10 Years Running: Always With Him | Fitbie

September 11 Running Story: Paul Denny

10 Years Running: Always With Him

After the death of his cousin in Afghanistan, Paul Denny turned to running to heal his life and shed the 50 pounds that he had gained while grieving

Paul Denny
Charlie Shoemaker

We were cousins, but we grew up like brothers. We played in the same local youth baseball league, went to church and school together, and from the time we were 9 years old until we graduated high school, we lived next door to each other in the tiny North Carolina town of Moravian Falls. We spent our summers catching crawfish in the creek that ran behind our house, packing a couple of sandwiches in a backpack and heading up into the woods for the day. We were kids, being kids.

Army wives and widows help each other cope one step at a time

Eventually, as a young adult, Larry Bauguess decided to join the U.S. Army. In early 2007, Larry was stationed in Afghanistan. One day, after working with NATO mediators to settle border conflicts between Pakistani and Afghan factions, Larry was shot and killed by enemy fire. Although he didn't lose his life in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, his death warrant was signed on September 11, 2001.

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Larry's death put me into a state of depression; I turned to food for comfort. At night, with everyone else in bed, I'd sit alone watching TV and eat—a bag of chips, a sandwich, ice cream—and then wash it down with soft drinks. I was trying to fill the hole Larry's death put inside me, and it would just never fill up. (Search: How can I run off my extra pounds?)

In the months after his death, I put on nearly 50 pounds and soon realized it was affecting my health; I risked not being around for my family—just as Larry wouldn't be for his. About that time my wife, Katy, mentioned an ad she saw for a running club in Mount Airy, the town where I now live. I agreed to give running a try. Quickly I was hooked. Most mornings I ran down Main Street, where I would smell bacon cooking at the Snappy Lunch diner. I ignored the temptation. I found that by putting on my iPod, I could turn off the world and be at peace. Whenever I hit a rough spot in my routine, I thought about Larry and what he'd say if I were to quit.

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Those 50 pounds have since disappeared, and I've even done a couple of marathons. I run with Larry's name tattooed on my arm, his memorial bracelet on my wrist. Every day I run, I run with my cousin. Just like old times.

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