When Patrick House came to New Orleans in 2010, he came looking for a solution.
Always a big man, he previously had been a lineman for the Delta State University football team in Mississippi. But after a serious back injury and graduation, his normal weight of 270 pounds had skyrocketed to more than 400 pounds.
So, House came to the Crescent City to audition for the hit television series “Biggest Loser,” during which competitors vie to see how much weight they can lose. He was looking for better health, after battling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and more.
“The auditions were in the Riverwalk,” House said. “I came to New Orleans because it wasn’t too far from home (Philadelphia, Miss.) The line of people trying out for the show stretched from the food court, out the door, all the way to the aquarium. It was unreal. I like to say I was in line with 5,000 of my closest, obese friends.”
After a 20-second screen test, House was selected to move on in the selection process. He eventually won the game/reality show — losing nearly 200 pounds over a six-month period. His determination earned him $250,000 in prize money, a book deal, and instant celebrity status.
Five years later, the sleeker and fitter House will return to New Orleans to compete in one of the city’s largest annual sporting events. He will be part of the sixth annual Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon festivities, with races of three different lengths expected to attract approximately 13,000 people to the streets on Jan. 25.
House, 32, will compete in the half-marathon, which will be a 13.1-mile trek. The half-marathon has the largest number of expected participants at 8,500. The full marathon is expected to draw approximately 3,000 people, while a 10-kilometer race will host more than 1,000. All races will begin at the corner of Poydras and Camp streets in the CBD, and finish at Roosevelt Mall in City Park.
House has come a long way since his days of weighing a fifth of a ton. He was recruited as an offensive lineman at Delta State and said he was encouraged to gain weight while playing. So he began loading up on carbohydrates and proteins. Things were going fine until he ruptured discs in his back during offseason workouts. Two of his lower lumbar were shot and his football days were over.
His days of eating too much were far from over, however.
“Before, I could put away thousands of calories and work out, play football and I would lose almost all of it. Now, without football, I was just gaining.
Fed up with his declining health and increasing weight, he wound up at New Orleans’ Riverwalk looking for answers. He found them in competition; ones that eventually had him running a marathon in the California hills before he would go on to win the television show on NBC.
“For me, the hardest part was retraining myself how to eat right,” House said. “The thought of never having my mom’s pecan pie again was unreal. I just had to learn to eat a slice of it, rather than a third of it with a whole tub of Cool Whip. And with the exercise, the hardest part was finding what kind of exercise you like. Luckily, mine came pretty easily because I enjoy running. I hate riding a bike, for instance. If that was the only way I could have to get back in shape, I’d probably be a heck of a lot farther behind where I am today.”
House has completed “seven or eight” full marathons since dropping nearly 200 pounds on Biggest Loser. He’s run in a “couple dozen” half marathons, as well. His best time in the full marathon is 4 hours, 55 minutes — a very respectable mark considering his condition a short four years ago. That top time came at the Boston Marathon last year.
Since his appearance on Biggest Loser, House has been working with a physician who has helped him turn flab into muscle mass. He currently weighs 240 pounds and feels great, he said.
“I’m getting better at this,” he said. “My endurance is building. Running clears your head.”
This will be his second year running in New Orleans and he’s excited about the opportunity to be a part of the race. He’s not concerned about falling victim to the city’s temptations, either.
Well, not an overindulgence, at least.
“One of the best things about Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans is going out after,” House said. “My favorite place to go is the Napoleon House. After burning 3,000 calories in the half marathon, I can go have a po-boy and drink a Pimm’s Cup. That’s all part of it. I know I’ll never be up front and challenge to win a race like this. My goal is to have a nice pace, and to finish. I’ll take pictures with people and I’ll hear stories about how the Biggest Loser influenced them to lose their own weight.
“I’ll be wearing my green Biggest Loser T-shirt, so people can find me,” he said.
The Sixth annual Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon and Half Marathon will, in part, benefit the Feed the Children. Music, food, drink, and fun are part of the festivities.
Anyone who would like to register for the race, can find details online at www.runrocknroll.com/new-orleans. If you enter the code “runwithpatrick20” you will save $20 on marathon and half marathon registration. If you enter code “runwithpatrick10” you save $10 on registration for the 10K.
More information on House can be located online at www.biggestloserpatrick.com.