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Radio Personality Embraces Running as a Way to Give Back

The KyXy host will run Rock 'n' Roll San Diego on May 31.

The KyXy host will run Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego on May 31.

The mirror is difficult to miss. It spans the entire side of the North County Fair escalator in Escondido, Calif. You can admire your wardrobe if you wish, check out your latest haircut or take a peek at someone attractive without offending the gawking police.

Or, if you were Tommy Sablan four years ago, you turned your head because you loathed the reflection in the mirror.

“I couldn’t look in the mirror because I knew it was coming up and I’d just look away,” says Sablan, executive producer of the KyXy 96.5 “Jeff and Jer Showgram,” San Diego’s highest rated radio show.

Sablan stands 5-foot-7.

“On a good day,” he jokes.

In November 2011 he weighed well north of 250 pounds.

That day, curiosity got the better of Sablan. He glanced in the glass.

“I didn’t realize it was me,” he says.

He turned sideways for a profile.

“I said, ‘Wow,’” Sablan recalls. “‘I’ve got to do something.’”

He pauses. “That North County Fair mirror taught me a lot.”

Sablan now weighs 190 pounds. He dipped as low as 178, a 90-pound loss from his zenith. Medifast jump-started Sablan’s weight loss, helping him drop 50 pounds the first 2½ months. Running has helped him maintain his fitness. Sablan will join about 25,000 others for the Suja Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon and ½ Marathon on May 31. By Sablan’s count, it’ll be his 15th half marathon.

Sablan, 51, grew up in Chula Vista, graduating from Castle Park High. He was active through his early teens, playing basketball and football before music, the guitar and dreams of becoming a rock star grabbed his attention. By his account, the listed weight on his first driver’s license was 125 pounds.

He married at 30, along came his daughter Vanessa (now 20) and his son Eddie (18). The radio show took off and for a young man who grew up in a Guamanian family with limited discretionary income, he enjoyed the good life, often taking the family out to dine.

Fast food restaurants became a magnet. Ten extra pounds turned into 20. A paunch begat a gut which begat turning fat.

“In my mind, I wasn’t accepting that I was getting fat,” he says. “In my mind I was saying, ‘I’ll start working out tomorrow.’ Tomorrow never came. It was the perfect storm.”

But deep down, he knew there was a problem.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere,” he says. “I didn’t want to be seen by anyone.”

Then came the mirror’s reflection. Less than 11 months after joining Medifast, Sablan ran his first half marathon. His PR is 2 hours, 19 minutes. This year will mark his second Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half.

“I love the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half,” he says. “There’s music, it’s a fun crowd and everyone’s smiling. If you’re only going to do one half marathon in your life, it’s gotta be Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Sablan ran with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training program for his first 13.1-miler, which is fitting. For a man who has used his radio platform since the show’s inception in 1988 to raise money and awareness for social causes, it figures that by pushing his body he would help cancer patients.

Sablan helped create Chelsea’s Run, which honors Chelsea King, the former Poway High student-athlete who was murdered by a sex offender on Feb. 25, 2010 when she went out for a run.

He has been a part of the “Jeff and Jer Showgram” team that organizes the Breaking and Entering Christmas bit where struggling families are given everything from food to gifts to cars for the holidays. Last year, 26 other radio stations nationwide emulated the program.

Sablan helped form the Human Flag that showed support for military troops during the Persian Gulf War. And the show’s annual Jingle Ball concert raises funds for Becky’s House, which supports victims of domestic violence.

Away from the show, he reads at elementary schools and speaks to youths at juvenile halls. Two of Sablan’s older brothers died of heroin addiction.

“That’s actually who I am,” says Sablan regarding his passion for reaching out to youths. “Yes, I’m on the radio. But in my heart I love talking to high schools kids, talking to kids at juvenile hall about making good choices.”

 “He’s always, always thinking about other people and putting them before himself,” said friend and training partner Anita Bartram.

Asked where the root stems for his sense of helping others, Sablan credits his spiritual faith, his mother and the radio show’s listeners, who move him to want to give back.

“Our listeners are more like a family,” he says.

As for training, Sablan runs three or four times a week, averaging about five miles. He walks his dog Carlos four miles every day and often throws in running stairs or a trip to the gym.

“I’m a personal trainer and a lot of people think I’m the one pushing Tommy,” says Bartram. “When I’m not training somebody it’s really nice not to have to tell somebody what to do. When we’re running, a lot of times it’s Tommy pushing me, telling me, ‘Let’s go farther.’”

Meanwhile, the mirror still takes up the entire side of that escalator at North County Fair. Today, though, he’s not shy about checking out the man in the reflection.

“Now,” Sablan jokes, “I look and say, ‘Wow, that dude’s hot.’”