Disney Marathoner is carrying 306 pounds but not for long

Sue Recchia
Try walking one mile as fast as you can. It's work.

Now try that mile in a jumpsuit with 100 pounds of lead shot stitched into the fabric. Your legs will turn to jelly.

But that was just a warm-up. Now, try it with 200 pounds of weight and see how far you get.

Sue Recchia, 43, carrying 200 extra pounds in a body suit made of fat her own walked one mile July 24, when she began training to walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the Disney Marathon, which will be held Jan. 7. She weighed 345 pounds.

"It took me 20 minutes to walk 1 mile," she recalls with near-death-experience clarity.

Recchia has made tremendous strides.

On Tuesday, the Greenacres management consultant walked 2.8 miles in 48 minutes. I know. I paced her. She was already down to 306 pounds. She is amazing. She is my hero.

Next year, when Recchia attempts to walk 26 miles in eight hours, she expects to be down to her target weight for the event 280 pounds.

And then she plans to keep walking and melting until she's a size 12.

"I won't be below 250 pounds until June," she said. "My goal is to fit into my wedding dress on my 20th wedding anniversary, September 10, 2002."

After walking six miles last weekend with fellow trainees recruited by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Palm Beach County, Recchia was excited enough about the society's Team in Training program to get the word out to others. She started by e-mailing me.

"I would like people like myself who are significantly overweight to see that we can do anything we set our minds to," she wrote. I promptly called Recchia and invited myself on one of her training walks.

Set off at a crisp 3.5 mph

At 7 a.m., we set out on one of her several measured routes through the River Bridge gated community, where she and her husband, Steve, a security shift supervisor, have lived since moving down from Rochester, N.Y., three years ago.

"Don't know if I can talk and keep my pace," Recchia says, as we set out at a crisp 3.5 mph on the first cool morning since last winter. She carries a backpack with a half-gallon water reservoir and a sipping tube, and she keeps the pace just fine.

After a lifetime of fighting the fat battle with every diet plan and fad known to mankind, she had an epiphany last June while watching a Richard Simmons pitch on QVC.

"He made me realize that I cannot diet. Anything I do, I must do forever."

She ordered a bunch of Richard Simmons packaged food, began an aquatics exercise program at her community pool and, through her Richard Simmons message board, met a woman much like herself who last year walked a Leukemia Society Marathon in Hawaii.

"I thought it was cool that someone my size could walk a marathon."

That same day, she got a flier in the mail from the Leukemia Society urging folks to sign up for the Disney Marathon. The invitation promised that the group's Team in Training coaches could prepare couch potatoes in reasonably good health to complete a marathon in just six months. To qualify, walkers and joggers were required to collect $1,600 in pledges.

"I took that flier as a sign."

Simmons plan inspired her

As we walk, Recchia is going flat out and has budgeted almost all of her oxygen for locomotion. Still, she is able to talk sparingly.

"I was chubby as a kid. Slimmed down in high school. Weighed 160 when I married. Weight Watchers, low carbs, no carbs, liquid protein. Got sick, had to take out my gall bladder.

"Diets don't work. Started this program with 2,200 calories, dropped to 1,800 killed my metabolism, so now I'm back up to 2,200, losing 8 pounds a month.

"Before committing to the Richard Simmons program, ate like they were going to stop making food.

"Team in Training concept is great. They give us eight weeks of the program at a time. Keeps getting tougher, longer walks. Don't tell us the next phase, don't want to scare us.

"Each of us in TNT program wears a hospital bracelet for a leukemia or lymphoma patient or survivor.

"I've been remarkably healthy. Doctor gave me his blessing to train. Sing with Sweet Adelines, hours of standing, some choreography involved. Friends starting to notice my weight loss. Much more energy."

'That's a waist'

"Last week showing one of my friends this dent round my belly, didn't know what it was. She says, 'That's a waist.'"

Recchia and I finish at her driveway 48 minutes after starting. She cools down with a slow walk and will do stretching exercises when she goes inside. She checks her pulse: 133. In less than a minute, it is 110. When she started back in July, a slower pace ran her pulse up to 150, and it took her body three minutes to start calming down.

"I can climb bleachers now. I can get out of a chair without using my arms."

Her mind can see a year down the road, and she smiles.

"I feel good now. When I'm down to 200, I'll be bouncing off the walls."

For information on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society participation in the Disney Marathon, see www.teamintraining.org; to follow Sue Recchia's training regimen, see www.pledgepage.com/suerecchia

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