LAKE PLACID - For years, Andy Flynn has been fighting a potentially life-saving struggle with his weight.
On Sunday, June 8, he took another step - no, make that thousands of steps - in that battle when he completed the 13.1-mile half marathon distance during the 10th Lake Placid Marathon.
Along with his twin brother, Steve, and a friend, Daniel Roy of Tupper Lake, Flynn crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 52 minutes to beat the target time of 6 hours that he set to finish the journey.
News photo — Lou Reuter
Saranac Lake resident Andy Flynn is flanked by twin brother Steve, left, and Tupper Lake’s Daniel Roy after they crossed the finish line together in Sunday’s Lake Placid Marathon.
Flynn, 44, is the editor of the Lake Placid News and a longtime journalist in the Adirondack Mountains who grew up in Tupper Lake and now lives in Saranac Lake. At 8 a.m., he began his journey in a mass start on Main Street along with more than 1,700 other participants in the race.
After enduring a hot day with temperatures soaring into the 80s on the course, Flynn, Steve (who flew for the weekend from his home in Colorado) and Roy crossed the finish line together just minutes before the race's 2 p.m. cutoff time. Just yards before reaching their final destination, the three half-marathoners clasped hands, raised them triumphantly and then slowly jogged into the finish area set up in the Olympic speed skating oval.
Although most of the marathon's runners, their friends, family and spectators departed a while ago, more than two dozen supporters were on hand to greet Flynn at the end of his trek.
"There were so many friends and family waiting there for me, that I nearly broke down in tears," he said. "It was overwhelming."
Flynn recalled nearly dying on an emergency room table three years ago. Back then, he weighed 493 pounds. Before starting his long haul on Sunday, he had gotten his weight down to 389 pounds.
Flynn said he decided to enter the 10th Lake Placid Marathon back on Dec. 17. Since then, he has shed 81 pounds while both training for the race and as part of his weight-loss program, which he chronicles in a newspaper column called the Lake Placid Diet. He woke up Sunday prepared to walk the half-marathon distance, but wasn't ready for the heat that the entire field would face during the late morning and early afternoon hours.
"Living in the Adirondacks, you don't get a chance to train for the heat," Flynn said. "I've overcome a lot of obstacles, and a cold was one of them Sunday, but there was no way I was ready for the heat. I spent a lot of time training in the snow this year.
"Between mile 10 and 11, near the ski jumps, I had to find some shade and sit down. I was feeling a little lightheaded," Flynn continued. "This older woman who was there cheering for her daughter came over with some ice water. She dumped some over my head, I drank the rest, eventually regained my strength and continued on my way."
Flynn has set an eventual goal of getting down to 220 pounds, and although it's mainly a personal battle to get there, he has needed, and has been getting plenty of help. He said Sunday was a great example of that.
"Really, it was the strength of the community that helped me get through," Flynn said. "I think the overriding theme of the day was seeing how a community comes together to help its members. There were a lot of people cheering me on: friends, family and total strangers. Whether they knew me or not, I got at least 100 high-fives during the race."
Flynn said perhaps the most emotional moment for him on Sunday happened after he crossed the line when his wife Dawn was there to put the marathon's finisher medal around his neck.
"This day provided me with a couple of things," Flynn said. "Preparing for the race set me up with a training program that gave me an incentive to exercise, and finishing gave me the confidence I need for the rest of the year."
Sunday wasn't the first time Flynn has participated in a distance event. He actually established a marathon back in 2002 that was a fundraiser for the Visitors Interpretive Center in Paul Smiths while he was working for the Adirondack Park Agency. That marathon lasted three years, and Flynn walked the entire distance in its inaugural season. That marathon included a dozen laps on a 2.2-mile loop on a forest trail. Flynn said his weight then was 370 pounds and he walked the entire distance using his walking sticks.
"I wanted to create a little buzz about that marathon, and I thought that a 370-pound guy doing it with his walking sticks could do the trick," Flynn said. "I started at 6 a.m. and it took me 13 hours, but I got it done. It was in May, and I remember it was spitting snow."
Flynn also used walking sticks during his months of training for Sunday's half marathon, and decided the day before the race that he wouldn't use them in the official event. As it turned out, he didn't need them.
"I am seriously looking at doing a 10k in Lake Placid this fall, but right now, I just want to enjoy the warm summer weather and do some hiking," he continued. "Finishing today has given me the confidence to move on."