Running

They Told Me I’d Never Walk Again. Then I Ran 4 Marathons Through Chronic Pain.

Dave Scarpello, the founder of the Manayunk Beer Runners, overcame the odds to become a runner in his late 40s.


Photographs courtesy Dave Scarpello.

Welcome to Run Month at Be Well Philly! Every week, we’ll bring you the best and the latest on info on running around Philadelphia. Stay tuned for more great running articles!

Changing your body takes hard work, persistence, and dedication. Here’s one local’s story. Want to share your Transformation Story? Email ccunningham@phillymag.com

Who: Dave Scarpello, 51, founder of Manayunk Beer Runners, from Roxborough

My backstory: “I’m disabled as the result of three back surgeries after being assaulted during an armed robbery. I was subsequently hit by a drunk driver and told I’d never walk again. I decided I wanted to make a change in late 2012 after years of inactivity and weight gain due to chronic pain. I got tired of existing, but not ‘living,’ and weaned myself off of my medications, changed my diet, and began exercising on January 1, 2013.”

How my life changed: “Everything in my life has changed for the better since I started exercising! Although I still live with chronic pain, I’ve never gone back to the pain medicines. I’m stronger, much faster, more balanced, and although I still suffer from PTSD and depression, I’m much more calm, relaxed, and sociable. I started a running club, the Manayunk Beer Runners, and although I started it strictly with running in mind, I’ve gain so many valuable friendships through the club.”

How much I lost: 46 pounds

Photograph courtesy Dave Scarpello.

How I changed my diet: “When I started this journey, my diet was embarrassingly bad. I drank a two-liter of Mountain Dew every day and ate fried foods, junk foods, etc. I over-ate due to boredom. My diet reflected my mental and physical state of giving up. I decided to stop being a victim and began following the Eat Right 4 Your Type diet plan. It’s an eating regimen based on your blood type. I’m blood type O, so my plan is very similar to the Paleo diet — plenty of red meat, fat and protein, low carbs, and limited wheat and dairy.”

How I changed my exercise: “I was completely sedentary, then I began by riding an exercise bike and walking a lot. My current plan includes spinning four times a week and about 30 miles running outside (I despise treadmills) and hours of stretching and core strengthening.

“No matter how helpless and bleak life seems, you can create better days and a new life for yourself.”

The hardest part: “Pushing through the pain of atrophied muscles until they decided to cooperate. Sometimes they still don’t, but quitting isn’t an option.”

What I’m most proud of: “Ditching the pain medications and getting the same endorphin release naturally through running.”

What I want everyone to know: “The most important thing I want people to take away from my transformation is that no matter how helpless and bleak life seems, you can create better days and a new life for yourself. I’m not a pro athlete, I’m just a normal guy. If I made the change, I believe that everyone can.”

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