November 14, 2019 by John Fernandez
Running for Their Lives
When the gun fires this Sunday at the starting line of the Miami Marathon, Matthew Millheiser will be running among the tens of thousands of participants. His goal: To finish his 14th half marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
“The only person I have to compete against is me,” said the IT analyst from Sunrise who has been running on the race circuit for the past three years. “Running keeps me moving literally and metaphorically and provides a purpose beyond the every day.”
That’s today, but three years ago Mr. Millheiser says he was extremely overweight, lethargic, anemic and unhealthy. He took a step back, evaluated his health and made the decision to join a couch-to-5K program to get in shape through running.
Within his first year of running, Mr. Millheiser lost more than 85 pounds and focused his goals on running a full marathon. In September 2012, he joined Friends in Training, a Broward County run club, sponsored by Baptist Health.
“I wanted to work alone to get healthier before joining,” he said. “It’s great to run with a group of like-minded people who provide reinforcement and motivation.”
Mr. Millheiser credits his decision to run as a life-changer. “Running saved my life,” he said. And he offers this advice for anyone thinking of taking up the sport: “Start slowly, but start.”
Interval Runner Natalie Mas, 47
Natalie Mas has always enjoyed working out and being healthy, but surgery to repair her left knee following a motorcycle accident, and a subsequent car accident in 2008 that severely injured her right leg, ankle and foot, threatened the lifestyle she knew and loved.
“It took me about two years to fully recover from the car accident,” she said. “I wasn’t able to walk for two months and had to endure another three months of intensive therapy just to be able to move my toes and condition my foot to walk again.”
Ms. Mas returned to the gym but felt discouraged when her workouts weren’t netting any visible results. So, when her friend invited her to run with him through a park near her home in West Kendall, this competitive mother of one son accepted.
“I stunk,” she said. “I could barely run. My breathing was out of control and my friend, who was so composed, annoyed me.”
She checked with her doctor to see if she could run, despite her previous injuries, and when he cleared her with advice to start slow and listen to her body, she began training for her first half marathon.
“Training on my own wasn’t fun,” she admitted. “Those long runs were brutal and boring alone.”
So last October, she joined TeamFootWorks out of South Miami, another run club supported by Baptist Health, to properly train for the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. She will complete the half marathon course, alternating between a 4-minute run interval and a 1-minute walk interval. Her goal is to complete the 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 30 minutes or less.
“Every time I run, I’m in awe,” she said. “I never take it for granted. It’s an amazing feeling when you cross that finish line – such a great sense of accomplishment.”
Marketer-turned-runner Mike Neubauer, 30
Mike Neubauer stumbled into running while he was marketing a product to protect athletes’ skin from blisters and chafing.
“I was completely allergic to running,” he confessed. “I had been athletic in football and baseball, but running was like a punishment.”
He began attending run clubs, like the Baptist Health South Florida Brickell Run Club, to promote his product and quickly became interested in the fitness education and social aspects they offered their runners.
“These groups alleviate the individual element and allow you to focus your efforts on the group and your contribution to the group,” he said. “They also help you get better, because you all share your experiences and tips for improving your runs.”
Mr. Neubauer has run three half-marathons in the past six weeks and is looking forward to beating his personal record of 2 hours and 20 minutes, which he achieved at a half marathon in Key West just a few weeks ago.
To people who have been thinking about running, Mr. Neubauer offers this advice: “Show up! Get off the couch and take the first step,” he said. “With time, everyone improves, and as you start to meet your goals, you’ll continue to push yourself to participate. It’s a state of mind.”
Through support of local run clubs, Baptist Health provides the community with opportunities to get healthier and set fitness goals, along with receiving free medical screenings for blood pressure and Body Mass Index, or BMI.