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Before and After

Ironman athlete’s transformation leads to healthier, happier life

Mark Davis’ father passed away in 1991. With his passing came inspiration for Davis, who at one time carried 368 pounds on his 6-foot frame. Davis, a California resident now weighing around 200, will compete in his first Ironman Florida Saturday at the Boardwalk Beach Resort in Panama City Beach.

I was scared because I had a lot of health problems due to my weight.

This will be his fifth Ironman overall, and he is aiming to finish his second event. Davis’ father, Lawrence, was terminal with lung cancer and succumbed to the disease in December of 1991. Prior to his father's death, Mark lost nearly 30 pounds because he didn't want to die prematurely.

Mark on the beach

Mark's weight reached as high as 368 pounds before he began his diet program.

I was scared because I had a lot of health problems due to my weight," Davis said. "You name it, I had it. I was taking medication for depression, had high blood pressure and the works.

Davis' father was the first to notice a difference in Davis, and he gave his son an XXXL shirt, which was too small for Davis to fit into at the time. His father said the shirt would fit Davis one day.

Davis said it wasn't until after his father passed away that he knew the impact the gesture would have.

When my dad died I realized what he was trying to do.

"It didn't hit me at that instant (when I got the shirt)," Davis said. "When my dad died I realized what he was trying to do."

In memory of Lawrence, and for his own health, Davis worked hard to lose 170 pounds from 1991-95.

Wildflower (1999)

After four years of diet and exercise, Mark Davis is down to 200 pounds.

He also was not happy in his job as a certified public accountant, so he walked away from that career, went back to school and became a Personal Fitness Trainer.

"I never really had a passion to be an accountant," Davis said. "Anyone who tells you they're passionate about accounting is lying."

Now that he had a new career, Davis turned his attention to helping others who wanted to lose weight and stay in shape.

He said one of the easiest ways to motivate others was by competing in the grueling triathlons, which take place in three disciplines – a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.

"I go out and do these events to inspire other people to do them," Davis said. "You see heavier people do these events, and it helps them to be out and improving their lives."

Davis said once he hit the water for the first time, the triathlon life was in his blood. "Once I did my first one I was hooked," he said.

It was magical to finish my first Ironman.

Davis' first foray into the triathlon world came in the Escape From Alcatraz event in '98. His first Ironman was in Canada in '99. He was excited to be competing, but missed the bike cutoff by five minutes, meaning he couldn't continue. "It was disappointing," Davis said.

After other unsuccessful tries, including getting sick while riding the bike in one event, Davis had his first finish in 2002. Davis was feeling ill in that event as well, but he pushed on. He finished in 15 hours, 49 minutes, which was next-to-last. But he didn't care.

Ironman Canada (2004)

Ironman Florida will mark the fifth Ironman for Mark Davis of San Francisco, who began competing after losing almost 170 pounds, dropping his weight from 368 to 200.

"It was magical to finish my first Ironman," Davis said. "There was so much energy out there and it felt great to finish."

Davis is looking forward to Saturday's event and his goals are simple – he wants to finish in a lower time than he achieved last year in California. "I'm always looking to finish these races," he said. "I'm definitely a back-of-the-packer, but I enjoy competing."

Davis publishes a free monthly electronic magazine, which is available through his Web site, www.xbigman.com, to lend support for overweight people.

He is also working on a book and is thankful he lost the weight and has the opportunity to be an inspiration to others who are engaging in the battle of the bulge.

"I didn't always have a weight problem," Davis said, "but it was great to be able to take back my life. I want to show other people that they can take back their lives."

And as far as the shirt that Lawrence gave Davis, it's now too big, but he still has it hanging in the closet. "I'd never get rid of that," Davis said.

THE NEWS HERALD, Panama City, Florida
(Shawn Mullooly / Sports Editor / 747-5068 / smullooly@pcnh.corn)
(Brad Milner / News Herald Writer / 747-5065 / bmilner@penh.corn)

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