Northampton Press

Saturday, September 21, 2019
Contributed photoCaleb Oliver, of Northampton, takes a practice run in this photo to prepare for the Boston Marathon, which was held April 16. Contributed photoCaleb Oliver, of Northampton, takes a practice run in this photo to prepare for the Boston Marathon, which was held April 16.

Borough man runs in Boston Marathon

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 by CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE in Local News

Caleb Oliver, of Northampton, has undergone quite a transformation — going from morbidly obese on Halloween in 2016 to running in the Boston Marathon April 16.

Oliver weighed in at 377 pounds that Halloween before undergoing laparoscopic gastric bypass surgery with Maher El Chaar, M.D., the co-medical director of bariatric surgery at St. Luke’s University Health Network.

Heading into the 2018 Boston Marathon, Oliver, 38, is now carrying between 236 and 241 pounds on his 6-foot frame.

“I’m not trying to break any records,” Oliver said of his hopes in the marathon, which features the legendary “Heartbreak Hill” around mile 20.5.

“I would like to finish in six hours, but if it takes longer, it takes longer,” he said. “I want to finish. That’s my goal.”

That philosophy describes Oliver’s goal when he decided to try bariatric surgery to help jump-start weight loss.

“I wasn’t diabetic at the time, but I was headed that way,” Oliver said in detailing his reasons to commit to surgery and the lifestyle changes necessary for successful weight loss. “I was overweight, bouncing back and forth. I’d lose 65 pounds and gain it all back again, lose 85 and gain it all back again. I wasn’t getting good sleep. I had sleep apnea. My blood pressure was through the roof,” he said.

What helped Oliver make the firm commitment to change his life was that he and his wife, Jana, had three young children: Zavaya, Cyrus and Kayden. Oliver wanted to be active with them, to go on hikes and do things with them that he did as a youngster, such as ride on roller coasters, for which he had literally outgrown.

That kind of realization helps patients succeed following weight loss surgery, according to Dr. El Chaar. It lends itself to a commitment of lifestyle change.

El Chaar said the gastric bypass surgery helps reset a person’s metabolic rate, making it easier to lose weight, but lifestyle changes are necessary for successful weight loss.

So how did Oliver qualify for the Boston Marathon?

He works as a mechanic at the Samuel Adams Brewery in Breinigsville. The Boston Brewing Company is a sponsor of the Boston Marathon and is guaranteed a designated number of sponsor entries. Oliver applied and got the news that he was one of 18 employees selected to run the Boston Marathon — not bad for someone who had never run any sort of distance before his gastric bypass surgery. Oliver had played some sandlot football in his younger days but never ran to stay in shape or anything like that.

And even though he works at Sam Adams and beer is his guilty pleasure, he hasn’t had more than a few sips since his surgery.

Last August, Oliver ran his first-ever race — a 5K obstacle race — along with a few friends and family members called the Rugged Maniac at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading.

“Ever since then, I’ve been running,” Oliver said. “I kept running to get my endurance up, and then Sam Adams opened up the Boston Marathon sponsor slots to a lottery for the workers. I never ran a marathon, and probably never will again, so I put my name in the hat for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and got picked.”