March 12, 2004 - Boston, MA
April 7 - St. Mary's, GA
April 11 - Darien, GA
April 16 - Hinesville, GA
April 19 - Savannah, GA
April 20 - Hilton Head, SC
April 28 - Charleston, SC
May 7 - Tabor City, NC
May 12 - Goldsboro, NC
May 19 - Rocky Mount, NC
May 23 - Pleasant Hill, NC
May 25 - Petersburg, VA
June 1- Richmond, VA
Halfway Point Report
June 5 - Alexandria, VA
June 10 - Washington, DC
June 16 - Baltimore, MD
June 20 - Philadelphia, PA
June 25 - Manhattan, NY
July 1 - Rye, NY
July 6 - Lebanon, CT
July 12 - Webster, MA
July 15 - Wellesley, MA
July 22 - Boston, MA
March 12, 2004
Well, it’s finally happening. On
April 1 there will be a press conference
at the State House in Boston, and I’ll
be heading to Jacksonville a couple of
days later for a reception on the 4th
at The Landing in Jacksonville with Healthy
Jacksonville and the Juvenile Diabetes
Association among others. My old friend
and Harmon-Marino client Tony V. will
be performing material from our upcoming
show “Laughing At The Losing Game”.
Another press conference April 5, and
then I’ll be walking!
It’s gratifying to finally realize
a three-year long dream. And last week
I got news that Barnes & Noble subsidiary
iUniverse will become a sponsor of the
Florida to Boston walk and publish my
book – a combination of self-help,
memoir and painfully humorous therapy.
The Big & Tall Chronicles: Mis-Adventures
of a Life Long Food Addict! will be available
about halfway through the March, at Barnes
& Noble as well as on this website.
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April 7, 2004
St. Mary's, Georgia
Hello Jacksonville! I had waited for three years to say those words
and then finally on Monday at a spirited press conference at Duval
Health Department I finally kicked off the Million Calorie March.
Well, sort of. Monday's press conference was followed by a
celebration walk around Jacksonville with dozens of walkers from the
health department and fitness enthusiasts in tow. It was an absolute
blast, and the city really came out for the kickoff. Joining me from
Boston was my wife Julie, Todd Patkin, our major sponsor, comedian
Tony V., Dan Jones who's shooting the entire walk for Denny Houghton
Productions, and finally Brian Baldwin and Russell Surette, my
longtime friends and road managers from BWS Associates.
We took Monday's walk around Jacksonville as a "training walk" after
the producers from "Live with Regis and Kelly" asked us to delay the
kickoff so we could do it the next day. Who was I to say no? A live
kickoff on NBC with 10 million people watching? Talk about surpassing
my wildest dreams. So on Tuesday after doing the rounds of local news
and morning shows we headed on the MCM mobile vehicle to "Friendship
Fountain" in downtown. Regis and Kelly were great and had the right
mix of humor and message. Just one kicker though.the producers wanted
me to weigh in on live TV! Well, I guess if I was ever self
conscious it's over now. We threw a few one liners back and forth
and then Regis waved the flag and about 20 of us were off. Thanks to
the people of Jacksonville for their support and gracious
hospitality. I made so many friends I should be in good shape for
tickets to the 2005 Super Bowl when the Patriots take the
The glory of our live kickoff was quickly over as we found ourselves
on a lonesome stretch of Route #17 heading out of town. It was truly
surreal that I was actually walking the 1200 mile Million Calorie
March. It was green, beautiful and about 75 degrees. By afternoon we
were down to just two, myself and Russ. Suddenly a pickup truck pulls
over and a beautiful couple asks us "Are you the ones walking to
Boston?". We answered "Yes" - then they handed us a $40 donation to
Generation Excel. Unbelievable. On the way out of town we had waves,
beeps and several people who had seen the kickoff on the news. Thanks
to Jenn and Adam from the Marko Group for all the great work with the press - between
them and the Rendon Group in Boston, we're off to a great start as an
Russ and I put up a solid day of walking ending in Yulee, Florida
heading towards Georgia. Then things became a comedy of errors. First
we lost the mobile home keys in the camp where we were putting up for
the night. Before we could find them we lost electrical power, before
our chicken and shrimp dinner could cook on our electric grill. Brian
and Russ eventually found them, only to misjudge the height of the
motel we headed for and smashing the entrance up a bit. Okay, so who
ever said walking home from Florida was going to be easy?
On Wednesday, things got much more normal - like we all hope the rest
of the trip goes. Russ and I put up a solid 14.9 miles - crossing
into Kingsland, Georgia by running over a two lane bridge with no
sidewalks. Who says a big guy can't run when he has to? I phoned
in to two radio stations live from the road and Dan Jones came along
for a few miles and videotaped the action. All things considered, The
March is off to a great start!
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April 11, 2004
The MCM team woke up this morning to thunder, lighting and downpours, so after calling in to a few morning radio shows we headed to Steffen's Restaurant in Kingsland for breakfast until it blew over. Well, I walked in Gary Marino and walked out Tom Brady! Everyone seemed to know about the Million Calorie March so we made the rounds at the tables, gave out T-shirts and got to know some of the natives. Boy do I love their accents. Who knew Nomar (Garciaparra) even had an "R".
Anyhow Russ, Brian, Dan and myself videotaped our experiences with the locals as well as our first meal as a "family". Once the weather cleared Russ and I put up a solid 15.2 miles walking into Woodbine, Georgia. Mayor Buford Clark sent a police escort as we walked into downtown. Once we reached City Hall, he and other citizens greeted us. The Mayor and I exchanged T-shirts (MCM and 2004 Annual Crawfish Festival) and a short time later, I headed into a rural neighborhood to meet alone with Margaret, a very sweet lady caught in the struggles of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Her daughter-in-law Kristen had read about my walk in February's "Let's Live Magazine" and asked if I wouldn't mind setting some time aside to meet with her mother in law. As I've said all along that's what the Million Calorie March is all about, so I ended up having a great time with Margaret, telling her my story, what I've been lucky enough to learn and doing my best to inspire her. I'm fairly new at this type of thing, but hopefully I helped Margaret with some of her health issues. Best of luck sweet lady!
We walked a beautiful but seemingly endless strip today, stopping to talk with a real bunch of characters hanging out at a picnic table in the middle of the Georgia countryside. The media has covered the March extensively in this area, and not a minute goes by where we don't get a roadside donations or at least a friendly beep from the local folks. After filling our canteens we headed back to Route 17 and over a series of sprawling bridges. Talk about "the great wide open". 24 years ago, Dave McGilvray, one of my inspirations and an advisor on this project, ran these same roads as part of his Florida to Boston trek. I think about Dave a lot down here whenever I need to be inspired. Thoughts about my late Mother, Lorraine "Rainbow" Marino are never far behind as well.
One question that everyone back home keeps asking is "Is it what you thought it would be?" We'll I've already said as an awareness campaign the Million Calorie March has already exceeded my expectations.if we're talking about the walking itself I'd have to say yes as well. Russ and I have good days and tough days. Aches and pains are a reality when you're walking 15 miles per day, so by day seven I began taking what my friend Chris Zito refers to as "preventive Ibuprofen strikes". Here in the middle of Georgia there are scenic stretches with fruit and fish stands and then areas where I feel as if we're walking Route 128 in Dedham. There are roosters and cattle one moment, and then dogs that make Cujo look like your neighbor's French poodle the next.
