Eric O'Grey

Eric O'Grey (third from left) poses with members of the Missing Chins Run Club on Saturday as they prepare for the Louisiana Marathon on Sunday in downtown Baton Rouge.

Eric O’Grey wants to run a marathon in all 50 states, and the Louisiana Marathon is next on his list.

O’Grey, who lives in Maryland, has run about 20 marathons in the past six years, including big events like the San Francisco Marathon, the California International Marathon and the Anchorage Marathon. He hopes to check off all 50 within the next five years.

“Louisiana is perfect for this,” O’Grey said. “The reason that I selected Louisiana is because it's one of the flattest and fastest courses there is. It’s almost all flat except for an overpass. It’s going to be winter temperatures — high 30s and low 40s are actually my optimal conditions. That’s what I absolutely do best in.”

O’Grey wasn’t always a marathoner. He wasn’t even a runner.

In 2010, O’Grey was 340 pounds with high blood pressure and cholesterol. He was spending over $1000 in medication.

O’Grey’s doctor told him it was getting to be life or death, so went to a nutritionist in Northern California who put him on a plant-based diet and told him that adopting a shelter dog would be helpful to living a healthier lifestyle. A new diet combined with walking his new dog, Peety, for half an hour twice a day, O’Grey was able to shed 150 pounds in less than a year.

After losing all that weight, O’Grey said he had so much energy he didn’t know what to do with it. His nutritionist suggested finding some type of long-term exercise that would be sustainable. One of his friends recommended running.

“I had never run more than two miles before in my life,” O’Grey said. “He told me it was something that I would probably hate for the first couple of weeks, but if I stuck with it, and forced myself to continue running, it’s like a light switch would come on and say ‘Hey, this isn’t so bad’ and I might even like it. That’s exactly what happened.”

O’Grey ran his first marathon in 2012 and hasn’t stopped since. He runs about six marathons and between 15 and 20 half-marathons on a yearly basis.

It has become something that he really enjoys doing and has gotten progressively faster and faster. When he started running, his marathon time was between 4 and 4½ hours, but he has gotten his time down to 3½ hours since he really started putting in more effort.

O’Grey was originally running the Louisiana Marathon in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, one of the most premier running events in the nation. Instead, he qualified at the Charleston Marathon last week with a time of 3 hours, 36 minutes.

So O’Grey is hoping to use the Louisiana Marathon to time qualify for New York, which has a much harder standard. He needs a time of 3:34 or better in order to qualify — time he would have made in Charleston if a freight train hadn’t cut off the running trail.

“I’m convinced I would’ve made it had that train not come by,” O’Grey said.

O’Grey said it’s the sense of accomplishment that draws him to continue running and competing in marathons. It stays with him weeks after the race.

“Running is a situation where one side of your brain is arguing with the other side,” O’Grey said. “One is saying ‘Let’s stop and rest now’ and the other side saying ‘No, let’s keep on and go for glory.’ Trying to help the warrior side of your brain with that argument. Once you complete that race, you feel that you can accomplish anything in the world, anything you set your mind to, and that’s what I love about running.”