RACINE — When Racine resident Tom Thompson started getting aches and pains in his 30s, it never occurred to him that the cause of his discomfort and limited motion could be from the extra weight he had packed on over the years.
It wasn’t until 2009 when his doctor told him that he would need surgery to alleviate the shooting pain in his shoulder that he decided to do something about his weight.
Tipping the scales at nearly 260 pounds, he decided he would do anything to keep from going under the knife.
He started exercising seriously about two and half years ago, beginning with the rigorous workout program P90X. It was hard, humbling work but he eventually lost 75 pounds.
During that time Thompson competed in two Gladiator Assaults and two Tough Mudders race events, running long stretches, climbing nets, crawling through tunnels, jumping off platforms, running up hills and tackling other obstacles.
Those experiences, however, paled in comparison to what he went through on Sunday, when he completed the the 5K portion of the Biggest Loser RunWalk with 75 pounds in weights strapped to his body — a back pack that held a 50 pound bag of sand and a 20-pound barbell and two ankle weights weighing a combined five pounds.
The idea was that carrying the weight would illustrate to himself and others just how burdensome the weight he had carried around for all those years really was, but it would also serve as an inspiration to the roughly 1,500 competing in or watching the day’s events.
“I was trying to get a six pack (exercise-toned abdomen) to (inspire people), but I decided a couple months back that I am pretty happy with where my weight is at now,” said the 41-year-old who now works as a fitness coach in his spare time. “Having a six pack would be great, but what really inspires people is what you can accomplish. Then you can show people not just that you can lose weight, but that by losing weight you can do so much more.”
Strapping on the pack just before the 5K began at 8 a.m., he was surprised at just how heavy it was.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said just before heading toward the starting line.
When the run started the pack was snug, but by the time he shuffled across the finish line 52 minutes and 41 seconds later it was slung low against his back and fellow runners Beverly Parette of Marinette and Phil and Sandra Hill of Racine, were shouting “go Tom,” to help to get to the end.
Once across the finish line, Phil Hill, 49, who had just completed his first 5K, stepped in to pick up the pack.
Struggling to carry the bag he said, “You’re nuts. Oh my God!”
When Hill and Parette mentioned that they wished they could have done more to help him, Thompson, who later admitted that he had been tempted to let someone else carry the pack, said “you’re pushing me did more than you guys could know.”
After the race, refueling at a booth he had set up to talk about his fitness coaching work, he seemed in disbelief that he had once carried around that much weight around on the daily basis.
“That thing is heavy,” he said. “I completely understood why I used to have so much pain in every joint in my body.”