GS Professor Overcomes Obesity, Runs 18th Triathlon

Dana Lark

After waiting in line for two long hours, it’s finally the Sneathen family’s turn to board the infamous ride at Harry Potter World. The ride attendant locks each of them into their seat by pulling a gate over their heads. When the attendant gets to Dwight Sneathen, the bar will not lock into place.

Dwight Sneathen, associate professor of accounting at Georgia Southern University, was approaching 300 pounds in the summer of 2012, when a seed was planted during his daughter’s high school graduation trip to Orlando. As of September 2017, he has competed in 18 triathlons, the majority of which ended with a spot on the podium.

During the ride home from Orlando, Sneathen said he listened to his wife and two children rave about how awesome the ride was. “He was his normal, jovial self,” said Dwight’s wife, Susan Sneathen. He didn’t let on that missing the ride bothered him at all.

“I spent the whole time standing on the side because I was too fat to get on the ride,” Dwight Sneathen said. “That drove me nuts.” Despite this humiliation, Sneathen continued to gain weight. “When you’re 300 pounds, you deal on a daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis, with all kinds of little things that just drive you crazy,” Sneathen said.

More than a year had passed since the trip to Harry Potter World when Dwight Sneathen heard an advertisement for a health program on a radio show.

“For 20 years, I watched him try different programs and continue to gain weight,” Susan Sneathen said. That was until Dwight Sneathen came home to tell his wife about the new health program. “I was standing with my back to him and something in me said, ‘but what if this is the thing, and you shoot him down’?” Susan Sneathen said.

“Two weeks in, I was blown away,” she said. After five months, in May of 2014, he had lost 70 pounds.

Dwight Sneathen on his bike. (Photo Courtesy of Don Borowski)

Around the same time as his weight loss, Sneathen said Bradley Odum, former owner of Swim.Bike.Run. in Statesboro, wanted to train a group of people for a triathlon. In August 2014, Sneathen competed in his first sprint triathlon, which consists of a 250-meter pool swim, an 11-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run.

“I’ve never been an athletic guy,” Sneathen said. A combination of being a self-proclaimed “obsessive compulsive” and the fellowship in the triathlon community fostered a love for the sport, Sneathen said. Since 2014, he has participated in a number of triathlons; four in 2015, five in 2016 and eight in 2017.

“Having the target, for me, there’s always that impetus,” Sneathen said.

“He never complains,” said Don Borowski, current owner of Swim.Bike.Run. “He just embraces the ‘suck’.” Borowski and Sneathen, who both share a love for triathlons, quickly became best friends. “They always say when you die, if you’ve got five good friends you’ve done well,” Borowski said. “Dwight’s at the top of that food chain.

Sneathen (left) and Borowski (right) relax after covering 70.3 miles. (Photo Courtesy of Don Borowski)

Borowski and Sneathen train together regularly and recently competed in the IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta triathlon on Sept. 24. It was Sneathen’s first time competing in a race of that distance: a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run. “He jogged right in with a smile on his face,” Susan Sneathen said.

Dwight Sneathen is quick to respond to any praise of his accomplishments.

“I’m just a fat boy in recovery.”