Running Can Change Your Life
by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
10/07/2012...Edmonton, Alberta - From a blob to a blur. From flabby to a flash. From thick to quick.
Whatever the catchphrase, Jeff Baker has gone from an overweight young man tipping the scales at 280 pounds to an outstanding cross-country runner, with a 174-pound frame, wearing the colours of the Concordia Thunder cross-country team.
(P.S. No offence should be taken with the above catch phrases as this writer himself is considered obese).
“When I was younger I was an only child and there was always food around the house and I ate a lot of it,” recalls Baker, who stands a shade over 5-foot-11. “Looking back I cannot blame anybody as it was always me and I lived it the way I lived it. Yes, it was tough and I was tormented by other kids when I was younger and it made it harder for me to make friends but I could and did change it.”
The seven-year process was difficult at first as Baker also played high school football, where weight gain is sometimes encouraged.
“Playing football I did drop down to 260 pounds but halfway through Grade 12 I quit football,” recalls Baker. “I needed something to replace it so I started running by myself and then someone mentioned that I looked good as I was losing weight. I fell in love with running and the weight started to come off.”
After graduating high school, Baker had a cup of coffee in the work force before deciding to upgrade and then enroll in Concordia University College of Alberta. It was here that his life took a major change.
“I saw the sign-up sheet for various (Thunder) teams and decided to look into cross-country and went to check it out and I made the team.”
At this point in his life Baker was at the 200-pound range.
As a member of the Thunder, in his first eight-kilometre ACAC race he ran a 59:00 clocking.
"I had never been in a race before as I always just ran by myself. This was my first ever race and it was terrible. Now some coaches would have come over and said, “That was terrible”, or “You’re off the team,” or “You screwed up.” instead our coach (Matthew Norminton) came over and said “Good job” and “We will work on it.”
Those words of encouragement meant a lot for Baker: “I found a lot more confidence for myself and self-determination.”
He has improved his original race time by more than 26 minutes - evident by a 33:02 at the recent Steve Burgess Memorial held in Grande Prairie as part of the 2012 Grand Prix - and become friends with Norminton.
“He has a great personality. He seemed to be one of those people you want to be around We became friends within the first two minutes.”
Baker wants to be a phys-ed teacher in the future to help mold and make a difference in other kid’s lives.