All in all week one has gone well and we're really beginning to work well together as a team. These guys are real characters. Brian "Rain Man" Baldwin calculates the day's mileage to the inch, and Russell Surette has walked every mile with me since we left Jacksonville. (Which now feels like a lifetime ago). Danny "The Kid" Jones has really hit his stride as cameraman documenting the people, culture and events we encounter - greeting me with an icepack for my ankles at the 5,10, and 15 mile marks. Impressive considering when I was 22, the most I could do was polish off 10 or 15 beers!
Tomorrow starts the march toward Savannah, with stops at wellness centers, YMCAs and media outlets along the way. I don't think a lot about Boston, the 1100 miles to go or the fact that I actually took a jet airliner to get down here. I concentrate on tackling each leg of each day's 15 miles as well as "putting miles in the bank" as Dave McGilvray would say. That said - thanks to everyone for the constant phone calls, e-mails and letters of encouragement. I have done one thing right so far in this life, and that is surrounding myself with the greatest people on earth. I'll check in very soon with more stories, I promise!
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April 16, 2004
I had my first checkup at a health care clinic near Eulonia, Georgia, today. Super nice people and very supportive of what I'm trying to achieve. While in the waiting room I sat across from a big guy caught in the struggle. He was extremely overweight and I quickly recognized his disruptive style of sleeping as Sleep Apnea - a disease that had me in its grips for 3 long years. That very nice southern gentleman is the type of person I'm doing this walk for. Suddenly at 8:30am I was more energized to do my part to help Americans see the light more than ever. He was still sleeping and snoring loudly when I was called in to see a great nurse practitioner, Cyndi. She gave me a few prescriptions for the inevitable aches and pains and headed out with Russ to walk a solid 14 miles or "13. 9 miles" as Brian "Rainman" Baldwin likes to say. I couldn't have hired a road manager who rounds things off?
In the early afternoon we stopped for lunch at an authentic southern barbeque. How authentic? We'll the name of the place was actually "Barb-e-que" and it had a slow cooker out back in the yard. The guys and I wanted to meet the natives as well as experience some signature Georgian cuisine before we crossed over the line into Southern Carolina. I figured I was due for a treat day since I'd lost nearly 6 lbs since the "March" began. I decided to go with a chicken and pulled pork combo, but when we got to the picnic table and I opened my takeout container I was greeted with an overabundance of meat swimming in BBQ sauce, a mountain of potato salad swimming in mayo and coleslaw marinated with sugar. A huge lump of cornbread sat on top of the heap - soaked with sauce. "Boys" I said, "this is what got me down here in the first place". I took the high road - the one I hope the 65% of Americans dealing with weight problems will one day take. I gave the potato salad to Dan, ½ the ribs and all of the cornbread to Russ. For the fit and healthy folks out there I say God Bless, enjoy. This former food addict is finally back in control. There's a great saying out there that says, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." I for one, agree. I can't walk the eastern seaboard feeling like a chapter from "When Bloated Things Happen To Good People!"
We're in Midway, Georgia today, on the outskirts of Savannah.
Time moves slowly when you're taking the long way home. Many folks have asked what I do to pass the 6 to 7 hour walks. Well, Russ and I talk about many things, and then (when we feel we've learned more about each other than we would ever need to know) I usually breakout the I-Pod my friend and Harmon-Marino client Jimmy Dunn bought for me. Music is so motivating. A little Rolling Stones here, a little Van Halen there, throw in an assortment of Motown hits and the next thing you know you've put a solid three hours of tread in the road! Some days I take my cell phone, headset and lapel microphone for the documentary and hit the road looking like some sort of high tech urban cowboy!
I have a new appreciation and new nickname for my road manager Russell Surette these days: "The Healer." Russ has a massive container filled with assorted band aids, foot creams, ointments, anti-infect ants, Blistex, Mambo number #5…you name it. At the end of every day's 15 miles I usually have a serious case of "Frankenfoot", so needless to say I've had my feet in this guy's lap more than most of his girlfriends! Like an ancient medicine man Russ goes to work on my peds, and when I wake up I'm a new man.
I spoke in Hinesville, Georgia today and did my first roundtable discussion on Obesity and the Million Calorie March. What a supportive, great group of people. Russ and I ended with a trivia contest and MCM Tee Shirt giveaway. The common thread I hear during stops like this is that both parents and kids need help. They need help to cut through the overdose of misinformation out there. Low fat? Low cal? Low carb? "No sugar added?" They're confused by loose and misleading labels on products - and why the FDA would approve them. They want to get educated - but cannot navigate through the maze of advertising. As the statistics on obesity get worse, the stakes simply get higher and higher. Now none of the folks I've met with so far have been looking to put the blame game on the government or the fast food industry - but they sure could use some help in making sense of it all. They want more healthy choices, and better lifestyles and work schedules at to accommodate exercise. I hope we're entering into a time when the national heath care experts will get the massive public anti-obesity campaign they've been calling for, but ultimately people will have to be more vigilant than ever about their personal health goals. The power to change exists in all of us. Special thanks to Jamie from the YMCA in Hinesville for promoting "The March."
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April 19, 2004
Boy do I love Savannah. Why? Well first of all (I'm not going to lie to you) it's right there at the top of the state, which means South Carolina is right around the corner. Secondly, Savannah is as beautiful as it's residents. We visited two exercise/health centers today, doing round table discussions and meeting people involved in their own struggles with weight. It's encouraging to see people beginning to dissect their eating disorders and recognize the environment (as well as their bad habits) as a central part of the problem. They are also empowering themselves to find a way to get healthy and enjoy a quality life - the way it was meant to be lived.
Hello South Carolina! We hit the Georgia/South Carolina line today. My word did it feel good. Two states down and nine to go. If you were on Route 17 north at about 5pm I was the one kissing the ground in front of the sign that read "Welcome to South Carolina". From there the MCM Team headed into downtown Hardeeville to have dinner at a great restaurant called "The Cripple Crab". We enjoyed some steamed shrimp and T-Bone steaks (ahh the things you can do when you walk 15 miles a day. We had a lot of laughs with restaurant owner Becky Scott and her staff. They asked me to sign a couple copies of the "People Magazine" story for their wall and I honestly had to laugh. The whole concept of my photo hanging on their wall of fame (next to Sly Stallone and an Elvis impersonator) is just too surreal to me. Anyone who knows me knows this kind of attention has never been my style - nevertheless I'm appreciative, humbled and well…winded. My entire approach to this project has never changed. I'm not a celebrity, sports star or any kind of pitchman for submarine sandwiches - just your average Joe American next door doing his part to help people empower themselves change.
Russ Surette, my road manager and longtime friend headed home this morning - after walking the first two weeks of The Million Calorie March with me. (There's one he can tell the grandkids…right folks?) It's a good thing I was sleeping when he left - I would have been dragging on Russ' ankles begging him not to go. They broke the mold when they made that guy - but luckily Russ will be running things at the Boston offices of BWS and Generation Excel with Julie.
