Christopher Miller wants us to know that a person’s weight-loss journey is rarely a straight line.
“So much of what people say about weight loss (is) you were at point A and now you're at point B, and now you're going to stay there,” he said. “That has not been the case for me, and I'm pretty sure that's not the case for a lot of people.”
For the Palisade, Minn., native, perhaps “point A” was when he weighed the most, at 331 pounds on his wedding day in May 2005.
Perhaps it was when he was in high school, when he was teased for his weight, or in college, when he made his first attempts at making changes, short-lived as they were.
Or perhaps “point A” was seeing TV coverage of Grandma’s Marathon as a young child and thinking, “I could never do that.”
Whenever the spark was lit, Miller plans to do exactly that as he runs Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday. The marathon, his first, is a milestone after 13 years of running toward a healthier life.
Miller, 40, is a pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Bigfork, Mont., where he lives with his wife, Rebecca, and children Grace, 10, and Paul, 6.
During that first summer as a married couple, Miller and his wife lived in Glenville, Minn., near the Iowa border, where Miller had an internship with a local congregation.
It was there that he made a decision.
“I had been thinking to myself, ‘I want to find a way to be able to last as long as I can, for the sake of this woman that I've married,’” he said. “‘I don’t want to have a heart attack when I get to 40 or 50 or whatever.’”
By spring 2006, after moving to Rockford, Ill., for Rebecca to pursue her own internship, Miller started walking on river trails. After a few months, he decided to try to run a 5K race. He found one in Janesville, Wis., as part of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
“I'd set my goal (to) finish it in less than 40 minutes, because that way I’d know I’d have at least run a little bit of it,” he said.
He finished in 38:40.
“I was just beat at the end,” Miller said. “I really couldn't believe that I had actually done it.”
He figured it was just a one-time thing. But a month later, as Miller and his wife prepared to move back to the Twin Cities, he discovered another 5K supporting an important cause.
“There was a 5K to raise money for research for multiple myeloma, which is the cancer that my father-in-law had at the time,” he said.
The next year, Miller ran a race at the University of Minnesota supporting autism research, which hit close to home because his younger brother is autistic.
“It was this connection of wanting to do things for others, and running for something that I really cared about.”
From there, to borrow Miller’s own pun, “it was off to the races.”
These days, Miller runs about four days a week, sometimes outside, sometimes on the treadmill. He has run more than 50 5K races, three or four 10Ks and two half-marathons.
At his leanest in 2017, Miller was down to about 209 pounds, he said. Today he’s back to 245. He maintains a better diet than in years past, and he credits his wife with introducing him to flavors and spices he never would have considered on his own.
So how is he feeling about his first marathon?
“I’m nervous,” he said. “When I did my second half-marathon about a year ago, I was in better shape then. But I'm also trying to accept where I am, that I've made the commitment to this. And I'm just going to go out there and see what I can do.”
On Saturday, Miller’s wife and kids will be in Canal Park, ready to cheer him across the finish line.
So, no matter how curved the road may be from point A to point B — and to points C, D and beyond — Miller wants people to keep moving.
“When it comes to taking care of yourself, it's never going to be a straight line,” he said. “Don't beat yourself up for that. I’ve done my own fair share of beating myself up for it, and I'm reminding myself just as much.
“Whether it's 1 mile, 3 miles or 26, it’s going to have to be one step at a time.”