As every member knows, the YMCA’s mission is to help people grow in spirit, mind and body, while also seeking to broaden an individual’s involvement in their community. When Mike Lentini joined the YMCA at Rock River, little did he know how much this mission would become a part of his daily life.
After getting married, gaining a few pounds, having a baby and gaining a few more pounds, Mike noticed a disconnect between the energy he needed and the energy he had. When he decided it was time to get moving, the YMCA at Rock River served as the best place to do so – it served as his home for starting a healthier lifestyle.
Through hard work and many long nights in the gym, Mike lost the weight he gained. He took up running – on the YMCA bike path – just because he could, and soon enough, his one-mile runs turned into two, two turned into ten and the next thing Mike knew, his friend was challenging him to running a half-marathon.
In the summer of 2015, just weeks after he started training, Mike decided to test the waters with Rockford’s Literacy Half Marathon. He finished and felt great, so he signed up for another race – The Biggest Loser Half Marathon where he finished in 1hour 26 minutes (6:37/mile pace) and first overall. That following September, Mike qualified for the Boston Marathon after running the Last Chance BQ.2 Fox Valley Marathon – his first appearance ever in a 26.2 mile race. This past April, as Mike crossed the finish line for the Boston Marathon at Copely Square, he reflected on the goal he set back in June 2015 and the 1,422 training miles that led him to finishing the race in the top eight percent.
Now, four marathons later – one of those being the most sought after race in the U.S. – many can’t help but wonder what is next? Mike will say, however, that he actually has a lot left to do. For Mike, running is now his way of giving back to his community and those in it.
Earlier this month, Mike, who is the Director of Operations at Subway, completed the Bank of America Chicago Marathon for the second time as part of Subway’s official marathon running team in support of Special Olympics. Over the past two years, the local Subway owners advertising group paid the registration fee for all team runners and committed nearly $20,000 to benefit Special Olympics through marathon fundraising efforts.
For many years, Subway has supported Special Olympics programs and events across the Midwest region, such as the popular celebrity-driven Polar Plunge and the annual Spring Games.
Since he started his first run a little over one year ago, Mike has come full circle. He has grown in mind, body and spirit, and being physically fit pours over into all aspects of his life. Running, first and foremost is one way Mike connects with God. In addition, running also gives Mike the energy to fulfill the responsibilities God has entrusted in him; to be a great husband through pursuing his wife, a father engaged with this two young children, and even to give back to those in his community.
And Mike couldn’t have done any of this without the friendship and support of members and employees at the YMCA at Rock River. “I love the YMCA,” Mike said. “It is where my work (there’s a Subway inside), my faith and my personal life meet. It’s a place filled with people who love God and love to support each others goals, and I couldn’t be any luckier to be a part of something so positive and truly rewarding.