By the way a word about Generation Excel, the foundation I'm attempting to raise funding for. When I designed it back in 2002, I approached it as the grown up statistic that I am. As I've said a million times - I'm not a nutritionist or a obesity expert - just a guy from the other side of the tracks who at long last found his path to health. I designed Generation Excel to have a real impact on the problem of obesity in children and adults. Please take a look at our goals on this website and you'll see I have big ideas. Unfortunately with big ideas frequently comes a big price tag, so if you can help spread the word and get the message out I'd be deeply indebted. Thanks to everyone for all of the calls, letters, signs, banners, e-mails and gifts. Thanks to people like you I'm on my way to being what my brother Rich termed "a fit guy with an obese heart". I'll update the website shortly as we march towards Charleston. All my best - G
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April 20, 2004
Hilton Head, SC
I walked alone this morning for the first time since I'd left Jacksonville. Russ flew out yesterday and Danny "the Kid" Jones is in New York screening his documentary about South Africa entitled "Two Weeks in Johannesburg." So for now the team is down to just Brain Baldwin and myself. It was a gorgeous stretch of Route 17 where the trees met in the middle of the road forming a perfect green tunnel. There are very few cars and the road itself is only two lanes and with the exception of someone's discarded box of McNuggets there's nothing else to see. Suddenly I came across a pinecone tree and just as I was about to walk by I had a vision of my Ma when we were kids, stopping at every pinecone tree she could find and collecting them in a bag to make wreaths with. I picked one up and carried it in my hand for quite some time. In many ways this walk is about promises to keep - the promises I made to her before she left to explore other universes as well as the promises I made to myself to get healthy. When I think of it in those terms the road ahead is a piece of cake… okay, wrong word but you all know where I'm going!
According to logistics wizard Brian Baldwin, North and South Carolina will be the toughest part of the entire Florida to Boston trek. Let's face it, I might as well change my residency to these states. Here are the numbers: 23 days in South Carolina alone. 20 in North Carolina. Brian refers to this part of the walk as "the Wall." The good news is I'm feeling great physically. My body has become conditioned to the 15-mile days, and my pace has really picked up out there. Finally - since everybody's asking - I'm down about 10 pounds since the kickoff of the walk. That's as far as I'll go in terms of "Girth announcements" for now!
We're walking towards Hendersonville, SC today and a special guest has joined the tour this week - my older brother Rich. Now back in Beverly, Mass. these days Richie's name is synonymous with Pumpkin Tortellini and all things Tiramisu (He owns a restaurant called Chianti Tuscan Grill) but down here on "The March" Rich has been concentrating on his health, walking over 40 miles, eating healthy meals and looking like a new person. As brothers we still get a kick out of hanging out together, so we walked, we laughed, we sang a few acapella tunes, we did a few radio interviews together and we even ate together. Sheraton Hotels, one of the major sponsors of The Million Calorie March, has launched a sensational new menu called "Low Carb Lifestyles" and it absolutely "had me at hello." We tried the "No Chip Dip" which features fresh asparagus, zucchini, summer squash, crunchy celery and other vegetables along with a creamy spinach and artichoke dip. From there we went with "The Ultimate Portobello Chicken Burger" which features delicious slices of portabella mushroom inside the warm chicken burger, and a tomato and avocado relish. Who says losing weight is a drag? With "LowCarb Lifestyles" I feel like I've dined at a fine restaurant every night and still kept it healthy.
We hit the Walterboro area today, and the terrain is green and gorgeous. There are a lot of farms, and stopping to check out the horses (I'm a horse freak) is slowing my pace a bit. The walk has received a lot of print, radio and TV in this area, but apparently not everybody pays attention to the media in these parts. While stopping to pet a gorgeous white thouroughbred on a roadside farm, the farmer himself approached me - asking where I was coming from. When I explained to him that I was walking from Florida to Massachusetts he interjected with "You know you can take a bus for that?." I tried to spell it out for him by explaining that I was walking to raise awareness and funds for obesity as part of "The Million Calorie March." Then he really looked perplexed. "March?" he said, "Well son, in these parts it's April!" Okay… clearly not my target market for these - but I loved the horse!
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April 28, 2004
This week we're in Charleston, Summerville and Monks Corner, South Carolina - and talk about a "shock and awe" media campaign! Kudos to Wendy Mejia and Melissa Hurley from Rendon Public Relations for racking up all three major networks, seven newspapers and two radio morning shows. That's a media trifecta in my book - one which will go a long way towards raising awareness about obesity in this area - where "southern fried" is a way of life!
Problem is, now I can't do anything in this area without it being noticed. Just the other day I went to Enterprise car rental (our drop off and pickup points are too far away from the hotel to take the RV) and the crew at the rental agency basically hit me with "Hey, aren't you the guy walking from Florida to Massachusetts? What would you be renting a car for? I explained the situation and assured them that I would not be "Rosie Ruizing" the Million Calorie March anytime soon. Special thanks to Ashley Claire for all her great help.
From there I headed to the YMCA in Summerville to do some weight training. It was amazing how many people walked over during the workout to thank me for doing the cross country walk and to offer words of encouragement. It's always amazing to me the reactions I get all day here on "The March." Then again, maybe I shouldn't be surprised. As far back as 2001 when I first began working on this project, it always seemed to touch people. They always loved the idea of a Florida to Boston walk for obesity - a disease which was long overdue for its own awareness walk. The Million Calorie March always seemed to resonate with folks. It gave people hope. And now three years later, with obesity rates skyrocketing and the stakes higher than ever, I get to take a huge negative in my life and turn it into a positive for other people caught in the struggle. Cool. Matty Blake, the New York comedian who wrote the Forward for my upcoming book, would call this a "Failure Miracle."
I spoke to 300 kids today at the Bonner Elementary School in Macedonia, S.C. I wasn't sure at first how the kids would react to me (let's face it I'm not Schwartzenegger here!) but to my surprise they seemed have a blast hearing about the walk and meeting the members of my team. Many reminded me of my nieces and nephew back home. I encouraged them to find a sport that they would excel at and fall in love with for life. I also tried to convince them to eat fast food as a treat versus an everyday meal (the way it was meant to be consumed). Hopefully I broke through - either way they asked tons of questions and seemed to have a blast (especially with the trivia contest for MCM tee shirts). The way I see it if I got through to even one future "little Gary" headed for a "waisted youth" it was all worth it.
I did a quick media tour with Eric Jackson, the head chef from the Sheraton in Charleston this week. The reason was to help promote Sheraton's new "Low Carb Lifestyles meals" as well as sample some of the products to the media. Basically we took delicious protein omelettes and fruit salads right into the studios to talk about how good and healthy they are. Now the fact that the meals actually made it to the radio and TV stations without being devoured by yours truly is proof positive that this former food addict is at long last on his way!
I was excited to hear that Todd Patkin, the underwriter of the Million Calorie March, will be joining the tour on May 4-9 to walk with me. Thanks to Todd and a group of Boston business people who believed in this project, we're on our way to doing something good for the cause. Todd's a believer, and boy does the world need more believers like Todd. Visit Todd G. Patkin Charitable Endeavors on the "Sponsor and Heroes" page and thanks for everything my friend.
One more week in South Carolina to go!
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May 7, 2004
Tabor City, NC
Hello North Carolina!
Sorry for the lack of recent updates on my website journal, but both my laptop and Brian's ended up with viruses so Danny "the Kid" Jones spent quality time with the computer wizards in Myrtle Beach trying to deal with the problem. Me? I just walked, walked and you guessed it: walked.
Speaking of the Myrtle Beach area, we spent some quality time there at the Sheraton Plantation before crashing the border into North Carolina (after 19 days of walking).
