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Sizable achievement - Hill conquers mountain

April 24, 2005|by ANDY MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Mark Hill crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 47 minutes, 20 seconds at the Chambersburg Half Marathon last month.

He placed 135th out of the roughly 350 competitors in the hilly 13.1-mile race, and he was the champion - of himself. The new version of Mark Hill clearly whipped the old one.

"I just couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe I had accomplished that," said Hill, 32, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va. "To go from where I was to that half marathon ... just to think about it right now I get goose bumps."

Just 2 1/2 years ago, Hill weighed nearly 330 pounds.

"That's when I got the news from my doctor, who said, 'If you don't do something about this before you're 30, you're not going to be around much longer,'" Hill said. "That kind of smacked me in the face and put the fear of God in me.

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"I was on four different medications. My blood pressure was out of control."

Hill said he had tried dieting several times in the past, "but I failed each time."

So in November 2002, he headed to the local track.

"I'm sure I looked funny. I had no idea how to run," Hill said. "I could only make it half a lap, and I'm like, 'This is crazy.' But I didn't give up."

Two weeks later, he completed his first full lap on the quarter-mile track.

"I came home and ran into the house and yelled to my wife that I made it a full lap," Hill said.

A month later, he was up to a mile a day and rapidly shedding weight.

Hill, who said he's run all but a handful of days since that first day on the track, now logs between 30 to 40 miles every week.

"It's a total 180," said Hill, who now weighs about 195. "I was on the road to death and now I can see life ahead of me. I'm thankful I'm going to be around longer, for myself and my family.

"Since I run every day, my weight is under control. I also don't eat like I used to at all. I used to eat all the wrong foods, all snack foods and fried stuff. And now I'll go eat a veggie sub. I never used to do that."

Hill said he hopes to maintain his running routine forever.

"My ultimate goal is to do a marathon," he said. "Maybe next year."

He already has covered more ground than he ever thought possible.

"I just love to show people my before-and-after pictures," he said. "It shows running can work. It's a wonderful sport. If a 326-pound man can do it, anyone can do it."

Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at andrewm@herald-mail.com

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