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Health scare leads to community-based running group: 'I want people to feel loved'

Health scare leads to community-based running group: 'I want people to feel loved'
Posted at 6:23 PM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 18:23:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Life is easier when people believe in you and inspire you to reach for your highest potential. We Off the Couch, a Richmond running group, is helping people live their best lives. The group's leader, Anthony Clary, started running after a message from his primary care doctor in 2014.

"Kind of scared me. He was like yeah, man, so you're pre-diabetic," Anthony said, explaining the experience.

Before then, Anthony hadn't worried too much about what he ate or how much he exercised.

"When we first got married, I would never eat a salad," he said.

Now, vegetables and mindful eating are a big part of his family's lifestyle.

"I started to value it once I saw the change. I was like, okay, so this goes with the change, so let me figure out how to enjoy my salad," Anthony said.

A lot has changed in the seven years since the eye-opening experience at the doctor's office. Anthony's weight is noticeably different.

"I think that I was three, pressing three. I was big. My biggest shirt size was a 4x. And my biggest pant size was 44," Anthony said, talking about his weight loss journey.

Now he says he weighs just a little over 200 pounds.

"And I was smaller. I was like, Yeah, I'm a little bit too small," Anthony laughed.

His transformation helped him develop a new passion.

"I was like, I'm going to keep running. I was like, man, this running thing, man, this is it," Anthony said.

The hobby inspired others, and soon friends started joining him on his runs.

"It originally started with like three to five people, like a college buddy or two and a friend," said Tara Clary, Anthony's wife.

Then strangers joined the group.

"A friend told a friend told a friend, told a coworker, told a church member and it just grew from there," said Tara.

"I'm so fortunate and grateful. I went out there not knowing anybody, and as soon as I was there, it was a big circle," said Kyle Douroux, a member of the group.

The runs have developed into a gathering of motivators, all working to inspire each other to go further and faster.

"I needed that encouragement because I was by myself," said Brandi Harris while explaining how the group has helped her stick to her fitness goals.

Community is important to Anthony.

"Nobody is ever left behind. Everywhere I go, I want people to feel loved," he said.

Anthony needed to feel that same kind of love in 1999.

"When I was 17 years old, my brother was robbed and killed in Hillside court. He was 20 years old. His name was James and that rocked me to my core," he said, explaining the most challenging time of his life.

During that difficult time, Anthony found refuge and support at a neighborhood church.

"Those people loved me through the amount of hurt and trauma that had already experienced even before my brother's death, you know, that really, it just changed the way I saw the world, " Anthony said.

Now the social worker is dedicated to uplifting others.

"Everybody's dealing with something. We're just encouraging each other and everybody we see on the street. We encourage them the same way, like you out here, you're gonna get this today," Anthony said while talking about the positive energy the group shares on runs.

The group helps him stay accountable on his health journey, and it helps him spread his message.

"You got everything you need tucked down on the inside of you," Anthony said.

"We like to say it's pavement therapy," said Tara.

The growing group of runners are making impactful change thanks to the healthy choices of the now fit man who started it all.

"It makes me feel happy. It makes me just glad on the inside that people can come together on one thing and move in unison together. We want people to see that they matter," said Anthony.

Anthony and Tara hope to create a nonprofit focused on healthy living with an emphasis on nutrition and exercise.

Watch Candace Burns' "Our RVA" reports Wednesdays on CBS 6 News at 4 and 5:30 p.m. If you know someone Candace should feature, email her at Candace.Burns@wtvr.com.

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