While still in SC, I had a great time on the TV show "Good Morning Carolinas", and I was also joined by Marni Jennejahn from MJ Fitness for a portion of that day's walk.
Marni had heard about "The March" on a local radio station and was nice enough to donate a free personal weight training at her gym. Her associate, the lovely Karen Hampton, also gave me a complimentary sports massage that was second to none. Join these two great ladies for the grand opening of their newest MJ Fitness location on June 4th in Pauley's Island near Myrtle Beach!
Meanwhile, Brian Baldwin's friends Janet Cyr and her son Bobby joined the walk as well. They were nice enough to drive the official "Million Calorie March" pace car down from Massachusetts, generously donated by AutoPart International and Todd G. Patkin's "Dream Maker Endeavors." Initially my guys pulled a fast one; telling me that our new car had arrived and was colored flamingo pink. Eventually, they came clean after I began to go into one of my tirades.
We broke 350 miles this week and the towns we've walked thru since our April 6th kickoff sounds like a Howard Dean speech gone horribly wrong. Jacksonville, Yulee,
Brunswick, Woodbine, Midway, Savannah, Hardeeville, Walterboro, Charleston, Georgetown, Whitesville, Vinegar Hill... well, you get the picture!
In other news, I weighed in today and had gained nearly 20 pounds! Of course the fact that I walked more than 4 hours in tough Carolina downpour may have had something to do with it. When I re-weigh with dry clothes on I'm sure I'm actually closing in on a 20 pound loss at this point.
Last week, in an attempt to do my part to help prevent any future "Little Gary Marinos" out there, I spoke to the children at "Kids In Motion", a special after school physical fitness program . It was one of the best stops we've made so far, mostly because they were such good kids and asked such good questions. The two biggest laughs came when I told them about my days playing baseball on the "McDonalds" Little League Team, and when I told them how my nieces and nephew refer to me as their "Uncle Goo Goo". Congrats to the folks running the program - a true anomaly in the SC school system.
I hit the North Carolina border with Todd Patkin walking with me, and that milestone was quickly followed up with yet another milestone: the 400 mile mark. It's hard to believe but I'm now 1/3rd of the way home today and feeling great. We were joined on that portion of the walk for two days by a great group of ladies, Jeannette Bell of North Myrtle Beach, Senator Dick Elliott's wife Anne Elliott, Michelle Akin from Louisiana and Peggy Upchurch from Alabaster, Alabama. Now if you're keeping score at home that's 4 different southern accents all at once! Add in this 100% Italian boy from Boston and Todd's signature New England accent and you've got quite a soundtrack for over 6 hours! All parties completed the 15-mile days with me and we had a blast.
There are many challenges to come in North Carolina and Virginia, including 90 degree heat, tough terrain, the first hatching of ciccadas in 17 years and an even tougher schedule concerning media and events - but fear not my troubled countrymen - I'll be home to Boston soon enough. Now you may be putting up you're Christmas lights, but I'll be there, I promise! (Just kidding - we're actually two days ahead of our July 17th target date)
Until next time-
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May 12, 2004
Up at 5:45am. Morning radio until 8:30am. Breakfast the on the way to the drop site. In the mobile home, it's ice packs on the legs and sun block for the arms and legs. Load up the IPod with tunes for the walk and juice up the cell phone.15 mile days in 90-degree heat with stops along the way at wellness centers, schools and media outlets.
Ahhh…Life on the Million Calorie March.
Things are really cooking, and now as I approach Raleigh, NC, new problems have presented themselves. Chafing for one (Gold's Bond Powder, anyone?). And hills. Lots of them. Up until we hit North Carolina we hadn't encountered anything but flatland - but now I'm hitting several everyday.
The good news is as a team we're solid. Oh, there are always issues. Brian hit a sinkhole on the side of the road while driving the RV and we ended up having to get towed out. It looked like a scene out of the "Tremors" sequel.
I spent an entire evening responding to fan emails but because I am a technical illiterate, mistakenly addressed all of my responses to my wife's email address.
Young Dan Jones, in an attempt to experience "my world" took himself to the local "All You Can Eat Buffet" and ended up looking like a chapter from "When Bloated Things Happen To Good People." Poor Dan. He's a good kid and all in all life on the road is going well.
Tomorrow Julie Lynn, my incredibly loving and supportive wife, is coming down to join the tour again. What a woman, huh fellas? There are not many wives who would green light their husbands leaving home for 3 1/2 months to walk the eastern seaboard.
Fortunately Julie is as passionate about this cause as I am, and she's doing an impeccable job running the project from the Boston offices of Generation Excel.
All this and she's beautiful to boot. Lucky me!
In Raleigh, Steve Smith, Tony Miller (my brother in law), and the members of Team K are also joining us. The guys are biking - you guessed it from Florida to Boston - to support The Make a Wish Foundation. Ironically, the guys came up with the idea to bike Kissimmee to Boston back in 2001 when I came up with the idea to walk it.
As fate would have it we're all doing it simultaneously three years later and hooking up along the way. Cool huh? Add to this considerable mix the fact that Boston legend Dave McGillivray is running from San Francisco to Boston to celebrate the 25th year anniversary of his original run and it begs to ask the question: Is anyone left in Boston these days?
A new video containing highlights of the first month of The Million Calorie March has been edited by Dan and loaded on the website…Enjoy and we'll send more digital stills soon!
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May 19, 2004
Rocky Mount, NC
Just a couple of weeks shy of the 50% mark of the walk, word comes that I'm actually heading south again.
Sheraton is flying myself and the crew to Atlanta (a media market our walk route missed) for the press conference rolling out the new Low Carb Lifestyles menu. What a cool time in our country. Never back in my early years struggling with weight did I think I'd see the day when a national hotel chain like Sheraton would create a menu for folks caught in the struggle. On a side note, this represents the first time I've traveled a major distance without being self-powered. And when I get above the skyline will I avoid looking out the plane window to see what I've walked? You can count on it!
This past week's walk included some very special guests including my wife Julie Lynn, my in-laws Pat and Bill Harmon, and my own Dad on his way home from Naples, Florida.
In Raleigh we enjoyed dinner with Tony Miller and the members of Team K - biking from Kissimmee, FL to Boston on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Needless to say it was a real "family affair," but fear not - I got my 15 miles per day in the can despite all of the company!
Monday included media in the morning followed by a stop at the Viquest Center in Greensville. Viquest is far and away the most beautiful health center I've been to. Talk about "piled high with all the toppings." We're talking 3 types of pools, saunas, steam rooms, free weights, cybex machines, a state of the art memory card system (for personal fitness settings), nutrition classes, seminars, you name it.
At night we held a round table discussion on the obesity issue and how it effects North Carolinians. Special thanks to David Roscoe for bringing me in, and in-house massage therapist Brooke for her healing massage.
On Tuesday we spent the afternoon at the Statehouse in North Carolina for meetings with Senator William Purcell and the staff of Lt. Governor Perdue. We discussed some of the very compelling initiatives being proposed on the obesity front in this area known as "The Fried belt" and "The Stroke belt." The Lt. Governor also opened the senate session by recognizing the Million Calorie March for it's contribution in the fight against obesity. Now at the press conference in Boston before I left for Jacksonville, I said that I felt that the obesity issue represented an important test for our country: that money, political careers and big business are not as important as the lives of our kids. Both public servants we met with today have passed the test with bold initiaves on both the obesity and tobacco fronts.
