When Derek Mitchell resolved to run a 5K each month for the rest of the year earlier in March, he said the thought of covering 50 race kilometers over a 10-month span was "daunting."
At the time, he weighed 570 pounds. The race streak was the next step on his journey to shed weight, which he started on January 1.
With three months left in the year, the Kansas City, Missouri, resident has already exceeded his goal--he's finished 15 5Ks and two 10Ks. He also has a 10-mile Tough Mudder in Montgomery City, Missouri (and possibly the Kansas City Half Marathon) on his calendar for October, as well as the Honolulu Marathon in December.
"The races just keep piling up," Mitchell told Runner's World. "It's cool, and at the same time, I can't believe I did all that."
At his heaviest, Mitchell, 35, weighed about 625 pounds. He estimates he's lost close to 100 pounds since the start of his weight loss journey in January.
Mitchell, who said he's focused on gradually building mileage rather than gaining speed to ward off injuries, logs daily two- to three-mile walks and has reached close to seven miles for his longest effort.
"My first time out, I could barely reach a mile," Mitchell said. "I've learned not to push things too hard and do what I can do."
Before he started his streak, Mitchell worried about participating in races. But once he crossed his first finish line in March, a moment that went viral and gave Mitchell thousands of supporters, he said, "the running community is by far the most supportive community. I've made more friends in the last several months than I have in my entire life, and they are true friends who check up on me and send me messages.
"People should not be afraid of 5Ks and the running community because they are so accepting of all body types," Mitchell continued. "They will give you a high-five and tell you you're doing an awesome job no matter where you're at."
On July 4, Mitchell participated in the Reston Firecracker 5K just outside Washington D.C. He finished in 1:17:32.
"It was amazing to be in our nation's capital and get to do a 5K," Mitchell said. "I got stormed on the entire way, but it is totally one of my favorite 5Ks."
Mitchell said he tries to run at the start and finish of each race and walks the remainder of the distance. He wants to wait until he's reached 400 pounds before he tries running for longer periods.
"I'd like to be able to run a 5K," Mitchell said. "I think that would be a good goal to train for next year. I'd like to run under 45 minutes."