Derek Mitchell will never be the fastest. But this doesn’t stop the Kansas City native from stepping up to the starting line and making his way towards the finish line 3.1 miles later.
The 560-pounder embodies the X-Wear spirit of forging your own path. He has been doing so for the past three years, taking part in 5Ks throughout the country as he strives to lose weight and improve his health. In the process, he has inspired others, showing them what is possible, if you only try.
Mitchell’s health issues are the result of prolactinoma, a non-cancerous tumor of the pituitary gland that impacts his metabolism. Because of that, Derek told us, “I got bigger and bigger. I’d go on several diets where I’d lose 20 to 30 pounds. Then it would plateau.”
Doctors finally diagnosed Mitchell’s condition seven years ago. He takes medication and has undergone treatment to minimize the impact of his condition. In recent years he has taken matters into his own hands by improving his eating habits – he no longer drinks soda – and adding exercise to his physical regimen.
He participated in his first 5K in Kansas City three years ago. He followed that up by completing 21 more in 2015 and then 30 in 2016. This year, he has run 2 so far and plans on doing another 23 5Ks and 5 10Ks. “My goal is finishing,” he said. “Early on, when I started doing these and getting better times, I focused more and more on that. Then I got a stress fracture because I was pushing to get faster and faster. Now, as long as my feet cross the starting line and at some time later cross the finish line, I’m a happy camper.”
For Mitchell, it’s not only about finishing. It’s about the camaraderie he has developed with other participants. “The running community is one of the most positive, encouraging groups of people I’ve ever met,” he said. “There is nothing more positive and encouraging than being there on the course. They don’t care how big or slow you are. The fact you are out there is what they care about.”
In the process, the 36-year-old Mitchell has built up a legion of fans – he has nearly 26,500 followers on Facebook – who root him on each race he runs. He also inspires others who are struggling with similar issues in their own lives.
On a GoFundMe set up to cover the expenses of the races he runs, one donor wrote, “You’re my new hero! I, too, am an obese guy and just finished my first 5K. I plan to follow in your footsteps! Thanks for the inspiration!!!”
Another wrote, “When people tell me they can’t run, I tell them your story.”
These comments are just a few examples of how Mitchell’s story is having a positive impact on others. “It is awesome to see the kind of effect I can have on someone,” he told X-Wear. “It is also a way to motivate me not to stop.”
And so Mitchell continues to set goals for himself. He wants to continue losing weight – at his heaviest he weighed 625 pounds – and he wants to continue traveling the country, competing in 5Ks and 10Ks. While it’s unlikely he will ever win those races, the fact that he is competing in them is victory enough.
You can learn more about Mitchell, who has been featured in People Magazine, Runner’s World and Inside Edition, by liking his Facebook page here.
Forge Your Path
At X-Wear, we believe people like Mitchell should motivate us all to forge our own path, regardless of whether it’s running, hiking, skateboarding, surfing or biking. To do so requires the proper equipment. Start with sunglasses, necessary to protect your eyes and optimize your vision during those times of day when the sun is at its brightest. Our performance line includes Oakley, Native and Wiley X, all brands that are durable enough to withstand the physical elements of long hours spent outside.