Running the Race
With the marathon only a couple of months away, Heppler started running even longer distances, with the plan to escalate his runs from 14 miles to 23 miles. And although his body continued to shrink in size—he had shed 140 pounds by this time—his spirit was growing more and more.
“I learned spiritual things on my long runs. I learned things about the Spirit, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and what the Lord requires of me—things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. These lessons seemed to come often as I was in the middle of one of these runs, physically pushing my body to its limits. Those thoughts, those lessons, those miracles are something that have changed my life even more than losing 140 pounds.”
The marathon was just around the corner, and Heppler was getting nervous. But he wouldn’t have to run it alone. Fellow ward members were also running in the race. His wife, son, daughter, personal trainer, and friends were there to cheer him on. And as Heppler now knew, the Lord would be supporting him throughout the grueling 26.2 miles.
The morning of the marathon, he was up by 4:30 a.m. and at the marathon starting line by sunrise. At the sound of the starting gun, Heppler took off in a mass of runners. He felt good for the first half of the race until about mile 14. He pushed through it for five more miles, but nothing could have prepared him for mile 19.
“I hit the proverbial wall,” he says. “I was in a lot of pain and still had seven or eight miles to go. I hit the point where I questioned for a second about finishing.”
After another painful mile, his family rode their bikes out to cheer him on. This was a godsend. By this time, Heppler had blisters, burning muscles, and almost no energy left. But he kept going.
As he neared the finish line, he heard his family and friends screaming and yelling his name. “As I rounded the last corner to enter through the arch amidst the outpouring of love, I raised my arms and wept with joy, and for a second my pain was gone.” He fell into the arms of his friends and family who had always believed in him.
He had done it.
In just one year, he had transformed not only his body but also his testimony. He had changed from an unhappy, unhealthy man into a confident, stronger son of God. Instead of playing the “fat friend,” he now relishes the roles of husband, father, brother, and friend. And when he feels himself slipping back into his old ways, he remembers that the power to change—and stay changed—comes from a higher source.
“Know that you have the power within to change your life for the better, to confront that which holds you back. I pose the question, where does that power come from? The answer is Jesus Christ. Learning, following, and loving Him. This kind of transformation will be unlike anything you thought possible.”