It's hard to believe but when the team returns to North Carolina we'll be 3 walking days from the Virginia border!
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May 23, 2004
Pleasant Hill, NC
How about those Red Sox? Okay let's stick to business.
We flew in from the press event Atlanta on a late flight. What a beautiful city and fun press event we had for the roll out of Sheraton's new healthy menu. I served up the self-deprecating humor large at the podium - and then headed to spend some quality time at the low carb cheesecake station. Special thanks to The Sheraton's Ellen Gallo and Katherine Stapleton for bringing me in. Also kudos to the beautiful Karen Caravan and Jen Sinclaire of KC Public Relations for setting everything up in Atlanta. When you've grown up in Boston, southern accents just melt in your mouth…much like the cheesecake!
It's still surreal for me after 3 years of planning to be actually walking the 1200 mile Million Calorie March. It's amazing to think that an idea my Uncle Dave and I came up back in 2001 has actually come to life, and that people have become inspired and embraced it nationally. Over 50 million people so far have seen "The Million Calorie March". It not only makes the three years of hard work worth it - but it gives the twenty years I spent struggling with this disease a silver lining.
Okay, back to the walking. We hit the ground running on Thursday in Rocky Mount - with our eye on hitting the Virginia border by early Sunday. Can you believe it? This sure is beautiful country to walk. Don't get me wrong - back home I enjoy walking Horn Pond in Woburn or The Mystic Lakes in Medford - but there's simply nothing like walking through the Northern Carolina farm country at 8AM with "The Best of The Beatles" playing on the iPod and nobody in sight for miles. There are farmhouses, crop fields, miles of green plateaus and sunlit streams sets. This is America!
In the spirit of keeping fairly frequent Girth Announcements, I'm down about 25 lbs now since we left Jacksonville. Considering that we've been on the road now for almost 8 weeks that's still good, steady weight loss. Finally we're putting together a "profiles" message board on the website for people who have been inspired by "The March". Feel free to e-mail your story. See you soon!
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May 25, 2004
Hello Sweet Virginia!
We hit the border yesterday and wow - the things you don't see from Route 95 south! Country stores, cattle and miles and miles of green pastures.
And it's a good thing I like Virginia - it's the third largest state I'll be walking through. All in all we're here 16 days in gruelingly humid 90 degree weather. Then the terrain turns from farm country to suburban and metropolitan neighborhoods the bulk of the way home.
We weren't in Virginia long before being joined by some walkers who were touched by the cause. Ryan Rivers and Chantel Edwards of Stoney Creek, VA and Chuck and Mary Risch of Miromar, Florida joined me for the day! Also joining the tour on Friday: Russ "The Healer" Surette and my friend and client David Goldstein.
We just added a new sponsor to the Million Calorie March: Nashoba Valley Health Centers of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Look for a weekly Million Calorie March column in their newsletter and stops at their Sharon, CT, Ayer, MA and Haverhill, MA Centers when we get back into New England.
Soon, I'll be in Washington D.C. When I get there I hope I can share what I've learned (as a grown up statistic and person whose battle with this disease is winding down) with our nations leaders. Obesity has been linked to 51 diseases at this point and kills 100 people per week in Massachusetts alone. The statistics - despite all the talk about obesity - only seem to be getting worse.
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June 1, 2004
Walked: 670 miles
After 8 weeks of country roads, farms and live cattle, the city skyline of Richmond came into view today. As I made my way across the long bridge, I found myself back into civilization. Talk about a road weary traveler - I was simply transfixed as I walked past the 7-11’s, Barnes and Nobles, Dairy Queens and CVS pharmacies. Within minutes project manager Brian Baldwin and myself had to come to one realization: We’re back in the North East.
Now do we really need Dunkin Donuts, Blimpee Subs and chains like the Cheesecake Factory? Well maybe just Dunkin' Donuts... but I digress. Luckily for me Sheraton Hotels, one of the major sponsors of The Million Calorie March serves a nice ‘low carb” one on their new menu, so being surrounded by temptation isn’t the end of the world.
The real silver lining of being back in this neck of the woods is simple: After weeks of feeling like Bill Murray in the movie “Ground Hog Day” (living the same day over and over) at least the terrain is different and I’m back among lots of people. Heck, let face it, to be back with people at all is a good thing.
Richmond is scenic and I’m walking past interesting historic landmarks everywhere. I’ll try to take some photos on my day off when young Dan Jones and myself head out to “meet the natives”. Right now my sights are set on Washington D.C. There are road signs everywhere for “D.C” and every time I see one I can’t help but smile and ask myself
Did I really walk here from Florida?
I received a lot of e-mails asking how the documentary about the cross-county walk is coming. Well at this point cameraman Dan Jones has miles and miles of colorful footage in the can. We’ve captured press conferences, media stops, walk footage, All You Can Eat Buffets and interesting people – right down to the guy I busted on the side of the road that was hiding a pecan pie in his pockets when he saw me walking through town. Manager Brian Baldwin – my David Lettermen/Jerry Springer look alike – was simply made for video. Talk about a character. Now I have to be honest-the documentary is a lot more of a comedy than we expected, but hopefully the inspirational part comes in the next 600 miles!
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June 5, 2004
Walked: 755 miles
We're just on the outskirts of Washington D.C. at this point, and when I hit the end point of Saturday's walk I'll be in Arlington National Cemetery, just across the bridge from the Lincoln Memorial and Pennsylvania Avenue. The MCM team is at The Sheraton in "Old Town" Alexandria, and I'm staying a few nights with my friends Tony D'Amelio and Joanna Seward at their home just a mile away.
The weather this past week has been cloudy, rainy, and very cool and, well... like home. As everybody back in Boston knows, we're down to just three seasons these days: Fall, Winter and road construction! In terms of walking, however, this is a welcome change from the humid 90-degree weather I was walking 15 miles a day in, just 10 days ago.
We'll be here in Washington D.C. for quite a some time thanks to the incredible work of Brian Baldwin and Dan Jones. The guys have scheduled 15 meetings so far for us this week on Capitol Hill with senators and congressmen involved in the obesity issue. Having walked a good portion of the east coast and talking with everyday folks about the problem, it will be interesting to meet some of the people involved in working on the solution.
In addition to the meetings, we'll be doing D.C. stops and media events including another possible live remote on "Live with Regis & Kelly". USA Today has a story out this week about "The March" in the "Life" section.
We also received word today from the publisher that my book "Big & Tall Chronicles: Misadventures Of A Life Long Food Addict!", will be released by the end of June and available at a Barnes & Noble Store near you. I'll keep you posted!
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June 10, 2004
Washington D.C. and points north
We're in our final days in Washington D.C. and preparing to go out with a bang with a second live remote on "Live with Regis and Kelly" in front of The Capitol on the morning of June 15th.
We racked up 16 meetings total on Capitol Hill with US Senators and Congressmen on both sides of the obesity issue (personal responsibility vs. environmental). Special thanks to the offices of Senators John Kerry and John Edwards, among others for welcoming us, and to my home-state Congressman Ed Markey. I learned a lot in these meetings. Basically there are two bills that have been introduced that can really have an effect on the obesity epidemic. One is "The IMPACT Bill" chiefly sponsored by Congresswoman Mary Bono of California. If passed, it could provide federal grants to local childhood nutrition and exercise programs nationwide, as well as start-ups such as Generation Excel. It's a good start in the right direction and, if passed, would be the first time the federal government has done something so powerful to prevent obesity. It could also pave the way for future bills on the obesity issue. We will be organizing a letter writing campaign on this website shortly. In the meantime call your representative in congress and ask them to support I.M.P.A.C.T. or bill HR 716. Click here to find your member of Congress now.
