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Local man has lost 130 pounds since last August

Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series of fitness success stories.

Kevin Cavanaugh doesn't remember exactly what he was doing a year ago on Aug. 14. Although he knows what he wasn't doing - running.

But that was more than 130 pounds ago. Which makes Cavanaugh's completion of his first ever half marathon that much more special.

"I wasn't the fastest guy in the race, that's for sure," said Cavanaugh, 25, as he reflected on his recent completion of the Gopher to Badger Half Marathon last month. "But I was happy enough to finish."

The finish line for the race was in Hudson. The starting line was in Stillwater. But Cavanaugh says his true starting line for the race began a little less than a year ago when he made the decision to put his life in the Twin Cities on hiatus and move to Arlington, Va. with his older brother Matt Cavanaugh, who happens to be an Army officer and an ultra-marathon runner.

The goal was blunt. Kevin weighed in at 344 pounds. He and his older brother had discussed a weight-loss regimen before. Several times, actually. But then Matt invited Kevin to live with him and his wife out east. The goal line was to reach a body weight of 175 pounds, which Kevin admits sounded unattainable at the time.

"We talked about it before," Kevin said. "I knew what I needed to do, but had no idea where to start."

The game plan would be simple. Kevin would take advantage of his new living environment to completely reinvent his health lifestyle. That meant joining a gym, quitting smoking and drinking mountain dews for breakfast. No more fast food.

Sound like a lot to give up at once? It wasn't that difficult for Kevin, his brother said.

"When he was with us his motivation was pretty much self inspired," Matt Cavanaugh said. "I never told him to go to the gym, he just did. He held up his end of the bargain."

Matt's end of the bargain was to provide Kevin a room and home-cooked meals from his wife Rachel, a former professional ballerina with a keen sense of healthy cuisine.

"She really knows her way around healthy food, and I think it was the first time in years that Kevin was eating balanced meals," Matt said. "That makes a huge difference for anybody."

'Oh dear!'

The pounds came off slowly at first. Then Kevin, a 2003 Woodbury High School alumnus, was losing 5-10 pounds a week.

"It's a lot easier to lose that kind of weight when you start where I did," Kevin said.

He then joined a mixed martial arts gym in the D.C. area that he said proved to be the key to his consistent weight loss.

"They really work you hard," he said. "It's just a mixture of different exercises; so the body isn't getting used to any one type."

Kevin's weight continued to drop. But he never really noticed until one day when he dropped his brother off at work at the Pentagon. He stepped on an elevator. Glanced at himself in the mirror. He liked what he saw.

"I was like 'Oh dear!'" he recalled. He weighed himself - 230 pounds.

To celebrate Matt and Rachel accompanied Kevin on a shopping trip. For new clothes.

"I had been working out all this time and didn't even notice I was starting to swim in some of my gym clothes."

Matt Cavanaugh, who has competed in races of distances of more than 100 miles through forests and hills, said his brother's weight loss achievement has been inspiring.

"To think about the dedication it takes to lose something like 100 pounds, that's way more tough than what I do," Matt said. "In a race, there's people cheering for you, and you're looking toward that finish line.

"When Kevin was losing weight it's not like he had a cheering crowd every day. He did it by his own determination. And he did it every day."

Kevin returned home to Woodbury after a little more than 10 months with his brother and sister in-law. He weighed 210 pounds. His friends were shocked.

Then Kevin asked three of them if they'd run a half marathon with him. They finally did last month.

"Those last couple miles were tough," he said, reflecting on the recent race. "But it was worth it when I crossed the finish line."

Do you have a fitness success story to tell? Or someone to nominate for a story? If so, email Hank Long at