Wed, Jun 03, 2015

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, German scientist and satirist  

It is said that change is one of the only constants in life. But as humans we are evolutionarily inclined to battle against it. Why? Because we are risk averse, instead opting for the path of least resistance.

If you are ever likely to meet someone who is the embodiment of UVU’s inward searching dogma of ‘You Versus You’; ‘You Versus Your Body’; ‘You Versus Your Limitations’ and who deeply understands the necessity of taking risks in the name of positive change; Brad Dains is your man.

Suffering from stress and anxiety issues whilst at college, manifesting itself in an addiction to eating and huge weight gain, Dains recognized that he needed to make some fundamental changes in his life or face some fatal consequences.

“I had hit 315lbs and used to eat my weight in food,” recalls Dains. “I was pre-diabetes. I couldn’t get up without my back hurting. I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without feeling I was going to have a heart attack. It was probable that I was going to die at a very young age.”

“I was even doing food challenges. I sat down at a restaurant known for its pancakes and decided I wanted to accept the challenge for eating the most pancakes eaten there. Within a two-hour span I had eaten 25 pancakes. It was like a drug. I was so miserable from eating them but so excited that I have been able to eat 25 pancakes. It’s because you have to have to have food to live that it’s a really hard cycle to break and manage.”

Thankfully, Dains started running in attempt to lose some weight and turn his life around: “The first time I went with my wife I could only manage half of a half mile track before throwing up,” he says. “A couple of days later I managed a full lap. At that point I decided to sign up for a race. It was 5km and taking place seven months later. I lost loads of weight and I was hooked on running.”

To cut a long story short the dad of three has come/run a very, very long way since. He’s completed: a marathon (“I do run marathon distances on my own for training though”); numerous 40-mile trail ultras; as well as some hundred milers – on and off the treadmill. Not only that, he’s the president of the Capital Striders Running Club (Central Iowa Running Club); race director of the Sycamore 8 Race; has a full-time job as an insurance underwriter, is an active member of the church and does much, much, more. His ultra running also raises a lot of money for local causes.

“When I was unhealthy I was depressed, so this is my dopamine. Running is my drug,” he enthuses. “I try and incorporate my faith into my running. I pray before I run, I pray when I am running and I pray after a race. I have a bible verse on my id tag that I get great strength from, particularly in the darker moments of a race.”

“I write and post a lot of stuff about my running, because I believe it’s possible to inspire people to show them that they can break your problems. I also mentor people about their diet. It is impossible to completely break an addiction to food (as you need it to survive). Having dealt with what I call hidden depression and food addiction, food is now of massive importance – pre-race and as part of your recovery.”

Now that Dains has shed nearly half his bodyweight through a strict diet (“I do still like the odd beer or two”) and a love of running, there can be few people who can be better advocates for the sport and those looking to change their lives for the better: “I get a lot of people telling me they can’t run. I tell them that that they cant if you choose not to. With plenty of hard work and faith you can do anything you want. I am proof of that.”

His final thoughts come back to his relationship with UVU and its ethos: “In so many races your body and mind are telling you to quit. It’s not really about you competing with anyone else, but you competing with your mind and your past. It drives you on. For me it’s much more than about the clothing. It is an idea I try to live by every single day.” It’s worth taking the risk.