at the Fleet Feet running store in St. Louis. He trains a lot of first-timers and at the beginning of programs, e-mails them an account of his story.

Last year at Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, Collier helped train a woman, who was a St. Jude national fund raising coordinator, to her first marathon finish. This year, he’s doing the same for his girlfriend.

“I run the races with these people and every time I see them cross the finish line it takes me back to my first 5K,” Collier says. “There’s no better feeling than that.”