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Running was a losing cause, and it just might have saved this Beaver County man

| Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, 7:18 a.m.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Kevin Eisenbrown laughs while wearing the pants he once fit into behind the counter at Little Athens Catering in Ambridge, on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Kevin Eisenbrown poses for a portrait with the various medals he's won since he started running at Little Athens Catering in Ambridge, on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.

Kevin Eisenbrown is just running.

That's all.

Just running.

And as it turns out, just running might have just saved his life.

In August 2015, Kevin Eisenbrown weighed 336 pounds.

He was unhealthy and unhappy. He struggled with depression and anxiety. His relationship with his fiancée was falling apart.

So he decided to do something.

First, he tried dieting. He cut out sugar, then carbs, and he dropped 40, then 50 pounds.

Next, he went for a run.

“It felt like I had a weighted vest on, like somebody was pulling me backwards,” recalled Eisenbrown, 30, of Harmony, Beaver County. “I couldn't go more than 15 minutes at first.”

Then he could.

And even more weight fell off.

“That's when I said, ‘Well, the Pittsburgh Half Marathon is coming up. How do I sign up?'” he said.

He went to the website. He followed a link about runners raising money for charity. He thought of his dad, who almost died from a massive heart attack when Kevin was 12. He signed up to run for the American Heart Association.

He had never been a runner.

But at a time when he needed it, running offered peace.

So he kept running.

And he kept losing weight.

Then came race day, and nerves got to him.

“I thought: 13.1 miles is a long way,” he said. “I was afraid that I was going to pass out or die. I was terrified.”

But he went to the starting line.

He left his fears behind.

And he just started running.

“When I was done,” he said, “I was hooked.”

He was down 120 pounds.

He felt better than he ever had.

He started making plans to run more races.

There was a 5K at the airport, the Lemieux 6.6-miler, the Great Race.

He was back to his high school weight.

This was Kevin Eisenbrown at his finest.

Until it all fell apart.

His fiancée told him she had found someone else.

Kevin knew it was coming. But he hadn't given up hope. He was not prepared for the finality.

He went home that day and could not shut off his brain.

He would have to move.

Get a new job.

Sell his car.

Change everything he built.

It was too much.

He began to panic.

And then he blacked out.

He thought it was simply a panic attack, though there is nothing simple about that. He blamed it on the stress and, stubbornly, did not go to a doctor.

But something was off.

His health continued to deteriorate.

He felt dizzy. He had pain in his arm and tightness in his chest. Depression and anxiety stormed back.

Finally, he went to a doctor.

“I didn't know what was going on,” he said.

After three EKGs, doctors told him: You aren't having a heart attack right now.

But something happened.

That blackout was probably a heart attack.

The good news?

Because he had lost 120 pounds, it was not as bad as it might have been.

Still, doctors ran more tests.

They put him on medications.

They ordered him not to run.

“I was so scared,” he said. “I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't run.”

Finally, his health checked out.

So Eisenbrown started running again.

A half-marathon in Las Vegas, another in Cincinnati and another in Tampa.

He is addicted.

He wants to run a half-marathon in every state.

He expects to have 10 done by the end of the year.

And he will run Pittsburgh again his year because this is where it all started.

“It's just — there's so much adrenaline,” Eisenbrown said. “No worries. No stress. I don't think about what happened that day.

“I'm just ... running.”

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