All in all I found the legislators on Capitol Hill to be very gracious, attentive and well aware of the broad changes needed to combat our nation's obesity epidemic. A tough political battle looms with the food industry, but the beginning of change is in the air in Washington D.C. My message to our elected officials can be found in a song by the immortal Elvis Presley - "A little less conversation; a little more action please".
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June 16, 2004
Today marks some very important milestones for me personally. First, I walked my first 20-mile day and could have pressed on. Second I ran across a bridge 8/10ths of a mile (with a police escort and 35 cars in tow).
Finally, I jumped on the scale this morning and it read 253 pounds. Not something to celebrate you might think? We’ll consider this: I’d lost 110 pounds or better (relapses, anyone?) before arriving in Jacksonville to kick off the walk. I say “or better” because in April on “Live with Regis & Kelly” I weighed in on national television wearing sneakers, a cell phone, a walkman, two wireless microphones and all the other paraphernalia a road warrior like me wears. Needless to say so it was difficult to tell exactly what I weighed back then.
Since leaving Florida and walking thru Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland, I’ve lost another 30 pounds for a total of 140 pounds. A lot has gone on since the last time I was in the 250s. I got married, bought a home, started a company, lost the greatest mother and niece a guy could ever have, started a non-profit foundation, wrote a book and left it all behind to turn the eastern seaboard into my own personal treadmill.
To further make the point, back in 1990:
• “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Pretty Woman” were the rage at the box office
• The Boston Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup finals against Montreal
• “Go West” was all over the radio with “King Of Wishful Thinking” and MC Hammer had an actual career!
• TCBY and Boston Market were the hot new franchises in the US
• Boston’s Big Dig Project was just hiring and beginning to break ground
• President Bush was sending troops to the Persian Gulf – okay scratch that one, I guess times haven’t changed THAT MUCH.
At any rate the numbers on the scale are in the right direction. Over the last 4 years I’ve lost 30 or 40 pounds a year. Hopefully that will inspire people to concentrate on the advantages of the “Long-term fix vs. the “Short Term fix”. After all, what are the advantages to the short-term fix? Well, according to Dr. Lee Kaplan at Massachusetts General’s Weight Loss Center, the advantages to the short term fix (better known as the fad diet) are that you will lose the weight quickly, fit into that bathing suit on the beach this summer, fit into the tuxedo for your class reunion, etc. But the reality is that 99% will gain the weight back (plus more); damage your metabolism, self-esteem and pocket book.
(Don’t downplay the last one…trust me)
What are the advantages to the long-term fix? Well – for starters you’ll live to see your kids and grandkids, and isn’t that what’s important in life?
We’re currently “marching” towards Philadelphia and signs are all over the place for Pennsylvania. It’s hard to believe but as of June 17th I’ve got one month to go!
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June 20, 2004
We arrived in Philadelphia this week and are staying at the Sheraton in Society Hill. I caught the reunited Van Halen band in concert at the Wachovia Center Thursday night. Friday morning I finished my usual 15-mile jaunt and headed into the downtown area to sample a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich - hold the bread, hold the cheese, hold the steak. Hands down the best fried onions I've had this year!
Immediately following that we did interviews with Philadelphia Weekly, WCBS, and others about the Million Calorie March and the imminent release of my book "Big And Tall Chronicles".
From there we did a 30-minute walk to the Liberty Bell with a group of kids from the Drexel outreach and health promotion program. Absolutely fantastic kids and more than honest with me about their exercise and eating habits. Back at the hotel we interviewed the kids for the documentary and had a blast.
Over the weekend the MCM Team took a huge quarter turn to the east and began heading for the New Jersey border. Why does that excite me? Well, let's just say that after 900 miles of back roads it's exciting to reach anything with the word "New" in it. That means New Jersey, New York and very soon New England. As much as I love this cross country walk, I can't wait. I miss my wife, family and friends.
But before I hit Massachusetts we'll be spending lots of time in NYC (my final appearance on "Live with Regis & Kelly" is this Thursday) and Connecticut, which is shaping up to be a great state for the Million Calorie March as well.
Check upcoming events for up to the date confirmations -- and keep marchin'!
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June 25, 2004
Hello New York!
Creative guy, that Michael Gelman. The longtime executive producer of “Live With Regis & Kelly” called me on the cell phone while we were walking in New Jersey on Tuesday with an idea. The plan involved myself, the MCM team and some guest walkers crossing over the George Washington Bridge at 5:30am and being met on the Manhattan side by a chopper from ABC Channel 7. The local New York affiliate would cover the walk into New York with eye in the sky reports from 6:30am until 9:05am, when Live with Regis and Kelly would take over the chopper coverage. From there I’d run up Columbus Avenue for a dramatic entrance into their studio, do a quick interview, weigh-in and update on the walk.
Gelman not only was creative, but he delivered. The Million Calorie March hit NYC with quite an entrance! The sunrise over the bridge offered a breathtaking and classic view of the Manhattan skyline. For me it was truly a moment I’ll never forget.
Regis and Kelly’s show has always been the right mix of message and humor, and this appearance was no different. Thanks to everybody outside the studio as well as the enthusiastic studio audience. I hit my goal of 246 pounds (including 10 inches off of my waist - but let’s face it - what guy wouldn’t be inspired to lose weight knowing that the beautiful Kelly Ripa would be taking the measurements?) Backstage, both she and Regis were gracious and fun, "Reege" shared some great old stories, and Kelly was sweet. Special thanks to Jan and the entire staff of the show, as well as guest walkers Rep. Peter Koutoujian, Janet, Bobby, Andrea Kooharian, Preston Simpson and others.
We’re going to be in town for quite some time for events and media - on Monday is a press conference with NY Councilwoman Gale Brewer, followed by a reception at the Sheraton NY Hotel & Towers. I’ll check in very soon!
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July 1, 2004
Time flies when you're having fun, and the New York City leg of the walk has been just that. The Million Calorie March has turned out to be the absolute ride of a lifetime, and as I said to Regis last week, I'm humbled and winded! We hit the 1000-mile mark yesterday in southern Manhattan. 1000 miles down and 200 to go. As Ronald Reagan once so eloquently put it: "Not bad. Not bad at all".
New York City was quite a reunion for me as well. Julie Lynn, my better half, joined us for 4 or 5 days, and Comedian Tony V., who kicked off the walk with me in Jacksonville, was in town to do a taping of the TV show "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn". I was a big fan when Colin hosted "Weekend Update" on "Saturday Night Live". After the show, Tony introduced me to Colin and the other TV guests as his friend who had "walked up from Florida". If only I could freeze-frame their reactions! Classic.
Other reunions included Jimmy Dunn, my friend and H/M client who is currently the comedic commentator for the Boston Red Sox. Jim was in town for the games against the Yankees, so he attended the press party the Sheraton threw for me on Monday night in mid-town. Thanks to Ellen Gallo and the entire Sheraton staff for the reception. I truly could not have completed this "March" with out their partnership. Anyone who doubts that, just look back at our RV experience from Journal entry #2 - then take two aspirin and call your therapist in the morning. Matty Blake, a NYC actor and comedian who directed the original "Million Calorie March" sponsorship video back in 2001 stopped by as well. Matt's an amazingly talented guy who always supported the project even when it was a pure slice of low calorie "pie in the sky."
