SAN ANTONIO – As he bent over and stretched, preparing his body for a run at Woodlawn Lake, Leroy Garcia recalled all the twists and turns his life has taken.
“I ended up homeless and highly addicted to substances and alcohol. I couldn't stop,” he said.
The 37-year-old West Side resident spent many of his younger years living what some might call a “rock star life,” hanging out in bars with bands.
Then, after hitting rock bottom, he decided to get professional help about four years ago.
Soon, running had become his new habit and new way of life.
“I love running. I love helping. It gave me a sense of purpose,” he said. “It changed my people, places and things completely from the music and bar scene to the running community, which is a very loving group.”
Garcia said he first found that kind of love while he was undergoing treatment for substance abuse.
He began running about two years ago through a program called “Street to Feet” at Haven for Hope.
Now, he logs thousands of miles each year, many with the Downtown Run Group.
Garcia is preparing to run in the Humana Rock and Roll Marathon December 8.
While running more than 26 miles at a time may seem like a huge feat, he recently completed a 100k race, or more than 60 miles.
“I, literally, told myself at mile 50 that I'd been through worse, just with the homeless, with the withdrawals,” he said.
Although he still sports long hair reminiscent of a rocker, Garcia works to distance himself from those days.
He says running is his therapy and escape from any troubles.
“I'm free for those moments. My stress and my anxieties all go away. It brings me a sense of balance,” he said.
Now a drug and alcohol counselor, himself, he measures his success not only one day at a time, but also one mile at a time.