ShareThis Page

Fábregas: Running marathon an elixir for Carnegie veteran

| Saturday, May 3, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Talk to anyone running in the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday, and they'll tell you it's been tough to stay motivated and train during the nasty weather. Not many people like to run in subzero cold and over piles of dirty snow.

But talk to Dan Blevins of Carnegie, and you'll find a man who found a way to stay motivated while trying to rebuild his life.

Blevins, 30, returned to Western Pennsylvania two years ago after serving in the Army for 10 years. His military career took him to Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and elsewhere. He didn't have it easy, often doing jobs that were physically demanding. One of them required that he don heavy military gear and test it in 100-degree heat until his body couldn't take it any longer.

“It was definitely a life-changing experience,” he told me this week about his military career.

Coming home wasn't easy. The 2003 Keystone Oaks graduate felt isolated and withdrawn.

“I wouldn't say I was fully depressed. I wasn't myself. I had to refind my life. I had lost all my friends back home,” he said.

Some days he felt better, only to feel worse the next day. He had a foot injury and developed other health problems. His motivation vanished.

“The pain at times was so much, I sat in my house all day and started to drink,” he said.

Blevins poked around on Facebook and other sites, trying to find an activity to inspire him. He bumped into a local chapter of Team Red White & Blue, a group known for connecting people, including veterans, to fitness activities. It has more than 36,000 members worldwide.

You've probably seen some of them in race events in your neighborhoods, always wearing patriotic gear and often carrying American flags. As a part-time runner (I've done a few half-marathons, but trust me, I am no Alberto Salazar), I watch them in awe as they run by, not just because I could never do it, but because running with an American flag is the ultimate symbol of freedom.

Joining the group proved to be liberating for Blevins.

“Some organizations just get together to drink and don't do anything meaningful,” he said. “These people want to get into the community and motivate. Everyone is there for support.”

Blevins, a long-distance runner in his school days, began participating in races in the fall. A few 5Ks here, a relay there. He hurt his foot again, forcing him to take a short break.

In January, he started training for his first full marathon. He often trained on a treadmill. Sunday is his big day. He'll run with about two dozen veterans who also belong to Team Red White & Blue.

He is humble about his chances of posting a good finish time, saying he is nowhere near the fitness level he'd like to achieve. And he's philosophical about acquaintances who haven't been as fortunate and find themselves struggling with alcohol addiction.

“There's definitely a positive way to change your life, and there are people out there supporting you along the way. Although you feel alone sometimes, you're definitely not alone.”

If he succeeds on Sunday — and I'm pretty sure he will — Blevins said he wants to participate in other races.

“This is the beginning for me,” he said. “I plan to go much farther and beyond.”

Luis Fábregas is Trib Total Media's medical editor. He can be reached at 412-320-7998.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.