TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Three years ago, running just a mile seemed impossible for Jim Maister, a pharmacist from Tampa, but in a few weeks, he’ll lace up his running shoes for the Publix Gasparilla Half Marathon.

That’s 13.1 miles down Bayshore Boulevard.

“People that know me from my fat days just can’t believe it,” Master said with a laugh.

At his heaviest, he was 325 pounds and couldn’t find clothes at typical department stores. He said he couldn’t walk a half mile without huffing and puffing.

“I would always look for the parking spot that’s close to the restaurant that we were going to,” he recalled.
Not only were the extra pounds making it tough to shop, they were taking a toll on his health.

“I had sleep apnea,” Maister said. “I had high blood pressure, uncontrolled high blood pressure. Just feeling terrible.”

One day, he got sick and tired of being sick and tired. He started with a diet change, a low carbohydrate diet, and he lost 50-60 pounds.

That weight loss allowed him to more easily start exercising. Doing yoga helped strengthen his muscles, but the weight loss eventually leveled off.

That’s when he decided to kick it up a notch and try running.

“I absolutely hated running to start. It was like a punishment when I was in high school football,” he said. “When you did something wrong, you had to take a lap as a punishment. Doing it at my pace and the way I like to do it and not comparing myself to someone else was a blessing.”

He steadily increased his running distance and speed and fell in love with the sport. Eventually, he signed up for his first 5K, which is 3.1 miles.

“Before I knew it, I could run a mile non-stop,” Maister said. “Then, that turned into two and that turned into three, and it just snowballed from there.”

Maister knows that crossing the finish line at the end of the Publix Gasparilla Half Marathon will bring him a huge sense of accomplishment, but it’s his lifestyle change that matters most.

“It’s something I’ve done for me and not for anyone else, and that’s the change,” he said. “Now, I’m just a runner. I’m just a 56-year-old guy who likes to run,”

He said he has about 20 more pounds to lose, but he’s already well on his way to a happier and healthier life.

“My health is excellent,” he said. “I had terrible obstructive sleep apnea. I had one of those machines, bipap machines. It was set on the highest level it could be set. My most recent sleep study, the doctor said you probably don’t even need this anymore. I was put on like four different blood pressure medications. Now, I take one, like one a day, the smallest dose,”

The Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic is Feb. 26 and 27. There are four different race distances to choose. The 15K and 5K run on Saturday morning, and the half marathon and 8K races are Sunday morning.