Kevin Clapp, Features Editor at The Press of Atlantic City Vernon Ogrodnek

"... But while I'll continue to run through the end of the year (I get VERY cranky if I don't), I need to rest and let my knee and foot continue to heal. The worst thing I could do is continue to push myself and not let my body recover. It will be hard to keep from doing that, but I'll ease back. ..." - Me, The Press, Nov. 30

Turns out, it wasn't hard to keep from pushing myself. Evidently, my impulse to run is dwarfed only by my ability to lounge around like a lump of Jell-O, popping M&Ms and washing them down with liberal servings of iced tea. Sweetened, of course.

Which is how I came to find myself staring down at the scale, taking in the ugly truth staring up at me, the needle wavering as if it were a finger wagging back and forth in shame:

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One. Seven. Nine. Or, about 25 pounds more than pre-marathon.

It's a Sunday morning. April 18. Hello, tubby.

After I completed the Phila-delphia Marathon in November, I wrote about ending the column that was charting my training progress, with the caveat that it might return as a general fitness feature, a place to share stories, trends and research.

Consider this that new beginning. I just didn't plan on turning to goo in the interim.

It should be pointed that one guy's goo is another's fit and trim. But the fact is, for my height and body type, weighing a buck 80 just isn't good.

On Dec. 6, two weeks after completing the Philadelphia Marathon with a personal-best time of 3:56:59, I stepped onto the scale. It read 159 pounds.

How does one go from fit as a fiddle to Puss in Boots circa "Shrek Forever After" in four months? Susan Lord, 46, of the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township, says it's not so hard to slip back out of shape.

Lord is a health educator at AtlantiCare Health Engagement, a department within AtlantiCare that focuses on chronic diseases, as well as community and employee wellness and prevention. She's also a registered dietitian, and knows how easy it is to fall off the wagon. Fall off hard.

Especially when weight gain - add 3,500 calories to your diet per week to add a single pound - is so much easier than weight loss.

"It's so hard to count 500 calories out of your diet seven days a week," Lord says. "But, to add 500 calories, that's five cookies or a couple of drinks at the end of the week."

In my case, she says, I went from running a marathon to not doing much of anything. There was no balance.

In my defense, I was taking time to heal a handful of nagging injuries. I'd run once or twice per week for a while, I'd hurt, then I'd decide to take a few days off. I also gave myself a free pass for the holidays - I was eager to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, in whatever quantities I wanted.

Problem was, Jan. 1 rolled around and I was still nicked up. Leftover holiday sweets beckoned, which turned into Valentine's Day sweets, which morphed into Easter sweets. And, I got a DVR. Why go for a run when you can catch up on last night's "Late Late Show"?

(Seriously, the DVR might be the best invention ever. Right up there with the Reese's Big Cup, the ice-cream spade and Cheesecake Factory. Somebody, please build a Cheesecake Factory locally; you'll have a friend in me.)

After dedicating myself to training for six months last year, it felt good to be a slug. And, to an extent, I could rationalize my inactivity - with the exception of running a few days in early April - as letting my body recover.

Until that 179 showed itself. I weigh myself every week, so beyond the ill-fitting pants and uncomfortable jiggle in my midsection, I knew things weren't looking good. But something about that number made me want to say, "Enough!"

Well, that and the knowledge that in one month's time I would have to wear my suit to a wedding in Providence, R.I. A suit that, on April 18, would not have fit.

That morning, I ran about four miles. There was never any doubt I would finish it. But, in its own way, it was as difficult as running in Philadelphia last November. I was back on the road, but how many turns would I encounter this time?

Next week: Cheesecake's revenge

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