Personal weight-loss challenge adds excitement to 10th Lake Placid Marathon and Half

Athletes of all kinds are coming here this weekend for Sunday’s Lake Placid Marathon and Half (half-marathon, that is). And boy, are there a lot of them. Last year’s race was capped at more than 2,000 participants, plus thousands of spectators. Expect this one to be similar.

Each of those participants has a story. We wish we could hear all of them, but one we know very well, since it’s the story of our own Andy Flynn, editor of the Lake Placid News. He’s an unlikely athlete, considering that he only recently reduced his weight below the 400-pound line, but nevertheless, he’ll walk all 13.1 miles of the half-marathon Sunday.

We’ll be cheering him on, and we expect many others will, too. That’s because Andy is a great guy with a ton of friends and a great editor respected by the community; plus, we all also recognize that this half-marathon is part of a bigger race – a huge, scary challenge he made to himself shortly after he became editor of the News this past fall.

In a weekly blog and column in the News, called the Lake Placid Diet, Andy has been brutally honest with himself in front of thousands of readers about his struggles with food, exercise and daily life. He’s asked the community to help him lose weight, down from a previous peak of 493 pounds (470 when he started the column). It’s a way to hold himself accountable so he’ll succeed at something he’s been erratic at in the past. While at times he’s lost weight, he’s always put it back on later, and then some. This time, we hope, he’s ready to get healthier for the long run.

He committed to doing the Lake Placid Half-Marathon in December. He needed a big goal to work toward, and this made sense since he’s already done a whole marathon once – in 2002, at the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center, in 13 hours.

He’s been working out regularly, he’s done some long walks around Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, and this past Sunday he was one of 1,600 competitors in the Biggest Loser RunWalk in Plattsburgh, a weight-loss-themed event affiliated with the NBC reality show “The Biggest Loser.” He did the 5-kilometer, not the half-marathon; he’s saving that for Lake Placid.

Andy’s dedication, honesty and collaborative community spirit shine through in his Lake Placid Diet challenges. He’s inspired us and many other people to try to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. This undertaking means a great deal to us emotionally, so go, Andy!

Meanwhile, congratulations to Lake Placid Marathon and Half-Marathon co-directors Brad Konkler and Jeff Edwards on their 10th running of this extraordinary event.

We don’t have the exact figures, but it’s safe to say that it pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy each year, if not millions. It is a destination event, meaning that people travel from all over the globe to compete here. And why not? It’s Lake Placid, New York’s Olympic Village, a premier spot for sporting events such as the Ironman Triathlon, Lake Placid Horse Shows, Summit Lacrosse Tournament, Can-Am Rugby Tournament, hockey tournaments, figure skating competitions, cycling events and various running races, including the 5K Turkey Trot in November and Lake Placid Classic Half-Marathon and 10K in September.

On the way, whether participants know it or not, they’ll get to soak in the local Olympic history. They’ll run and walk past the Olympic Center, home of the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game in 1980 and skating star Sonja Henie’s golden spins in 1932; past the Mirror Lake Inn, owned by the parents of two-time Olympic medal-winning alpine skier Andrew Weibrecht; around Mirror Lake, down Mill Hill and past Mill Pond, where Lake Placid resident and speedskater Charles Jewtraw practiced his skating – he was the first person to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympic Games, in 1924 – down Route 73 past the 1980 Olympic cauldron and the Olympic ski jumps, along the scenic and winding River Road to a turnaround at the 2.8-mile point. At the end of the race, they must run or walk up the McLenathan Avenue hill, take a zig-zag at the high school and finish on the Olympic Speedskating Oval, where Americans Jack Shea (a Lake Placid native) and Irving Jaffee each won two gold medals in 1932 and where Eric Heiden won an unprecedented five gold medals in 1980.

Combine those inspiring landmarks with the breathtaking scenery of the Adirondack High Peaks and cool waters of Mirror Lake and the West Branch of the AuSable River, and you have a dream setting for a run. No wonder we see entries from Iceland, Singapore, Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, four provinces in Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, 30 states and Washington, D.C.

We wish all the participants, staff, volunteers and spectators the very best this Sunday.

For the rest of you, please note the road closures and detours. We published an article on them in Wednesday’s Enterprise, so if you missed it, check back in that issue or on our website. The marathon will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.