Marathon changes life of Riverside police officer

In March of 2010 when marathon runner Mike Sullivan was just 27 years old, he was already facing some serious health problems. “I was depressed and had fallen into some bad eating habits,” said Sullivan, a Riverside police office. “I was eating fast food as often as three times a day, drinking alcohol quite a bit and not exercising at all.”

Sullivan weighed about 350 pounds at that time and said he was not enjoying life. “I wanted my life to be over,” he said.

But several things happened that changed the course of his life forever. “A good friend of mine passed away from breast cancer,” Sullivan said. “And when I would see her in the hospital she was always positive throughout everything. I looked at my problem as something I could fix and it really had a big effect on me.”

Then Sullivan went on a call for his job during the winter and had to walk up several flights of steps. By the time he reached the top, he was extremely winded. “The couple I was there to help looked like they were disappointed in me and had no faith in me being able to help them,” he said. “That image is still in my head today.”

Sullivan knew it was time to save his own life. “I wouldn’t have made it much longer if I didn’t do something,” he said.

An athlete in high school, Sullivan has been quite active throughout college as well, playing football at the University of Dayton, but like many athletes, he didn’t slow down his eating once his activity slowed down. “I started stress eating and eating when I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t even realize it was hurting me,” he said. “It made me feel better.”

Sullivan also developed some back issues which made being active more difficult. His doctor told him, however, that if he lost weight, his back problems would get better.

“A good friend of mine is a personal trainer,” Sullivan said. “I joined the gym where she works out and she helped me get into lifting and endurance type stuff and I started working out seven days a week.”

Sullivan also completely changed his diet and eliminated all fast food and ate vegetables every day. “Those were the biggest changes for me during the first year,” he said. “After the first year I may have had fast food here and there but now I don’t touch it at all.”

With his back issues, Sullivan started with lower impact cardio like the bike and elliptical machines but after losing the first 80 pounds, he worked his way up to running. “After I got into the mode of feeling active again, it was hard to slow me down,” he said.

In fact, it took just five and a half months for him to lose 100 pounds. “That was a big day for me,” Sullivan said. “It came off pretty quickly and I did it in a healthy way by getting off greasy food and changing my diet.”

After losing the first 100 pounds, Sullivan tore his meniscus in his knee and had to have surgery in 2011. He did not allow this to deter him, however, and ran in the Air Force Marathon in September of that year, his first marathon. “When you do a long run like this, you don’t feel good for the next few days,” he said. “I was very sore but it was a good kind of pain.”

Sullivan was hooked after that marathon and in 2012 he competed in his first Iron Man Triathlon in Louisville, Ky. “That sport is more rewarding to me because it seems everyone who is participating has an inspiring story,” he said.

The Iron Man event involves a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile marathon competition. Sullivan said he trained for six months for this event.

“The biggest thing about the Iron Man is that it’s more taxing mentally because you have to fight so much during the training,” Sullivan said. “It’s pretty tough but my goal is to do the Iron Man once a year.”

Sullivan also participated in a charity event in 2012 benefiting ARC Ohio and Dayton History, “Fight Night,” which gave him an opportunity to learn a new sport — boxing. “I knew John Drake of who owns Drake’s Gym and I was new to the sport,” Sullivan said. “It was such a positive experience to be involved with this event for charity and I met a lot of new people. It was a great event I will never forget.”

To date Sullivan has lost 150 pounds and has maintained that weight for five months. “Being in shape and being healthy makes my job so much easier to do,” he said. “It may sound kind of simple but I just tell people not to give up. The support I have had the past few years from my friends has been absolutely amazing. I used to have a lot of negativity around my life and when I was able to realize that and get it out of my life, things got a lot better. It is so much easier to accomplish your goals when you have the proper support. Everyone in my life today I consider family because they saw me at my worst and now see me at my best.”

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