Teacher credits Newton Trails with saving his life

Randy Norman lost 110 pounds this year by walking/running the Eastside Trail. He is holding a hand-written sign that says "Newton County Trails saved my life." (Special Photo)

COVINGTON – Randy Norman will tell you that the Eastside Trail in Covington saved his life. Norman, originally from Conyers and a 2000 graduate of Heritage High School, is a ninth grade literature teacher at Eastside High School in Covington.

Last February, he weighed 338 pounds and realized that with his weight and diet he might not survive to someday walk his daughter down the aisle. So he changed his diet and started running. At first he struggled to run even a mile. But he kept at it.

The Eastside Trail is a multi-use recreational trail stretching 2.5 miles from Eastside High to the Newton County Library. It was convenient to Norman’s workplace and quickly became his favorite place to run. He runs it “religiously.”

The new regime has worked. Since February Norman has lost 110 pounds and jokes that people say he has lost the equivalent of a freshman student. He now runs 35 to 40 miles per week. “A day I don’t run is usually a pretty bad day,” he said. “It’s made me healthy. It’s saved my life.”

Norman loves the Eastside Trail because it is shady in the summer and because it is mostly uphill from Eastside High to the library. Running up and then down that trail helped him shed weight and also prepared him for the distance and hills of the Peachtree Road Race (6.2 miles) and the Invesco QQQ Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon (13.1 miles). He ran both races this year.

“From Eastside High to the library and back is 5 miles,” said Norman. “The Peachtree is 6.2. So I said to myself if I can run this trail, I can probably do the Peachtree. In April and May, I could not even get to the one-mile mark; but now I’m doing it two or three times without stopping.”

Because of his Eastside Trail workouts the Peachtree Road Race “was a breeze” and he was able to complete the half marathon in just 2 hours and 23 minutes.

“Trails are fantastic. If you had told me a year ago that I would be running 30 miles a week and running half marathons, I would have laughed in your face,” said Norman. “But that trail has been hugely instrumental and a life changer that has probably saved my life. If I did not have the trail, I would be running laps yes, but I would not be running 13 miles at a 10-minute per mile pace.”

Newton Trails is a non-profit corporation dedicated to promoting, developing, and sustaining a connected system of trails that supports a vibrant, healthy, and prosperous community. This is the first in a planned series of stories about how local citizens use and appreciate Newton County’s multi-use recreational trails. If you know a regular trail user or someone with a good “trail story,” please drop Newton Trails a line at newtontrails.org.