With over a hundred races under his belt, it’s difficult to imagine that Mr. Newcomer, the energetic principal of Van Buren Elementary and an avid runner, was once struggling to get rid of his post-college weight gain.
“It just wasn’t healthy,” said Newcomer, reflecting on his past battles with being overweight. “I think at one point, I was right around 250 pounds. I was pretty overweight for how tall I am.”
After graduating college and beginning his teaching career , he “packed on the pounds” by developing a lethargic lifestyle. Tired of lacking energy, he was determined to do something to ensure that he would improve his long-term health, so he started going to the local YMCA.
“I started by just walking on the treadmill, and there was probably about a good 6 months working up to running,” said Newcomer.
Adding running to his life boosted his energy and he also witnessed dramatic physical results. “I guess the biggest change was, I had to throw out all of my clothes or donate them, and buy new clothes because they didn’t fit anymore. That was a good reason to have to buy new clothes,” Newcomer said, laughing.
His gradual transition into running quickly became something beyond an activity, though, as soon as he signed up for his first race.
“Once I started seeing those results, I said, ‘Well, I’ll try a race,’ and I signed up for the 5K portion of the Flag City Multisport Marathon in June of 2006. That was my first 5K ever,” said Newcomer. “I did it and I felt pretty good, and basically from there, I signed up for a few other 5Ks. By October of that same year, I ran the Columbus Half-Marathon. I just started training more, and felt good, and the rest is kind of history. I kind of got addicted.”
He still feeds this running addiction by participating in a multitude of races. On the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, he ran two races and even was pictured in full Irish gear in The Columbus Dispatch, clad mid-stride in a kilt. Upping the distance in the coming months, he has three half-marathons lined up: the Carmel Half-Marathon in Indiana, the Canton Football Hall of Fame Half-Marathon, and the Lansing Half-Marathon.
With experience in a variety of races, Newcomer says his favorite would be a tie between the New York Marathon and the Chicago Marathon, despite his encounters with injury in one, and severe heat in the other.
“I ran New York hurt because I twisted my ankle at mile 14. I was able to finish the race, but it wasn’t my best time. Even with that, with 45,000 people running through all 5 boroughs in New York, you finish in Central Park...it’s pretty memorable,” he reminisced. “With Chicago, when I ran that, it was the year after they shut the race down because of heat. The year I ran it, when I finished, I think it was 89 degrees.”
To anyone who isn’t a run-aholic, though, it may be difficult to grasp the idea of what is so enticing about this activity. “Everyone talks about the ‘runner’s high,’ and some people don’t get that,” stated Newcomer. “But if you’ve experienced it and you know what that is...a day when it’s a little bit cold, a little bit dreary, and you don’t really want to get out and throw your shoes on and go for a run, once you force yourself out the door and you start, you think, ‘now I’m in the groove.’”
For those looking to change their lives in a similar way, he simply advises to ease into exercise to get the body adjusted to the change, and don’t go to extremes with eating patterns.
“I changed somewhat what I ate. That wasn’t a huge change, but the main things were that I did cut out some of those junk foods and eating out later at night. I did cut out pop quite a bit. Before, I didn’t even think about it. Cutting all that sugar out was the biggest difference-maker, I think. I still like to go out and have a nice steak every once in awhile, but it’s like anything else: moderation,” said Newcomer.
Newcomer, in addition to adopting this new lifestyle, used his passion for running to coach the high school track team at VB. “I filled in with the role of distance coach, and then one thing just led to another, and I became head coach and did that for a couple of years,” said Newcomer.
One thing led to another, indeed. While he held the position of head track coach, his passion was recognized when he won BVC Coach of the Year once, and tied a second time.
Despite having to step down from the head-coaching position when he became the principal of the elementary school, he still enjoys helping out with the track and cross country programs at Van Buren whenever he can.
“I like to see kids get excited about running. A lot of sports you can still do outside of high school, but running is something you can do lifelong. It’s a good outlet, especially as you get older to get rid of stress and other things.”