Jul. 10, 2017

Dan Walmer: Evolution of an Athlete

Dan Walmer – our Team Make Your Mark™ Coach – is a strong role model for the lupus community and has dedicated his life to inspiring and encouraging runners.

His running resume includes 40 marathon finishes and several ultramarathon finishes, and he has coached several hundred runners.

Dan began running in 2008 to lose weight and manage his type 2 diabetes. While he did not enjoy running, he loved the physical benefits – he lost 80 pounds within a year and managed his diabetes.

He continued to run for the next eight years, finishing several short distance races, marathons and ultramarathons. He became a certified coach through the Road Runners Club of America and began coaching with a local running club in Houston, Texas. He began to understand the power of running to transform lives.

In January 2016, Dan began experiencing concerning health complications – fatigue, achiness, and low-grade fevers. A few months later, he passed out at work and ended up in the emergency room with dangerously high blood pressure.

After extensive tests, doctors found life-threatening signs of kidney failure. He soon had a diagnosis – lupus.

He had stage IV lupus nephritis (stage five could result in permanent and irreversible damage) and would need dialysis and, eventually, a transplant. Doctors put him on an aggressive treatment regimen: low-dose chemotherapy, high-dose steroids, antimalarial drugs, blood pressure medications and antibiotics.

Fast forward one year, Dan says the biggest health challenge he struggles with is extremely high blood pressure. Dizziness and fatigue affect his ability to pursue his passion of running, although he has been cleared to exercise.

He has learned to lower his expectations toward running and racing. The other health challenge that has an impact on his running performance is the dramatic fluctuation in his weight, which for the past year has been as low as 198 pounds and as high as 235 pounds. He loses weight while on chemotherapy and gains weight when he is taking steroids. He continues to struggle with kidney function and is on heavy steroids to counteract the effects of the disease.

Yet he asserts that running is what has kept him healthy and gave him the confidence to strive for big goals, in addition to the deep and loyal life-long friendships. He describes running after his lupus diagnosis as the passion that woke him up early each morning, anxiously awaiting the miles that were ahead of him.

Coaching has given Dan the opportunity to channel his energy into helping others follow their goals and succeed. As Dan has learned through many hard-fought miles and years of struggling with health challenges from lupus, setting big goals and breaking them into small incremental steps that can be achieved over time can be a transformative life experience.

Dan loves helping seasoned runners improve, but his passion is coaching those who are new to running, especially when they are running for a personal cause. His love for coaching stems from a desire to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

He also is passionate about supporting runners who are trying to raise funds to support lupus research that will save lives. He has raised more than $11,000 so far through his personal fundraising efforts.

Through his coaching, he shares his personal experiences as a runner applying a positive attitude and re-prioritizing in order to achieve goals. He also uses this optimism and problem-solving mentality to tackle and learn from setbacks along the way since regardless of the training program, there will be setbacks that present learning opportunities if viewed from a positive perspective.

It is this attitude that is the motivation behind the Team Make Your Mark training program. Contact us to learn more about the program and sign up to participate in a future race. Registration for our fall races is now open.