When you hear about the marathons Ben Davis has completed, it’s easy to assume he’s a super-athlete, a special creature unlike all of us ordinary guys who struggle to make it to the gym and eat right.
But 2 1/2 years ago, Davis weighed 360 pounds and was miserable.
“I’d always been overweight as a kid and a teenager, but in college it really got out of control. After ten months of being in a deep depression about it, really being cut off from my friends and family and the world, I decided to do something about it,” says Davis, who is somewhat of an Internet sensation thanks to a video, “My 120 pound journey,” he posted on YouTube last September.
Now 130 pounds lighter, Davis is traveling the country, hosting free 5K races designed to inspire others to take charge of their health. His “Do Life” tour stops Wednesday in Tempe, where people of all fitness levels are invited to run, walk, jog, rollerblade or cycle 3.1 miles around Tempe Town Lake.
“Bring your friends, bring your kids, bring your dogs. It’s very informal,” says Davis. “We’re getting out there to be active together and share a meal after and tell our stories.”
Davis, who lives in Little Rock, Ark., was motivated to change when, at a holiday gathering, his grandmother — now known in the blogosphere as the much-loved “Meemaw” — pulled him aside.
“(She) asked me if I was happy with my life, and I realized I wasn’t,” he says. “I called my brother and asked him if he wanted to start running, and we did — slowly at first.”
Davis began working out regularly. He ate better. He cultivated a network of active friends who supported him and held him accountable for his workouts and diet. And he blogged about it, launching www.BenDoesLife.com on Christmas Day 2008.
“I didn’t know what (Ben Does Life) meant at the time, but I was going to make it mean something,” he remembers.
The blog’s readership grew over time, and, after the video post on YouTube, he appeared on the Today Show and Fox News.
“The weight loss happened slowly over the two and a half years, but more than the physical changes, it was just a whole different life, as far as the emotional side goes,” he says. “I got happier. I started hanging out with my friends and family again. For the first time in a long, long time, I was smiling. It was a total overhaul of everything in my life.”
As he and his father, John, travel the country in a Toyota Rav4 borrowed from a supportive Meemaw, sleeping in the homes of host families along the way, Davis says the point of the 5Ks — or of any activity, for that matter — isn’t, ultimately, to lose weight or clock a fast race time.
“We’re doing these things because we have to find that happiness in life, that satisfaction, that excitement. Life can be exciting. We don’t have to live depressed, behind closed doors. It’s getting out there and participating and being excited and just doing life,” he says. “When you change one thing in your life for the better, everything starts to get better.”
The “Do Life” 5K starts at 7 p.m. outside Hayden Ferry Lakeside, 80 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe.
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