GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A local man is one of the thousands of people taking part in this weekend’s races in West Michigan, but his story is one-of-a-kind.
Mark Diekema, 48, will participate in the Run Thru the Rapids 5K Saturday. He lost the ability to move his left side when he was involved in a car crash at the age of seven.
Many people, including coaches and peers, counted him out when it came it physical activities. He told 24 Hour News 8 that the negative judgement led him to give up on his passion for sports and exercise.
“I was very heavy,” said Diekema.
The lull in physical activity coupled with Mark’s disability took its toll on his body.
“I had gotten pretty heavy and with my disability, walking was becoming more difficult.”
Diekema had bariatric surgery in August 2015. Between surgery and his lifestyle change, he has shed 135 pounds
Fast forward to April 2016 and that’s when he began running 5K races. He set a goal to run three before the year ended. He’s surpassed that goal.
“At that point, I had so much weight that I needed new shirts,” he laughed.
His race this weekend will be his seventh one he’s done in West Michigan since April.
He has a brace for his left leg, but when he’s running and walking his 5K races he doesn’t need it. Diekema said that his life has drastically changed since he lost weight and started participating in races.
“You’re always the fat kid or the guy who isn’t going to quite reach that goal. So, being able to reach that goal was great,” Diekema said.