'Biggest Loser' contestants in for the long run
Sunday's marathon is part of the life transformations
BY KRISTA JAHNKE
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
For Detroiter Carla Triplett, lining up to run a half-marathon on Sunday has little to do with publicity, even though a camera crew will be following her stride for stride.
The former contestant from the NBC show "The Biggest Loser" said completing the 13.1-mile run will be an achievement right up there with losing 128 pounds on Season 7.
"I've never really liked to run," said Triplett, who at 379 pounds was the heaviest woman ever to take part in the reality show where obese people are pitted against one another in a weight-loss contest. "For me to run a half-marathon, I think that will inspire a lot of people."
Triplett is one of 10 alumni from the show running in the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank races this weekend. NBC is sending a crew to follow them.
Season 7 winner Helen Phillips of Warren will run the half-marathon, as will Mike Morelli, the MSU freshman from South Lyon who was runner-up to Phillips. The mother and daughter team from Royal Oak, Shellay and Amy Cremen, from Season 6 will run, too.
Season 7 couple Nicole Brewer Gurganious and husband Damien Gurganious are flying in from Brooklyn, N.Y. They originally were coming for Triplett's 38th birthday Thursday; when they heard about the race, they signed up.
None of the runners will complete the full 26.2-mile marathon; most are registered to do the half. Mike Morelli's father, Ron Morelli, might walk in the 5K. But he's scheduled to have knee surgery on Oct. 23. Season 6 cast member Renee Wilson, mother of that season's winner, Michelle Wilson, is also in the 5K fun run.
The idea to get former cast members together came from Season 2 winner Pete Thomas from Ypsilanti. Now Thomas makes a living helping others learn to do what he did: he lost 185 pounds during the show's taping, transforming his life in the process.
But he and the other cast members want people to know that their struggles to stay healthy didn't end with the show's finale.
"Any time you do something extraordinary, you need to set new goals," said Thomas, who runs a weight-loss program called Lose It Fast, Lose It Forever through the Ann Arbor Public Schools Department of Recreation and Education. "I lost 185 pounds in nine months, but to be able to maintain that, I had to set new goals."
Thomas said on the days he doesn't feel like running, he's still running psychologically from "old, fat Pete." After winning the show in 2005, he immersed himself in learning about nutrition and weight-loss. "Nerd-stuff," he calls his diet of reading medical journals and research abstracts to try and understand things like metabolic training, glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity.
"I needed to understand why things on 'The Biggest Loser' worked," Thomas said. "I have to take this experience I had and turn it into something manageable for my life."
He's done so. And the other runners in Sunday's races have found ways to do so, too. Triplett said she tries to work out twice a day, and she also strictly budgets her calories. Ron Morelli said no one is as surprised as he is at how well he's controlled his diet.
"I think after six months of making your own food, it gets ingrained in you," Morelli said. "The few times I gave in to cravings, the food doesn't even taste good."
His son, Mike, has actually gained 30 pounds, all of it muscle. "His clothes are tight now in his thighs and his back," Morelli said. "He looks better, more built."
As for Phillips, a broken toe in July slowed her workouts for a while. But she ran the Fall Colors Bridge Race in Mackinaw last weekend and on Monday, she was in Los Angeles filming with the Season 8 cast, who were also running a marathon. She planned to run part of it: "I do have to save something for Detroit," she said.
"Even for the average person, incredible things are possible," Thomas said, "if you have the right team of support around you and you set your mind to it."