By Sarah Gooding • Photos by Savanah Mandeville


Glenn Coltharp, president of Crowder College, runs to live.

“Mine’s not a typical runner story,” he said. “There’s no runner’s high. There’s no enjoyment. When the alarm goes off, every naughty word I know comes to mind. But I do love living, and my health is so good now that I’ve seen enough of the positives.”

This is a very different picture than in 2016 when Coltharp, a lifelong educator, was counting his days.

“I was close to death. There were a lot of medical signs that were very negative,” he said. “This was survival. I was on 13 prescriptions, giving myself insulin shots, and my doctor was preparing me for my legs to be amputated.

“It was a perfect storm of negative medical situations, beginning with no exercise, taking in too many calories a day and the wrong food. Something needed to change or my doctor felt within a couple years, if I was still around, I would be in assisted living.”

Coltharp’s doctor suggested a bariatric sleeve procedure as a tool to assist with weight loss but also recommended adding exercise as part of prepping for the surgery.

“I had a decision to make. Am I going to work at it or just give up?” he said. “Honestly, giving up was never an option. Some people ‘live to run.’ I ‘run to live.’”

With that, he began walking, although he said his motivation and commitment both were shaky.

“I knew I needed to figure out a way for the rest of my life to keep walking or running, so I set a goal of doing one 5k a month,” Coltharp said. “I thought if I would do one a month, I would have to keep walking and running so I would be able to compete. That turned out to be the best possible goal for me because I got my system down. Each week is different between resting and working up to the next 5k.”

The bariatric sleeve helps reduce food intake, but Coltharp credits running with his return to health.

“I went from over 200 on blood sugar to normal, no more insulin and no more prescriptions. The pressure in my eyes went from 26 to 16, and my blood pressure is right at 120/80,” he said. “I have more weight I would like to lose, but it’s the healthiness with which I’m carrying this weight that’s different.”

The monthly 5k’s also have paid off, with the satisfaction that comes from personal goal setting and achievement, as well as the joy of being supported by other runners.

He also has a newfound energy that allowed him to advance into his current role.

“In this role, it’s not unusual to start early in the morning, go through a day and end with several activities in the night in the community or on campus,” Coltharp said. “I often work 14-hour days, and before running, this wouldn’t have been possible. I wouldn’t have applied for the job if I hadn’t gotten into better shape.”

He also anticipates the future, something he didn’t plan on before.

“Before, I didn’t think about retirement, and in the back of my mind, I believed I wouldn’t live to retirement,” he said. “Now, I look at it as, ‘I’d like to do as many years as possible before I retire,’ and ‘After I retire…’”