Four years ago, Todd Chamberlain was overweight, unhappy and mostly inactive. He also hated running.

Then his cousin invited him to watch the Chicago Marathon. Chamberlain was captivated by the electricity of the crowd, the enthusiasm of the runners.

He decided to sign up for a 5K.

"I thought: How hard can a 5K be? It's only three miles," he said. "I ran it just after I started running. It wasn't as easy as I thought."

But the more Chamberlain ran the less difficult it got — and the more benefits that came with it.

Six months later, he did his first half-marathon. Six months after that, he was back at the Chicago Marathon, this time as a participant.

Chamberlain, an Army veteran who works in sales, has since done more than 60 races, including two marathons. He is getting ready to run his first Boston Marathon in April. Inspired by a nephew who has autism, he is raising money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.

"I went from sitting on the couch lifting weights every once in a while to a full marathon in one year," he said. "I was really in a funk. I was not healthy. I wasn't eating right.

"Now, the energy that I have every day keeps me going. I've seen a huge difference in how I feel and how I sleep. I have fewer and fewer migraines."

Chamberlain, 45, has lost 30 pounds, and is the same weight he was 15 years ago. His waist — size 32 — hasn't been this small since he graduated college.

He is training for what he calls "the Super Bowl" of marathons by running four days a week, working on his speed and traversing hills. He said some of the hilly streets in Valparaiso mimic those on the course in Boston.

Chamberlain, who has a daughter and two stepchildren, has gotten his wife into running. He hopes to inspire other veterans to run as well.

"Anybody can take the time out of their lives to run and exercise and be healthy," he said. "You don't have to be fast. Just getting out there and doing something outdoors, and eating right and exercising, it helps."

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Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.