Courtesy; Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN
Marcus Cook, 46, achieved a 279-pound weight loss transformation and finished the toughest Ironman in the world. This is his story, as told to Maria Masters.
As a kid, I was more into music than sports. But I did look up to one of my elementary school coaches. He ran the Houston Marathon, and the day after, I ran 100 laps around my church. But running never stuck—I was always happier being the funny guy than the fit guy.
So when I started an oil-supply company called Big Boy Supplies, our slogan was ‘Gettin’ Bigger.’ It wasn’t because the business was expanding, it was because I was. I thought the name would help offset the surprise people felt when meeting me. Like, ‘Look, Big Boy himself is here!’
But then it wasn’t funny
My family went to Disney World in 2015, and at 489 pounds, I was too big to walk around the park, so I rented a cart. While my wife and four kids were riding Space Mountain, I was sitting in my cart eating funnel cake. A man walked up beside me and said to his son, “That guy is too big to walk, and he’s eating funnel cake.” Until then, I thought I was just a normal dad with a normal family. But this wasn’t normal.
My wake-up call
A guy named Chuck Dalio acquired my company and became my mentor. One day he pulled me into his office and said, ‘I’m dying because I have cancer, you’re dying because it’s your choice. I would give anything to be you. You have to promise to live for your family and employees.’ A few months later, in September 2015, I had gastric bypass surgery.
Gastric bypass isn’t what you think
People tell me I took the easy way out with gastric bypass. But there’s nothing easy about having your intestines rerouted. I overhauled my entire diet. I started exercising, walking 20 minutes a day—uh, night, because I didn’t want anyone to see me. Before long I was up to 40 minutes, and then 2 miles. Once I could run, I signed up for a half-Ironman [1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run]. I trained for that for about half a year. It felt incredible to do what I never thought was possible. Last October, I raced in and completed the Ironman world Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
On being able to help
Three months after completing the half-Ironman, hurricane Harvey hit. I went out with a buddy in his johnboat and we pulled up to a subdivision where a man had been stranded with his family for two days. The water was starting to creep into his house, and I asked him if he had any kids. He said, yeah, “I have seven.” I thought to myself, oh no, but out loud, I said, “It’s going to be okay.” He looked down at my calf—at my new Ironman M-dot tattoo—and said, “I know it will. You guys are crazy.” I’m so grateful I lost weight and was able to help those people.