Patrick House, who has run 10 marathons and more road races of various lengths than he can count, remembers trying to complete one mile back in the spring of 2010.
“I was huffing and puffing and sweating like crazy,” House says, chuckling. “I didn’t know if I would finish it but I finally did. It took me right at 17 minutes. I was whipped.”
House, then 28, weighed over 400 pounds and figures he was on the way to a massive heart attack and early death. That was before he won NBC’s Biggest Loser contest, dropping 181 pounds, 45 percent of his body weight.
Now, seven years later and at a comfortable 260 pounds, House will serve as the honorary starter for the July 4 Watermelon Run, a 5K fundraiser for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
House says he takes great pride in helping to promote running, walking and cardiovascular exercise of any kind.
“It quite literally saved my life,” he says. “I know what a difference exercise can make for people. Just about anybody can lace on a pair of sneakers and get out and walk. That’s the message I try to get across wherever I go.”
House, director of sales for Pearl River Resort, has run five Boston Marathons.
“The main part of my routine when I lost all the weight was just getting outside, walking, jogging, getting my steps in,” he says. “Toward the end, I was getting in 10 to 12 miles a day, just moving, burning calories.”
Exercise was by no means a new experience for House in 2010. He was an athlete growing up, played football at Brandon High and then at Delta State. In fact, he was a redshirt freshman on the DSU team that won the Division II national championship in 2000.
An offensive lineman at Delta State, he stood 6 feet, 2 inches and weighed just over 300 pounds.
“I lifted weights, ran sprints, all the things you do training for football,” he said.
That ended his junior year at DSU when a back injury required surgery and forced him to quit football.
“So I quit working out,” he says. “Unfortunately, I didn’t quit eating. The pounds started to add up.”
Funny story: South Panola assistant coach Jamie Everett, an offensive guard on DSU’s national championship team, was teammates with House one year and then coached him in 2001 as a graduate assistant. Everett was flipping channels in 2010 and came across the NBC weight loss show.
“Hmmmm,” Everett remembers thinking to himself, “that guy looks a lot like the Patrick House I played football with at Delta State. Nah...”
“Patrick was a big guy at Delta State but not that big,” Everett says.
A couple days later Everett mentioned seeing a near-double of Patrick House on Biggest Loser.
“You idiot,” the teammate said, “that was our Patrick House.”
House would not be surprised. He had to reintroduce himself to his 2-year-old son after being away for more than three months in filming the show back in 2010.
That’s what happens when you lose nearly 200 pounds.
House says keeping the weight off is a constant battle, especially now that he doesn’t have six hours a day to devote to exercise.
“Part of my job is entertaining clients, taking them out to dinner and such, so, yeah, I have to work at it,” he says. “I’ll have to work at it the rest of my life.”
But he knows how. And just lacing up his sneakers and getting in his “steps” is the biggest part.
About the Watermelon Run: The Farm Bureau Watermelon Run, established in 1983, is one of Mississippi’s oldest and largest road races. The July 4 race begins and ends at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and often has as many as 1,500 entrants. It will begin at 7:30 a.m. Those interested can register online at msfame.com or by calling 601 982-8264.
Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.