By: Juan Acevedo
Humanizing the Headset has developed a theme for the month of October: Dispatcher Health Awareness. We are going to be discussing physical and mental health issues that affect us and the communities we serve. Our goal is to enhance the awareness of these issues so that we are better equipped to handle them in both our personal and professional lives. Our next story comes from fellow dispatcher, Juan Acevedo. He's going to be telling us about this amazing health transformation and weight loss journey. Please leave comments on your thoughts and personal experiences, and share with your friends to get them involved in the conversation as well.
All my life, I have always been the heavy-set guy, the chubby dude, or the cute and cuddly. Like many people, I have struggled with weight problems. I have done it all: Doctors, Weight Watchers, support groups, and even alarms on cookie jars – and like many other people's problems, nothing seemed to work. I have gone up and down in weight probably as many times as you can think of running to a refrigerator for string cheese. Many people know me as the funny and upbeat guy that always has a smile on his face, outgoing with lots of energy. However, I was at my heaviest at 320 pounds and my health was not the greatest. At 41 years old, I had knee problems, ankle problems, high blood pressure, arthritis issues and was even borderline diabetic. It even hurt to walk, and I would often call in sick because of it.
After a doctor’s visit in February of 2018, I was told I was borderline diabetic and at the rate I was going, my days would be numbered. I was determined to change my life around. Getting on a treadmill for the first time is scary! It’s one of those New Year’s Resolutions that everyone either puts off or just completely avoids. I needed extra help with motivation, so I started using social media to document my progress. I found it comical, and it helped me to hold myself more accountable.
At first, I started using Snapchat. I would make funny video and screenshots of me on the treadmill. I would log miles and track how many miles I would put in and I quickly gained a large group of followers that provided some great motivation! Some of them even started sending me snaps of them logging time on treadmill, elliptical, and even healthy eating. It became like a small competition. I could not let other chubby Snapchatters beat me!
In March, I attended relative’s birthday party where a good friend of mine approached me and said he had been following my progress on Snapchat. He said he honestly thought that my videos were not just motivating for myself, but that they were also motivating others. I was humbled but sort of thrown back at the same time. How would anyone be motivated by a heavy guy like me? He told me that his first ever 5K run was the Chicago Cubs Run to Wrigley before he became a marathon runner. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Chicago Cubs fan. I mean c'mon, I even have huge Blue and Red Cubs sombrero! He said with all the walking and jogging I was doing, I should sign up for that same race. I have never run a 5K, so I wasn’t too sure at first. However, with him planting the seed and it being my favorite baseball team, I felt like this was a great time to start!
That night I Googled “Chicago Cubs 5K” and there it was - The Cubs were hosting their yearly Race to Wrigley 5K May 6th, 2018. That gave me just about two months to train for it. I was nervous just typing in my information for the registration. I could feel myself breathing hard while reading the description of the 5K again and again. RTW was also a fundraiser through Cubs Charities and proceeds go to support pediatric cancer programs through Advocate Health Care. I also read that the runner who raises the most will be invited onto Wrigley Field to be recognized on the center of the field and on the Jumbotron at a Cubs Game. At that moment I honestly never thought of the on-field recognition. I was more concerned with how embarrassed I’d be if I failed or didn’t finish. I even delayed clicking the button to submit my registration payment! I wasn’t sure if I was really ready for this. After thinking about it, I closed my eyes and clicked the button. I sat there at my desk saying to myself “no going back now.“
Training started that morning! For accountability, I posted my status on Facebook: “I have officially signed up for my first 5K. I am accepting donations to help me get onto Wrigley Field,” and it had a link with where to donate. I went home, changed from my work uniform into shorts and a t-shirt and jumped on the treadmill. I made my first Facebook vlog that this was happening, and it quickly created a buzz with several people leaving me supportive messages. Someone even asked me if I was crazy for running a 5K for the first time and I honestly agreed with them! What was I thinking? I was committed, though - I was going to run this race and raise enough money to earn my way onto the center of Wrigley Field and be on the Jumbotron.
I would vlog every time I was training, making one-minute videos or vlogs asking for donations. When all this started I could only run for about two minutes at a time and walk the remainder. I thought I was going to die! I felt like I was going to cough up my lungs! Several people watched the videos and saw my dedication and my determination. I was so thankful for their donations and I honestly felt I had a great support system. I would wake up some days and not feel the urge to get on the treadmill, but I would think of all those who had donated, and I knew I couldn’t disappoint them. Within a week, I had raised more than $500. I was so humbled, and I couldn’t stop thanking everyone who donated. I was shocked to see that within two weeks I was in first place as the top fundraiser! I knew that the other competitors were also going to keep trying to knock me out of the first place but now the new goal was set. I wanted to be on Wrigley Field and get on the Jumbotron, so I continued to use social media to document my training days.
