It doesn’t matter why people become motivated to run and be healthy. For Tony “Endorphin Dude” Nguyen, it very well was the difference between life and death, and that proved to be a great motivator for the San Francisco resident.
“Imagine coming home from work one day and collapsing on your living room floor. That happened to me on April Fool’s Day four years ago. No joke. I thought I was having a heart attack. This freaked me out. Fortunately, it was only a heart attack scare, but it did serve as a wakeup call. I knew I had to make some changes in my life, so I took my dog for a walk around the block. That short walk turned into two blocks, then three, and before I knew it, I was taking long urban hikes all through San Francisco. I lost a chunk of weight, felt awesome, and the next thing I knew, I was training for a marathon. The rest is history.”
Since that day, Nguyen has worked to transform from a 5’5”, 223-pound diabetic couch potato into a distance runner – and he moved from a size 42 waist down to size 30 – as the transition continues even further.
“I got healthy and took control of my life. I am a former insulin-dependent couch potato turned Marathon Caped Crusader. When life dealt me lemons, I squeezed those citrus suckers into a water bottle, mixed them up with Cytomax, took a shot of GU, and ran! Running has turned me into someone I really like. A healthy dude is a happy dude. Please allow me to introduce myself: I am Endorphin Dude.”
Nguyen has not only turned around his life, but has impacted people looking for motivation to get healthy and have fun doing it. Using his “Endorphin Dude” persona, Nguyen now has almost 2,700 Facebook followers and a surprisingly strong influence among endurance athletes.
It’s difficult for even the most avid endurance runners to participate in the race schedule that Nguyen followed in 2009:
“I ran over 1600 race miles and about double that amount in total miles in 2012. The irony is that 2012 was supposed to have been my taper year! In 2011, I ran/jogged/walked/crawled 52 marathons in 52 weeks, and I needed a break! However, I got caught up in the endorphin rush and kept going. 2013 will be the taper year, and this time I mean it! I’m scaling back to focus on fitness and speed. I have ambitious goals that don’t involve quantity. I’ll be gunning for personal records in every distance in 2013.”
Moving from couch potato to ultra marathoner was no easy task, and it’s obvious if you look at the Endorphin Dude’s race history:
- One 100 Miler
- 102 Half Marathons
- 86 marathons/ultra marathons
- And a lot of 5ks and 10ks!
A clean diet is a necessity for endurance athletes – and anyone looking to lose some weight and be healthier. Going from couch potato to endurance athlete certainly forced Nguyen to shift his dietary habits, which he’s still adjusting.
“I have been a vegetarian for about nine months now. I’ll have the occasional fish, so I guess that makes me a part time pescatarian. All other animals, however, have been eliminated from my diet. This was a very tough transition for me, as I was a devoted carnivore. I used to wrap bacon around my hot dog and then roll it up into a hamburger patty! I chose to turn to a plant based lifestyle because I wanted to get fitter and faster. It worked.”
Throughout his journey, Nguyen has had the pleasure of running all over the country, with his core focus on Northern California.
“My mission in life is to spread the word of good health and positive living. I know what it’s like to have to inject insulin into my system, and I can tell you that it’s no fun. I have weaned myself off all meds and it’s incredibly liberating. When people tell me that I inspire or motivate them, I feel very humbled and proud. As Endorphin Dude, I want to save the world one couch potato at a time, so if I can make a difference in just one person’s life, then my job is done.”
The Endorphin Dude persona has grown into a cult-like craze among runners, both in the Bay Area and across the national running community. Even Nguyen himself wasn’t quite ready for the transition that happened:
“I never planned for this Endorphin Dude thing to grow into what it has. I created the persona in my head as a way to get through those tough training miles. I only wore the cape because a friend of mine double dog dared me to do so. Go figure.”
To finish our interview, the Endorphin Dude had this to say:
“I may not be the fastest in the pack, but I’m out there getting it done. I do this because I enjoy it, and it keeps me healthy and happy. I encourage everyone to get out there and be active. You don’t have to run, but find something that suits your life style. Start out small and work your way up. Remember, my first steps were around the block.”