In terms of the rest of our trip here, the media has always been great with The Million Calorie March, and NYC was no different. We did radio interviews with Westwood One and WBAI among others, as well as TV hits on Fox's Live At Five and ABC 7. The interview with FOX News Network's "Your World with Neil Cavuto" is rescheduled for Friday, July 16th, the day before I walk into Boston.
Other highlights of our stop here include NY City Councilor Gale Brewer among others throwing a press conference at City Hall to present me with a Proclamation to commend Generation Excel's efforts to promote better health and living. Just think, all of this for a guy who was dipping bread into BBQ sauce after polishing off two racks of ribs just 4 years ago!
Even without all of the fanfare, our visit here was special because of the support I received from the people of New York. A nickel for every person who stopped me in Times Square, in Central Park or even waiting for the hotel elevator and said "Hey, it's the walker!" Everyone I bumped into had nice words of encouragement about the cross-country trek, and so many people seemed to have heard about it. As an inspirational campaign and an educational campaign we did some solid work, and I'm grateful to everyone involved with the project.
What more can I say about my Manhattan experience?
I love the Sheraton in Mid Town for sponsoring this leg of the Million Calorie March.
I love the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees.
I love Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa for their support.
And I love New York.
See you on the home stretch!
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July 6, 2004
Connecticut rocks! Okay, I'll be honest, after 1000 miles of mostly back
roads, pretty much anywhere in the Northeast rocks - but right now I'm here
and loving it.
Matty Blake and I hit the line a few days ago and danced a jig for the news
cameras at the "Welcome to Connecticut" sign. There was a great benefit for
Generation Excel and "The March" at the East Harford Sheraton the other
night with Senator Bill Aniskovitch among others. Thanks to all who
attended. Channel 8 News has done some great coverage of the walk, as well
as the Connecticut Post. I've loved Greenwich, Freeport, Stamford, as well
as others. Guest walkers have included Hal, a very nice gentleman from the
New Haven area in need of inspiration, my sister Donna, and other family
members as well.
The walk on July fourth with my brother and father was 20 miles of beautiful
weather and heavenly scenery. This was the first time I've ever burned more
calories on the 4th of July than I consumed. No Deviled Egg Delirium or
Kielbasa coma here on the March!
We did a great press conference and rally with US Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro
Tuesday morning at the East Rock Magnet School in New Haven. There were lots
of kids, families and community activists present. Rosa had amazing things
to say about the Million Calorie March and our efforts since we left
Jacksonville, Florida three months ago. Her passion for the health of our
nation's kids in legendary.
The fundraising effort for Generation Excel has been tough so far, in part
because we're breaking some new ground in an attempt to raise money to fight
obesity. Thanks to Todd Patkin, Nashoba Vally Health Centers, and others we
were able to cover the costs of the walk, but in terms of pledges and
donations it's been slow. Since there are less than two weeks to go, I'm
asking folks to please help spread the word as well as the website. As
always, I'm eternally grateful.
Finally, not all that long ago, my assistant road manager Dan Jones and I
went to the movies to see "Supersize Me" the hot documentary by director
Morgan Spurlock. In the film, Morgan eats fast food for 30 days and records
the results. This well-done movie is a breakthrough and will do a lot to
help raise awareness about obesity. That said, I've got to be honest...I ate
like that for 30 years - where's my movie???
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July 12, 2004
Well, Massachusetts.as Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady said earlier this year:
We hit the "Welcome to Massachusetts" line today and I kissed that baby with arms wide
open. It's great to finally be on the home stretch and thanks to the locals who met me at
the state line. Once I'm rested and revitalized I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to
reflect on these past 3 months on the road. Right now however, it's about finishing the
project I started planning nearly 3 years ago.
Today marks the official release of my book "BIG AND TALL CHRONICLES:
Misadventures of a Life Long Food Addict!" available at Barnes & Noble.com
Amazon.com, and select bookstores along the walk route including all "Low Fat Know Fat" (locations beginning July 30th). I'll be promoting the book much more this Fall after I've had some time to rest and see how my business has faired since I've been gone.
My writing experience up until now has been limited to pretty much apology letters and checks - but now, as my struggle with this disease winds down, I actually feel like I have something to give.
I wrote the book back in 2002 and 2003 after the September 11th attacks put the Million
Calorie March project on indefinite hiatus. When I made up my mind to document my
20 year struggle, I decided to do it in a way which it hasn't been done. During my entire
life people had been giving me books about diets and weight loss, but the truth is none of
them ever held my attention. Most were by doctors or weight loss gurus and they all
seemed to sound the same. When I wrote this book, I decided to write it with a
conversational tone (as if you and I were sitting at the salad bar talking about our weight
loss battles) I also decided to use an ingredient I'd been using as a coping mechanism for
most of my entire life: HUMOR. The book serves it up large and if you liked "Supersize
Me" you'll love this book.
In short I decided to write something that I felt would have held my attention even in my
worst stages of denial. The result is 255 pages of pure therapy that I hope helps people
caught in the struggle find a healing path. 100% of the proceeds from this week's book
signings go to Generation Excel and some of the childhood obesity programs listed on
Events this week include tons of morning radio shows, FOX News in NYC, a book
signing at LowFat Know Fat Shrewsbury and a speaking presentation at Nashoba Valley
Health Center in Ayer, Mass.
Less than 60 miles to go and I'll see everybody soon!
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July 15, 2004
Wow… Mile 1188: The Million-Calorie March. What can I say? The signs are familiar to me now. Route 128 north, 16 east. After months of having my team show me maps of areas completely foreign to me, I’ve finally made it home. After all of the farms, major cities, and “unique” neighborhoods, the eastern seaboard has to offer, here I suddenly am, walking through Wellsley, Massachusetts. It really is hard to believe. That said Massachusetts, what’s with the weather? I‘ve had two rain days from Florida all the way to Connecticut. Now it’s been nothing but rain days! To quote the Pope, however, during his historic first visit to this area back in 1979: “Boston is beautiful even in the rain”.
In Ayer the other day, we had one of the best events of the entire walk. Nashoba Valley Medical Center, one of the official sponsors of the Florida to Boston walk bused in over 200 adults and kids to participate in a Million-Calorie March thru town. Everybody was supportive and excited. After we reached the health center we headed inside where I spoke to the crowd in depth about the 1200-mile walk of a lifetime. In the end, this odyssey did what I always hoped it would…INSPIRE. Special thanks to Andre, Phyllis and Rosemary from NVMC.
On Thursday we had a day of media in the Worcester and Shrewsbury areas, doing morning shows such as Zito & Jen on WXLO. After they were gracious enough to join me for a book signing at Low Fat Know Fat – another sponsor of the walk. Thanks to Ellen Duggan for setting up that event.
One more day of media on Friday (FOX News with Neil Cavuto at 4 pm) and on Saturday I’ll begin the final leg of the Million Calorie March. It will be a mere 12-mile jaunt with friends and supporters into Newton and down Commonwealth Ave into Boston. Once there I may head down to Boylston Street to cross the finish line of the famous Boston Marathon (for my own kicks!) before heading to the actual finish line event to be held at The Sheraton Hotel near the Prudential Center. As much as I’ve loved this experience. I’m ready to wind it down. I miss my wife and family. It’s time to head home.