The Night before the Race. May 5th, 2018
I took the night before the race off from work and did one more push to continue the fundraising to help keep me in first place. I could almost taste the Wrigley Field grass and I pictured myself in the middle of the field. Thanks to all my friends I raised over $4,200! I think that was enough to keep me at the top because the runner up had only raised $3500.00, but I would have to wait until the next day to see who the winner was. I ate a light meal for dinner and felt like I was a boxer getting ready for his title weight championship. I hate to admit it, but I was nervous as hell! I picked out my running outfit that I planned to wear during my run. It was my Cubs Jersey, blue long sleeve sweatshirt under and black shorts and I was representing dispatchers everywhere with my black 9-1-1 hat.. I put my clothes out with my bib number, “6058.” I remember getting ready for bed at 8:00 pm while my family stayed up making posters to cheer me on. I was excited yet anxious in anticipation of the big day. What if I oversleep? What if I miss the start time? I checked and double checked the start location and what time I had to arrive. Where are my running shoes? So many things went through my mind. I think I finally fell asleep around 1 A.M.
The Race. May 6th, 2018.
I woke up at 5:00 A.M. and laid in bed for a few minutes. I was so thankful to everyone who had supported me to get to this point. I knew I could not let anyone down because I was already successful with all my continuous running. They (my Facebook friends) kept me motivated and I had lost almost 35 pounds at that time! I’m forever grateful to everyone! It was time to get up and wake up my wife and daughter who were going to go with me to cheer me on with the posters they had made the night before. I could hear the song Eye of the Tiger playing in my head as I was walking out the door - I felt good and wasl waiting to hear if I had won as the highest fundraiser.
I arrived in Wrigleyville around 8:00 A.M. and there were thousands of people along W Addison St and N Clark St. Chicago Police had blocked off this area for everyone participating in the race. There were hundreds of people trying to take pictures in front of the famous Welcome to Wrigley Field Red Marquee. I knew I had to get one too. There was music playing and an announcer giving a countdown time to the start of the race. I was surprised by the energy of everyone - it was a party at 8 o'clock in the morning! My younger brother and his wife surprised me by showing up to show their support. My brother was wearing my Cubs sombrero and bears fur costume with a Cubs jersey. He was carrying a poster that read “Power of the Sombrero.” It’s like my sombrero got its own recognition and people were taking pictures with him.
Before the start of the race, the announcer wanted to acknowledge the top three fundraisers. They called out 3rd place, then 2nd Place. Time seemed to stand still before they announced the winner. Finally, 1st place was announced: Juan Acevedo. My family began to cheer and yell! People around me had no idea who I was, but I was the official winner of the fundraising campaign. I was told to go to the main stage area. I met with a few Cubs representatives and they said to come back after the race for pictures. I felt like a celebrity. But it quickly set in that I might be a hot mess after the race because I'm not your typical marathon runner. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be photogenic enough after the race. I shook hands and the representatives wished me luck on my race. The thousands of people walked to their assigned start gate corrals. I was assigned to corral letter F. My family said they were all going to be around the finish line to cheer me on. The National Anthem was sung prior to the start. I can honestly say this was that emotional point where I felt I had accomplished something big. At 9:00 A.M. the announcer started the race and I thought it was going to start off with a sprint or major stampede, but because of the thousands of people it was more like a slow walk. The announcer counted down the corrals A through E, and by the time that he got to F I could see the START line. I set my timer and my music on my head phones and the walk now became a slow jog. This was it, I was doing it - the start of my first 5K.
We started by going down W. Addison, there were hundreds of strangers just cheering you on as you went by. It was awesome! People waved at me because I was wearing my 9-1-1 hat and I could hear people say, “Go 9-1-1, Go 9-1-1!” It was so inspiring. There were people on the side of the road giving high fives to runners as they passed by. The route turned and onto N Ravenswood Ave. This was more like a side street and did not have as many people cheering you on, but there was a water station there, if you needed to hydrate. Advice I’d give to any future runners, is that the water stations are needed but they are not pretty. As I approached the water station there were several people handing out little cups with water and Gatorade. I thought to myself I'll go for the Gatorade. I thought it would be a graceful run by and I’d grab a cup and sip it and continue running. FAIL! As I grabbed the cup, it splashed all over my hand! Trying to actually drink it was even worse - it got all over my face and shirt! The Gatorade was sticky, and it made it look like I was drooling in front of all these spectators. How embarrassing! By this time, I had completed approximately 1.5 miles. I did get tired because I’m not a natural runner and I still had some weight to lose.
