From fat to fit, runner Michael Hearn is an inspiration who proves that anyone can begin their fitness journey no matter the starting point, and once they do so, incredible feats can be accomplished. Hearn weighed in excess of 450 pounds before turning his life around and becoming more active. Now with his weight-loss efforts hitting full steam, there is no stopping him as he’s set a goal for himself to complete 100 half marathons. And, with more than 60 under his belt so far, M&F did our best to catch up with the speedy 60-year-old.

While Michael Hearn grew up in a loving relationship with his dad, who was morbidly obese, the father and son relationship didn’t extend much in the way of sports or being active. Hearn played a little racquetball and softball at school, but outside of a physical education lesson, he never ran. As he grew up, Hearn struggled with his weight issues, trying a range of diets but finding himself unable to find a sustainable plan that worked for him.

Now married and consumed by adult life, weight loss would become an up and down priority, just like the weighing scales, and he would soon hit 300 pounds. “Like many people, I focused all my energy on my family and my career,” explains Hearn. “During my work as a management consultant, I travelled almost weekly – which meant 100% of my meals were takeout or from a restaurant and it’s easy to snack in meetings and at airports on high calorie items. When I transitioned to an office role, my travel went down dramatically, but I was still eating most of my meals out.”

He adds: “When I was home, my entire focus was my family. My kids were physically active and participated in a range of sports, so most weekends I was busy going to games and practices. I always assumed that I would address my weight issue ‘eventually’ but, by mid-2017, I was over 400 pounds and unable to exercise at all, and my body required a lot of calories just to do the basics, which wasn’t much. By late 2018, I weighed around 450 pounds and I knew I was putting my future at significant risk.”

60 Year old marathon runner Michael Hearn
Michael Hearn

Michael Hearn began his fitness and weight-loss journey after realizing that time was running out

A lifestyle laden with fast food, ultra-processed snacks, and few fruits or vegetables was becoming a life-threatening situation. Hearn now recognises that one of the biggest issues with food was the unhealthy relationship that he’d built around junk food. He’d convinced himself that bad foods and increasingly large portions were simply a reward for a long workday.

“I was in complete denial over the amount and types of food I was eating,” he says. Far from being a reward, those bad habits were causing some serios health issues. Hearn was heading towards diabetes, had low energy, but couldn’t sleep. A coronary scare should have been a wakeup call, but even that couldn’t break old patterns, and yet; “A short walk from the car to the office or store took my breath away,” says Hearn. “I couldn’t fit in an airline seat. I could barely fit behind the steering wheel of a car. All of my clothes came from the big and tall store, and nothing ever looked flattering on me.

His family began to share their own frustrations with Hearn, especially when it came to family photo time, which he more often than not refused to participate in. “I became more and more reclusive by avoiding anything that would require major exertion, and when I did, it was physically exhausting – activities were simply to be survived, not enjoyed.”

He adds: “By my 55th birthday, in late 2018, I was at 450+ pounds with a 62-inch waist and I wore 6XL shirts,” shares Hearn. “I knew that time was running out for me to do something. What I hated the most was embarrassing my wife and kids in front of others by being the ‘fat dad’ – of course, no one ever said anything to my face, but I knew how others felt about me. There were many times when I would just stay home rather than put my family in that position. I also knew that I looked a lot bigger than I mentally accepted. The fact was; I was a huge guy. At a point, I promised my son that somehow, some way, I wouldn’t be the ‘fat dad’ at his college graduation having already missed that mark with our older daughter.”

Seeking medical advice, Hearn underwent bariatric surgery in 2019, an operation designed to reduce the size of the stomach so that people feel full faster, or simply cannot eat what they had previously become accustomed to.

“It was a hard decision,” explains Hearn. “Because, I considered surgery an admission of failure and defeat, when I should have just ‘done the right things’ to maintain my weight and my health. I realize now that I was wrong to feel that way. My eating habits changed immediately after the surgery. I was on a liquid diet for several weeks and a highly limited one after that. I lost all interest in food and had to constantly be reminded to eat. My stomach could only hold about an egg-sized portion of food, so I had to be very strategic about what I ate in order to get a minimal level of nutrition.”

Within 60 days of the surgery, Hearn weight-loss journey began by dropping 40 pounds. Then came the quick wins: Now 65+ pounds down, he was finally able to participate in family activities, even enjoying a long walk around the San Diego Zoo. As the weight began to fall, he became more and more fulfilled. Hearn’s clothing size dropped dramatically and by the time his weight plateaued at around 75 pounds down, he figured that he’d continue this journey and make the most of his increasing energy levels by becoming more active.

“I watched a documentary on ultramarathons, having never been a runner myself, and it absolutely inspired me to think about running as my outlet,” he says. “The idea of pushing oneself to find your limits, and what you might be capable of, was a complete mental shift from the ‘just survive every day’ mindset I’d had for many years.”

Michael Hearn took his increasing energy level and ran with it

After lacing up his sneakers and attempting short runs, Hearn entered his first 5k in January 2020. He says that the Atlanta Track Club did a great job of encouraging him to get started, and he’s even now an ambassador there. “I was worried I wouldn’t finish, or finish last, or just generally embarrass myself by walking the entire course,” he admits. “But I did finish, and I couldn’t wait to enter my next race.”

With several more 5k runs completed and additional practice that saw him pushing towards further distances, Hearn entered his first half marathon (13.1 miles / 21.1 kilometers) in May 2021. His diet now consists of lean meats like chicken and fish, and he’s upped his salad game too. “One tip that I received from my endocrinologist several years ago was to largely avoid the center of the grocery store and focus on the sides where the ‘real food’ is,” shares Hearn. “Our world is driven by consumption and it’s almost impossible to escape the advertising and promotion of ‘crap.’”

Hearn, who has now participated in more than 130 races, is well on his way to racing in 100 half marathons, but his goal is never to win, only to finish. “I’ve met so many interesting people at the back,” the weight-loss wonder says. Hearn explains that he hopes to complete 100 half marathons by the end of 2025, and has a separate task too: He hopes to tick off 50 runs in different states. I’m at 31 states now, including the recent Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington D.C.,” he explains.

Hearn, who has now lost more than 200 pounds, hopes to make Hawaii the 50th state, so that he can combine this weight-loss achievement with his 65th birthday and a well-earned vacation with his wife. He also doesn’t rule out an ultramarathon either. It took time to get to where he’s at now, but Michael Hearn accepts that the negative relationship he had around food pales in comparison to the physical and mental boost he’s received by eating more healthily and actively pursuing exercise, and he shows no signs of slowing down. “If my knees and ankles hold up, I intend to keep running and entering races as long as I can make it to that start line.”

Follow ths inspirational figure’s journey on Instagram!