As I write this I’m on my laptop on the rooftop patio at the Sheraton in Needham. Reflecting on the past 3 and half months on the road, I have to smile. It has been an adventure and I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world to get the chance to do it. Personally, when I think back 4 years ago to the dark days of my sleep apnea and how resigned I was to the fact that I was dying, I now realize what a come-from-behind effort this has actually been. And while I won’t cry for yesterday, I’ll always be in awe of the colossal effort and unique road it took to get me where I am. Now, do I think everyone should start foundations, walk across the country or turn their daily food journals into 255 pages of pure therapy? Of course not. No two people are the same, and everyone who seeks to get fit and healthy must find his or her own unique path to get there. It’s out there for every one of us…if we’re willing to find it.
As a person I always wanted to make an impact on this planet before I left. “Leave my mark” as you hear people say from time to time. Through the years I always thought that mark would be as a musician, video producer, talent manager, morning radio personality, whatever… all the things people everywhere dream about doing everyday. However, if The Million Calorie March or Generation Excel Foundation can inspire even one person to get healthy or light the fire under countless people who have lost hope, than it’s far more important than anything else I’d ever hoped to accomplish in my lifetime. As I’ve said from the day I left Jacksonville Florida, whether I’m able to light the fire under 3 people or 300,000, it’s all the same spark.
Nationwide, despite the statistics on obesity getting worse, powerful changes are happening. We’re beginning to see the start of a very real revolution out there these days. People in this country are beginning to question the foods they put into their bodies. They’re starting to focus on how certain foods affect their physical and mental health. Everyday people are starting to dissect their eating patterns and understand themselves a little more. And most importantly, they are beginning to question how “normal” it was to eat so badly in the first place. Entire industries are beginning to recognize the coming changes as well. Soon, the country’s health experts may very well get the massive obesity prevention campaign they’ve been calling for. I, for one, will support it in any way I can.
To the people out there caught in this struggle, I hope the Million Calorie March inspired you. I hope it helped you to see that you have the power within you to fix yourself once and for all. Do not be discouraged if it takes a long time to achieve your goals. Complex problems take time to fix! I promise you will never hear me boast that I lost the weight in 20 years flat. In the end, I hope that this cross-country walk served a greater purpose than just inspiring people dealing with weight problems. I hope it gave the many people who have never experienced eating disorders some valuable insight into the lives of people who do. I hope it helps you to size up what’s in their souls first and foremost, before anything else. Remember, they are feeling worse on the inside than they ever could look like on the outside.
Although this walk was billed as a “one man journey”, I am forever indebted to the people who helped me make it a reality. My wife Julie was as supportive and hard working as any spouse could ever be. Her dedication to this project was nothing short of amazing. When nobody else in corporate America would step forward to underwrite this first of it’s kind, “shock and awe” campaign for obesity, Todd G. Patkin and AutoPart International stepped up to the plate. Trust me when I say that the world needs more Todd Patkins out there. My road team of Brian Baldwin, Dan Jones and Russ Surette wore more hats and came thru with more energy, creativeness and dedication than I could ever have foreseen. This was truly a case of people working together for the greater good. Our supporting sponsors, public relations teams, and project advisors worked tirelessly as well, and this contributed greatly to the over all success of “The March”.
Finally, thanks to the thousands of people we met on The Million Calorie March as we made our way up the east coast. The supportive people we interacted with, walked with, talked with and received support from…thank you all from the bottom of my heart. To the corporations, activists and well-meaning folks who continue to get involved with the Generation Excel Project to help improve the quality of people’s lives everywhere, I’m forever grateful. Finally, to the Dream Team of Melinda Vaturro, Ruth Schwartz, Vincent Zarella, Sharon Cummings and Dr. Bertram Zarens: Thank you! Thanks for making this chubby Italian boy’s dreams become a reality.
In the weeks and months to come, we’ll continue to update the website as to future projects, events and goings on at Generation Excel. We’re already talking with folks about mini-marches, healthy food expos, the MCM documentary project among others. I’ll also be back out on the road this fall promoting my book “Big & Tall Chronicles” (which is available at Barns & Noble, Low fat Know Fat Store amoung others) which will raise additional funds for the foundation. I’ll do my best to update everybody with weekly journals so keep checking in! Trust me when I say that the walk is over but on Monday, we’ll hit the ground running to help to turn the obesity epidemic around in this country.
In closing, let me just say that this entire event has been a very long way of saying that if I can beat this disease, anyone can – and you can. Continue to focus on your health. Dissect your disorders. Analyze your eating habits. Face your truths so you can watch the miracles happen. And most of all, when it comes to your dreams, head straight towards them and keep on marching.
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July 22, 2004
WALKED: 1205 miles
It's been a week since I've been home and what a great ending to a great project we had last Saturday. The day started with Dan Jones and myself taking in a low fat, sugar free yogurt at Truly Yogurt in Wellesley Center, and going over the final day's plans. From there I did a solo walk from Wellesley into Newton on Route 16, before being joined by guest walkers Jim Harrington (an old friend) and two very nice guys from The Boston Herald. As we made our way into Boston we met up with Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray and his two sons. Very fitting, since Dave was always one of my inspirations after his Florida to Boston trek in 1980. From there the crowd just seemed to grow and grow. Bill Harmon, my father-in-law, road manager Russ Surrette, Andrew Rechnitz, the editor of "Big And Tall Chronicles", Fitness Trainer Vincent Zarella, and a google of friends and supporters joined in one by one (to the point I began to wonder if parade permits might have been a good idea!) The sight of the Boston skyline was surreal and beautiful to me. The Pru. The Hancock. Home at last.
As we made our way towards the corner of Boylston and Massachusetts Ave cameramen from local channels 4,5,7, Fox 25 and WB56 also met up with us. Then, as we approached Copley Place, area something totally unexpected: 25 or so Sheraton Employees holding MCM signs and screaming words of support at the top of their lungs-it was unbelievable. I don't know to this day who these people were, but trust me when I say I love them! Wendy and Rick Rendon from our PR Company were waiting as well, and others who had simply heard me on WBZ radio earlier in the day. In the interview, I had mentioned that if I had the time I might head on over to the finish line of The Boston Marathon to do an unofficial ending. Never did I expect people to actually come down! Very cool.
We took photos and video for a while, and then the entire crowd headed up the street to the Sheraton Back Bay where a big crowd of my nearest and dearest were waiting out front. Trust me when I say it was an afternoon I'll never forget. After greeting everyone for 15-20 minutes, I headed up to The Republic Ballroom, where a party was already in going on. There were friends, relatives, business clients and college friends I've not seen in years. The Swinging Steaks Band, (whose song "Freeman" was featured in the original Million Calorie March sponsorship video) played the tune when I entered the room. To me it was a perfect ending. After introducing the MCM team, doing endless thank yous, awards and publicly fawning over my wife and MCM angel Julie Lynn, I headed to a suite on the top floor of the hotel to spend time with nieces, nephews and various family members I'd long been missing. All in all a storied ending. Special thanks to Marshall and everyone from the Sheraton as well as everyone who attended the finsh line/wrap party/benefit.
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Gary's current journals (after the March) can now be found under updates