In April 2012, Rita VanValey of Parkersburg weighed 235 pounds.
Then she decided to do something about her weight. VanValey turned to the River City Runners and Walkers Club for help.
VanValey, 41, has lost 68 pounds in a year and has undertaken an ambitious running and workout schedule.
Travis Daugherty of Vienna gained 70 pounds over a four-year period after serving seven years in the U.S. Army, including two tours in Iraq.
Daugherty started riding a bicycle in January 2012 and then joined the runners and walkers club clinic that April.
Since then, Daugherty has lost 50 pounds, run four half-marathons and plans to compete in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon on Oct. 20.
VanValey and Daugherty are two of the many success stories arising out of the runners and walkers club's spring beginners clinic, which completed its 26th year this week.
VanValey said she is telling her story to be an inspiration to others who want to lose weight and improve their health.
"I needed to be healthy," VanValey told me Tuesday evening at City Park after the final session of the 10-week clinic. "I was tired of being heavy. I was always thin before."
She showed me photographs of her running in the May 2012 Chick-fil-A 10K (6.2 miles) race in Parkersburg while weighing 235 pounds and a much-lighter self running the same race last month. VanValey proudly notes she cut 10 minutes off her running time this year.
VanValey's goals for this year include running in 12 5K races, three 10Ks and three half-marathons. Next year, she wants to run in Disney's Princess Half-Marathon in Orlando.
She has convinced friends to join the beginners clinic.
VanValey graduated from West Virginia University at Parkersburg this year, majoring in accounting and financial management. She works full time at the Bureau of the Public Debt.
"It's amazing what Rita has done," said Melissa Wigal, clinic director.
The goal of the program is to get out-of-shape people to work up to - at their own pace - participating in a 5K (3.1 miles) race at the end. Seventy-five people completed the program this week.
"Most don't think they can do it (walk or run 3.1 miles) at the beginning," Wigal said. "But they are so excited when they do. They get emotional."
And their accomplishments rub off on others, inspiring them to cross the finish line.
Daugherty, a 2002 graduate of Wood County Christian School in Williamstown, wants to lose another 20 pounds to reach his military service weight of 155. It's all about getting off the couch and moving, he said.
Daugherty helped at the clinic this year, running alongside the participants, trying to inspire them in City Park.
Jacob Hively, a 2013 graduate of Williamstown High School who has entered the U.S. Air Force, ran with the runners on Tuesday, cheering them on. He said it was great to see people up and moving.
I enjoyed the Smoot Boys Quartet singing to me outside the Taste of Parkersburg last Saturday evening. Matthew Smith, 13, of Belpre; Daniel Brumfield, 14, of Vienna; Brandon Humphrey, 14, of Marietta; and Hampton Hill, 15, of Parkersburg were asked by Taste of Parkersburg entertainment coordinator Felice Jorgeson to sing barbershop-style songs at the Market Street entrance to the food/wine/music festival as people flowed through. I was sitting outside the gate when quartet director Janet Blessing asked if the talented boys could sing a cappella for me. Sure, I said, let the show begin. The quartet, along with the five-member boys Smoot Theatre Children's Chorus, looks forward to singing at civic, church and private functions. They will be singing at the West Virginia Day celebration on Blennerhassett Island on June 20. Boy Scout Troop 16, based at Lauckport United Methodist Church, was a big help in picking up trash and transporting chairs and tables after the TOP. Despite the rain and heat, about 2,500 people attended the Taste of Parkersburg, a slightly smaller crowd than last year, spokesman Cecil Childress said. Next year's event will remain in the spring, he said.
Contact Paul LaPann at firstname.lastname@example.org