A simple text message and handful of trips to Dari Licious forever changed the outlook on life for Steve and Suzie Baldwin.
At 226 pounds, Steve knew it was time for a change.
In mid-January the Crawfordsville native, who is retired from the Air National Guard, set out to Washington D.C. on a temporary work assignment that lasted until mid-December. Baldwin made some slight diet changes, including no alcohol for 36 days. He was missing his wife’s cooking, which he claims is ‘the Michael Jordan of cooks,’ but the boneless pork chops and chicken breasts from his Arlington, Virginia apartment were only showing minimal results.
And then on Feb. 27 his phone buzzed.
“I’m sitting on the couch in my apartment and I get a text from Randy Ringus and asked if I was going to be in D.C. in October,” Baldwin said. “Would you be interested in running the Army 10-miler with me?. And I was like ‘can you go from couch to 10 miles in seven months?’”
Less than a month later and Baldwin was at Pacers running store getting fitted for a pair of Brooks Ghost 12 running shoes, and ordered an Apple Watch and Apple airpods. The race to lose 50 pounds by his 50th birthday in October of 2020 was officially on.
Meanwhile in Indiana, his wife, Suzie, who is an English teacher and head of the drama department at Fountain Central, was struggling to find things to do once the COVID-19 pandmeic shuttered schools in mid-March.
“At the beginning of quarantine, my daughter (Reilley) and I were kind of bored so we would go on little drives and a lot of times we ended up at Dari Licious and I gained eight pounds right at the beginning,” Suzie, who has been married to Steve for 26 years, said.
With her husband 10 hours away and on his own weight loss journey, Suzie turned to her daughters’ huskie for inspiration by taking him for walks.
“It worked out really well, beause if it would have just been me thinking ‘oh I’m going to do this,’ I would have probably quit after a week, but every day when I got up and his cute little face was looking up, I was like ‘well I have to take him now,’” she said. “I wouldn’t have had that much time if I was in school, and then once you get into a rhythm, if you don’t do it, you feel kind of terrible.”
Back in D.C., Steve was ramping up his miles, running over 100 in June and July, and breaking the 150 mile mark in August. To date, he has ran 617 miles since March 3.
Suzie visited Steve during the month of June, and estimated a weight loss of 20 pounds in that month alone, crediting their one or two walks and runs per day.
While they spent time away, the couple turned to technology for encouragement. Steve’s attention to his Apple Watch and bathroom scale may have become a little addictive, but it was all part of the fun.
“Each of us weigh in too many times throughout the day,” he said. “I would weigh in and take a picture and then snap it to Suzie.”
They would make sure to keep their Snapchat streaks alive, and use pictures of their Apple Watch rings as encouragement and motivation.
After barreling through the 150 mile mark in August, Steve was destined for the Army 10-miler in early October that he had committed to back in February. On Sep. 12 he ran a personal best 10 miles, followed by a 1:55.25 half-marathon on Sep. 13. He may have overdone it though, and that was proven on the morning of Sep. 14.
“Then I woke up on Monday the 14th and I thought I had been shot,” he said. “Severe pain in my right hip. Of course I’m stubborn, so it didn’t stop me and I continued to run for a good week or two.”
Baldwin eventually got a MRI that unveiled hip impingement, making him a great candidate for a hip replacement in just a few short years if he continued down the same path.
But what about that Army 10-miler?
“Would have shut down, but I stil had this Army 10-miler, even though it was virtual,” he said. “My goal was come hell or high water, I was running the Army 10-miler, it didn’t matter.”
He completed it on Oct. 10 and since has rested his hip by only running a few more times in 2020.
In just 209 days, Steve reached his goal of losing 50 pounds on Aug. 11, and even since with his injury and Suzie’s return to school this fall, the couple has been able to hold a 43-45 weight loss average.
Now with the couple back together in Crawfordsville, the long walks won’t be so lonely — and that’s okay with both of them.
“I just like walking with my wife,” Steve said from D.C. last week.
“Well she is pretty awesome,” Suzie chuckled from the other end of the phone.
In a year where many have faced more hard times than good, the Baldwins chose to change their perspective on life. A better, more healthy living. And during a time where it feels like for many that everything is all crumbling down around them – Steve was reminded every day for five months how lucky he has it.
“There’s no excuses for anybody around here to exercise or anything, just because there’s so many different trails,” Baldwin, whose oldest son, AJ is in the Navy and youngest son, Dane is in the Air National Guard, said of the D.C. area. “I’m getting goosebumps. I love this country. I don’t care what your politics are, we live the greatest nation in the world. And to go by, literally every day for five months straight, I ran basically the same route. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Capitol, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and to see those lit up.”