A six-day hospital stay in 2010 was all the inspiration Richard Prestia of Ceres needed to make a drastic lifestyle changes. Facing chronic chest pains at 350 pounds at 39 years of age, Prestia was determined to turn his back on his incessant emotional eating and couch potato lifestyle.
He's now running 100 mile races and has trimmed down to 195 pounds over his 5-foot-10 frame.
"I feel extremely much better, nowhere near as tired as I was," said Prestia.
In 2009 Richard was working for Acme Security Systems in the Bay Area and started experiencing chest pains. Doctors suggested he lose weight but couldn't identify anything wrong with him. The experience scared him into change.
"When you spend seven days in the hospital and the kids don't want to come see you because you've got cables and stuff connected to you and they're crying, the wife's crying and Mom's crying when she comes to see you in there. It was an eye-opener to not put them through that kind of situation ever again."
Fed up with his obesity, Prestia applied in early 2009 to get on the TV show "Biggest Loser" because he "was looking for a way to help get motivated to lose weight and what-not." The show never called so he made an appointment to have gastric bypass surgery. But the surgery was called off because later that month he was laid off and lost his health insurance.
In July 2010 "it was really bad and I took an ambulance ride to the hospital."
After a battery of tests to check out his heart, doctors sent him home suggesting he was suffering from severe acid reflux. He was sent home on blood pressure medication and a sleep apnea machine. Prestia jumped into a heart healthy menu and contacted an old high school friend for a calorie-counting venture and cutting out most fats.
"I gave up burgers pretty much. If I have a burger now it's a turkey burger."
He also broke the habit of drinking two to three two-liter bottles of soda.
Prestia googled marathons - an alternative he saw on the TV show - and down to the business of running. He joined the Shadow Chase Running Club in Modesto and got into an adult training group. Prestia started out running 5K races. By Thanksgiving of 2010 he was down to 287 when he ran the Turkey Trot in Tuolumne River Regional Park north of Ceres. It took him 36 minutes to finish a 5K (3.1 miles) and "from there it was setting goals like run for two minutes and walk a minute. The next week it was ‘I'm going to run for five minutes and walk a minute.' "
Richard had lost 145 pounds and was down to 203 pounds when he ran his first marathon. He finished the March 20, 2011 Modesto Marathon with a time of 4:50:32.
"I wasn't planning on running. I was planning on walking it because I was so heavy at the time."
A lot of his life is now running between his time as a Turlock Unified School District bus driver.
He tried three times to complete a 100-mile run before completing the Nov. 7-8 Rio Del Lago Endurance Run 40 miles east of Sacramento. His time was 27 hours, 15 minutes.
Training for 100 miles had him running 90 miles per week. He ran 10 miles a day Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with one day working on his speed, and another to build strength by pulling a tire in half-mile increments. Weekend runs built up to 30 miles and 20-30 miles the next day.
He was bummed that his lottery attempt to get into the Western States 100 failed but he has 50- and 100-mile runs lined up for 2016.
The progress he has made has been remarkable and others have noticed. Shadow Chase voted him "Most Inspirational Runner" of 2011.
He credits his family for being tolerant of the largest amount of time he spends running as part of his comeback.
"Thank God for my wife and kids because without their support - it takes a lot of time - I probably wouldn't be where I am today. They've been behind me 110 percent."
For now the next big challenge will be working off another 10 pounds.
"My doctor says I should be 170ish but I just think that would be too little. I feel amazing where I'm at. I don't know, I just set a goal at 185 as being my race weight so I want to hit that mark here and see how I feel and look."