The route then turned back going towards Wrigley Field on W Irving Park Rd. Around mile two, I started a slow jog again. I was able to catch up with Chicago Cubs mascot, Clark, who was also running the race. I said to myself, “whoever that person is inside of that costume must have it way worse than me. I can beat him.” I kept running. I could feel my legs getting tired. I wanted to stop but I kept going, I kept giving myself small goals as I went along. I’ll run past the next street sign, I'll pass the next person walking. I did that until we turned onto the last part of the race turning onto N Sheffield Ave, running behind Wrigley Field. I was excited to see The Friendly Confines (the nickname for Wrigley). It took all my energy not to want to stop, but as the runners funneled into Wrigley Field there was a natural slow down. Hundreds of runners were entering the corridor of Wrigley Field. It was breathtaking to run inside. We then exited the main front gates and you can see the finish line. I was exhausted. Again, this was my first 5K and I was still not physically fit for it. I was running on pure adrenaline. I remember when I saw the finish line, I was overcome with emotion. I reflected on all the people who donated, watched my videos, and even just gave me words of support. Knowing how many people cared about me and my goal for a healthier lifestyle motivated me to cross that finish line.
I just finished my first 5K.
Raising your arms at the finish line is an unforgettable moment, and best of all: I WAS NOT LAST. I finished my first 5K in under 48 minutes with a pace of 15:00 min mile (there was some walking I'm no gazelle!). I was given my finisher medal that I will keep forever. I was proud to have completed my very first 5K. I was honored to have won highest fundraiser, being able to walk onto Wrigley Field with my large Cubs Sombrero on and being on the Jumbotron on June 20th, 2018
As of this writing, I have lost 55 pounds. I have also completed my second 5K for the Chicago Bears Run on June 23, 2018. I was thirty for more 5K's. I enjoy collecting the runner’s medals A.K.A. the BLING!
I do have people asking how I do my runs. I tell them I'm not shaped for running. I have lots of extra moving body parts that move in one direction while the others move in another. It's not graceful but I'm doing it. If it had a name I would be call it Ugly Running! Whatever the case may be, at least I’m not just sitting on the couch eating like I used to!
My current challenge is on November 4th. I will be climbing the Sears Tower (Willis Tower) 105 floors. I am also accepting donations to support AbilityLab's world-class rehabilitation care and breakthrough research for their cutting-edge patient care and innovative research. I'm excited to continue training and making more support videos. I like using social media videos, not because I’m on camera, but because it holds me accountable. Someone else might be watching me change my life and maybe my videos will be the motivation they need. I cannot stop thanking everyone who watches my social media videos and cheers me on. It makes me go out there and train even harder.
My start weight was 320 pounds and my current weight is 269 pounds. I don’t have a goal weight, I’m just trying to feel better about my health.
Snapchat : ninejuan1
Juan has 20 years of combined dispatching experience, and is currently with the Lake County Sheriff's Office in Illinois. He moonlights as the amazing DJ Nine Juan One with Memory Makers Entertainment, where he's been inspiring people to raise the roof for the past 16 years.
Juan wanted to share some additional fun facts with us, so without further ado:
Alias: Nine-Juan-1 (But we call him Juano!)
Birthday: Aug 26
Years Dispatcher 20 years combined
Lake County Sheriff Office IL, Libertyville PD, Mundelein PD, Antioch PD
Family: Wife: Angeles, 2 Kids - Ezequiel (Ezzy) 21yo , Averie 11yo.
Pets : 1 Dog German Shepherd - Ruger 3yo
Home Town: Mundelein, IL
Tattoos: Yes, 2 Dream Vacation: Fiji or any where that looks like a computer screen saver. Favorite color: Purple
When you were a kid what did you want to be: Airline Pilot, I found out it required lots of math... I'm out..
Favorite Food: I'm vegetarian now but I still crave some home made Beef and Pork Tamales.
Favorite Ice Cream: Pistachio
Favorite Disney Movie: Lion King
If you were a Disney Character, who would it be? Goofy
What is your go to movie or TV series: Training Day or Breaking Bad
Favorite Sports Team(s): Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears
What do you do for Fun: Wedding DJ ,Memory Makers Entertainment 16 years
Happy Place: Driving my 1952 Pickup truck
Are you a morning or night person? Both
One thing from your bucket list: Learn to scuba dive in the ocean.
Thank you for sharing your awesome journey with us, Juano - keep up the good work, brother!!