An Unlikely Inspiration – The Derek Mitchell Story


Derek Mitchell started his racing journey at 625 pounds. Since then he has completed more than 20 5Ks, and is aiming for 30 this year as well as a half marathon.

By Henry Howard

It all started with an innocent New Year’s resolution around this time last year. Derek Mitchell, of Kansas City, Missouri, vowed to eliminate soda from his diet and eat healthier, using smaller portion sizes.

Weighing 625 pounds at the time, Mitchell knew he had to make substantial changes. But little did he know a year ago that he would be completing races, inspiring others and being featured in Runners World magazine.

The Derek Mitchell Story

A plan for 5Ks

His vision changed, thanks to his sister, who runs marathons.

“My sister said it was great that I was eating better, but that I needed to add physical exercise,” Mitchell says. “I got out and started walking everyday. We came up with the idea of a 5K a month as a way to keep me exercising to get ready for them. Once I gained notoriety, I got invited all over the country to complete 5Ks.”

On March 14 in Kansas City, he completed his first 5K, finishing in 1:27:44, just ahead of the chase car. “It was an amazing feeling,” says Mitchell, who has since lowered his PR to 1:10.

Beyond the physical benefits of running, Mitchell is quite taken by the support he receives from other runners. “The running community is so awesome,” he says. “I have gotten nothing but support from them. It’s amazing how supportive everyone is at these races.”

After a year of no soda, eating healthy and running, Mitchell lost 87 pounds. He would like to lose a total of 250 pounds. He’s continuing to eat right and train, even starting CrossFit. Mitchell will continue to be fighting the issue, which led to his weight increasing.

Obesity and tumor, an unwelcome mix

Five years ago, Mitchell was diagnosed with a noncancerous tumor on his pituitary gland called a prolactinoma. “This tumor secretes an enzyme called prolactin that blocks my body’s ability to produce testosterone,” he explains. “This severe testosterone deficiency affects energy levels, mood, drive and severely slowed my metabolism.”

His doctor told him that obesity and these types of tumors essentially reinforce each other.  “They put me on medication to shrink the tumor, which has started to work,” he says. “At one point, I was using that condition as a crutch, telling myself, ‘I’ll wait for the pills to start working before I start working out or change my eating habits.’”

But when he hit 625 pounds in November 2014, the time had come to make a change. “That’s when I knew I needed to make a change, and decided to start with a new year’s resolution.”

For 2016, Mitchell created a new list of challenging goals, including finishing 30 5Ks. He knocked off the first one Jan. 1 in Lawrence, Kansas. Also on his list of goals: a half marathon this April “and hopefully a full.”

Mitchell has served as an inspiration to runners, people battling weight issues and others he meets. In fact his Facebook page, has more than 20,000 followers. He fully believes that if he can finish a 5K, then anyone can. And he encourages those battling weight issues to try at their own pace.


“Listen to your body and do what you can,” he advises. 

“If you can just walk to the end of the block, then just walk to the end of the block, but be consistent. If you consistently walk to the end of the block, soon you’ll find you can walk two blocks, then three, then four, etc.”

Speed Drill

Name: Derek Mitchell
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Number of years running: 1
Point of pride: 2015: 21 5Ks, 2 10Ks, half a Tough Mudder
Favorite race distance: 5K
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Nothing special, usually a banana
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Gonna Fly Now (Rocky Theme)
Favorite or inspirational mantra or saying: “If I can finish a 5K, anyone can” – Me
Where can other runners connect or follow you:

3 Responses to An Unlikely Inspiration – The Derek Mitchell Story

  1. Sharon Hall October 10, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    Derek, you are an inspiration. There are so many people that make excuses, they’re too old, too big…but you proved that anyone who want’s to can accomplish great things. Just get out there and move!

  2. Esther February 9, 2017 at 6:26 am #

    “An unlikely inspiration”? Assuming you’re referring to Derek Mitchell himself…how rude and short-sighted. Everyone’s battling something, so anyone could inspire you at any given time. Why is this unlikely? Don’t be so narrow. Sheesh.

  3. Kate Dalton December 13, 2019 at 10:43 pm #

    He’s a complete fraud, he’s not a inspiration to anyone but those looking for a free ride. All he does is expect those following him to pay his way.

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