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Taking positive strides


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Taking positive stridesBy Joe Stevens, Staff writer


Article Launched: 10/11/2007 09:36:59 PM PDT

var requestedWidth = 0; if(requestedWidth 20071012_121924_14_300.jpgBrian Conboy resumed running eight years ago and said that, plus not eating fast food, has helped him feel much better, physically and mentally. Here he covers ground in Belmont Shore with Runners High, one of two Long Beach running groups he belongs to. He'll be running in L.B. on Sunday. (Stephen Carr / Press-Telegram) if(requestedWidth > 0){ document.getElementById('articleViewerGroup').style.width = requestedWidth + "px"; document.getElementById('articleViewerGroup').style.margin = "0px 0px 10px 10px"; } LONG BEACH - Eight years ago, Brian Conboy looked about as far away from running a marathon as possible. He hadn't run for more than a decade, and his body didn't exactly appear to be marathon material. "I was eating fast food three times a day, and I was 35 pounds overweight," Conboy said. "It was hard for me to make it around my block. When I came home, I sat on my couch and wanted to cry."


The Lakewood resident eventually made it around his block - and then some. After some brutal months returning to running, he gradually increased his stamina and his distance.


Now, Conboy has not only competed in one marathon, but 20 of them, and is using Sunday's Long Beach Marathon as a training run for the New York Marathon. He is practically a poster boy for changing one's lifestyle and said that doing such a thing is possible, but certainly not easy.


"The hardest part was getting past the first two months," he said.


"I sat on a couch, and my body was asking me what in the world I was doing. My body didn't want to run. It wanted more fast food."


When runners prepare to descend upon Long Beach for the L.B. Marathon, many colorful characters, Conboy included, will come together in a mix of personalities, hopes and stories. The 39-year-old, who lives in Lakewood and grew up there, has his own mix of stories, and most of those start with others.


Conboy is a member of two Long Beach running groups - A Running Experience Club, also known as AREC, and Runners High. He tends to dedicate his marathons to others, and that again will be the case as he is dedicating to former AREC vice president Win Freeman. Freeman, 61, died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer.


"I think that will affect the whole AREC group," Conboy said. "He was such a big part of the group, and I know a lot of people who are dedicating the race to him."


Two years ago, Conboy dedicated his Boston Marathon to another AREC member, Heather Stevens, who died last year after being diagnosed with Cushing's disease and pancreatic cancer. He gave his medal from Boston to her.


So although running is an individual sport, he sees it in a different way. In the L.B. Marathon in 2004, he saw someone collapse near the finish line. He helped the person cross the line and then two years later, was shocked at the Rock `n' Roll Marathon in San Diego when that same person approached him.


Conboy also takes a non-individual approach when it comes to training, and that's why he befriended Tommy Robles, a Long Beach fireman who also is in AREC. The two forged a friendship simply by talking while running, and the two became training partners, pushing each other.


"We'd go out and talk for 20 miles," Conboy said. "We figured if we couldn't talk, we were going too fast."


Although Conboy made a leap to return to running in 1999, he had the history of running in the L.B. Marathon when he was 17 and a student at Pius X High in Downey. The school has since become St. Matthias, an all-girls academy.


But it is not as if running that prepared him for what he would encounter more than a decade later. He said he entered that marathon on a lark, deciding only three days before to do it.


"I think the most we had ever run was 9 miles," he said. "And we went way too fast and were cruising until mile 16. We finished, but let's just say it was a long crawl back."


As for Conboy's future in marathons, he is not exactly sure where that will take him. His personal best is 3 hours, 10 minutes and he hopes to break the 3-hour barrier, but he said finishing marathons is more of his focus than his time.


As he continues to compete in marathons, he could be inspirational to anyone out of shape and afraid to take the plunge into running.


"It was one of those things where I said to myself, `I'm unhealthy, and it needs to stop,"' he said. "So I stopped eating fast food, started running, and it was just a big change with how I felt, both physically and mentally."


Joe Stevens can be reached at joe.stevens@presstelegram.com

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