Ever toed the line for a race worried you might finish dead last? Try starting there. That’s exactly what Iraq veteran J.R. Martinez will be doing on November 4th in the ING New York City Marathon. But for J.R., every person ahead of him will have a dollar sign written across their back: For every runner he passes, Timex will donate $1 to New York Road Runner’s youth programs.
J.R. is no stranger to starting from zero. Just two months after deploying to Iraq, the Humvee he was driving hit an IED, leaving him with burns over a third of his body. It took nearly three years and dozens of surgeries before he was discharged from the hospital—and the military—lugging a solid 65 extra pounds on his 5’9” frame.
A celebratory trip to Cancun with some friends was his wake up call for getting back into shape. Seeing his flabby T-shirt-clad body surrounded by bare chests and bronzed pecs, he was ready for a change. Back home in Georgia he did a total 360, cleaning up his diet and running. In three months he was down 30 pounds. He went on to several acting roles, including playing a vet on All My Children, before taking the stage—and winning—Dancing with the Stars. His book, Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit will be out October 30. Here’s how J.R. is tackling the 26.2 mile challenge.
Confront your challenge head-on. “When I was a high school football player growing up in Georgia, I hated running because of the heat. When I came back weighing 240 pounds and started running, I put on a sweater. I made myself even hotter because I just felt like I had to sweat all that junk out.”
Don’t fear pain. “Everything I’ve been through has definitely given me the mentality of powering through. Burns are a painful and difficult thing, and I prided myself on taking minimal pain meds. But the pain is just a test—it will go away. And if I stop I just have more time to think about it and mentally create more pain.”