Former Copley High runner overcomes sugar addiction to win HOF Marathon

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CANTON: Verrelle Wyatt was a talented runner for Copley High School and then took his hopes and legs to North Carolina’s Campbell University in 2005. When that “didn’t go so well” in the words of Wyatt, he eventually came to Stark County and received a graduate degree in physical therapy from Walsh University in 2014.

Sunday, it all came together magnificently for Wyatt to win the Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon. He cruised to the victory in a time of 2:28:04, one of just four to break three hours, including women’s champion Barbara Lorson.

“It’s a blessing,” Wyatt said moments after crossing the finish line at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. “I thank God every day. This is my first race for two years. The last time I raced was at the Akron Marathon (in 2017), where I finished second.

“Ever since then I cramped a lot — a lot,” he added with emphasis.

Wyatt said a bad diet was to blame.

“I struggled with sugar addiction,” he said. “I went crazy with keto, cut out all the sugar. It cost me about one and a half years of running because my body had to adjust to burning fat.”

With “just one 20-mile run” under his belt before Sunday, Wyatt didn’t have any kind of distance base to prepare for 26.2 miles in 42 degrees and rain. What he did have, though, was patience. And a patient.

“I had a patient Thursday tell me she had stage 3 breast cancer,” he said. “There were times in that race I kept saying it’s her race, (and) I couldn’t give up. She is not giving up, and that is what motored me through.”

He did start cramping at the 25th mile as the finish approached, but Wyatt didn’t despair. He thought of his patient and forged ahead to the finish line in triumph.

“I decided I finally got it. I figured it out,” he said. “Today was a test to see if I could run a whole race without any carbs.

“I’m just glad I’m back to running.”

The marathon was a test for Lorson too. Like Wyatt, she passed with flying colors, her winning time of 2:59:51 was fourth overall and more than 13 minutes ahead of Kristy Kenna’s runner-up mark of 3:13:05.

“I was hoping to be right around three hours,” said Lorson, an Orrville native. “I’m going to do the Columbus Marathon in three weeks so I was kind of wanting to see what I could do.”

The 37-year-old found out she is improving her endurance with age. This was her 14th full marathon and her time was just two seconds off her personal record.

“I did the half last year here and got fifth,” she said. “Today I just wanted to get a long run, kind of test these legs a little.”

With a fourth-place overall out of more than 200 men and women marathon finishers, Lorson passed that test.

Reach Jim Thomas at 330-580-8336 or jim.thomas@cantonrep.com

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