Now, after having gastric sleeve surgery and making a major commitment to fitness, the 42-year-old Michigan resident has conquered a 26.2-mile challenge, though not without some issues related to his postoperative condition. He is looking forward to continuing his journey by running even greater distances.
“I lost a lot of time being heavy,” Orosco told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “A lot of opportunities went by when I was heavy, because it didn’t allow me to do the things that I wanted to do.
“Now that I can do things, it’s no longer a question of do I want to, but, ‘Yes, let’s do it, let’s go for it.’ ”
A native of Saginaw County, Mich., Orosco weighed 650 pounds in 2016 and was beset with related health problems. He dealt with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, ulcers in his legs, blood infections and “extreme gout.”
Two events compelled him to make a radical change. One was a physician’s warning that his “life expectancy was really uncertain,” as Orosco put it. The other was his sister’s pregnancy.
“I knew I was going to be an uncle, and really needed to be around for a long time,” Orosco said, calling that “one of the most motivating factors in this whole process.”
The first step was to lose approximately 100 pounds before having a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy in December 2016. Orosco went “cold turkey” by eliminating fast foods, fried foods, alcohol and carbonated beverages.
“Everything I was doing,” he said, “I cut out.”
Following the surgery, Orosco continued his regimen of walking and eating healthy foods, and he steadily lost weight until he “plateaued,” as he said on the “Today” show earlier this year, at approximately 350 pounds. Then, in September 2017, he ran his first 5K race, to honor a close family friend who had died. And Orosco “fell in love” with what he experienced.
“It was the first time I had been around that kind of atmosphere — the post-race, prerace, just how supportive all of the participants and everybody out there watching were,” he told The Post. “It was a great thing to be a part of, and that’s really what got me hooked on it.”
5K races turned into 10Ks, and then 10-milers. In October 2018, Orosco ran his first half-marathon, and he completed his fifth two weeks ago as a tune up for the full 26.2 miles at the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon on Sunday.
“It was the most difficult — mentally, physically, emotionally — thing that I have ever done in my life,” Orosco said of the Detroit marathon, which he completed in an official time of 6 hours 31 minutes 14 seconds.
Katelyn Trepkowski, an experienced runner and friend, helped Orosco make it to the finish line, an act he described as “incredibly selfless.” The longest Orosco had run in training was 18 miles, and he was worried about how he might fare once he pushed past that distance.
Sure enough, “the 18-through-22 monster jumped up and got me,” Orosco said, recalling how he began to experience symptoms of dehydration, including blurry vision and feeling lightheaded. The surgery Orosco went through left him with another issue: he wasn’t always able to keep down the cups of water offered to him along the route.
At around mile 20, he “started not to feel too well,” so Trepkowski ran ahead and corralled a gallon jug of water from an aid station. She and Orosco took turns carrying it as he sipped from it over the next couple of miles, at which point, combined with some food another friend provided him at mile 21, he felt better.
“Miles 23 through 26 were definitely better than 20 through 22,” he said.
With about a quarter-mile to go, Trepkowski asked Orosco if he had anything “left in the tank,” and — upon being informed he did — she told him it was time to empty it.
“We went all-out for the finish, and crossed the line, and it was an overwhelming experience,” he said.
Orosco and Trepkowski shared an embrace at the finish line, but he soon discovered there were others also lining up to give him a hug. Several members and staffers from his gym in Saginaw, Mich., had made the trip to Detroit to cheer him on.
“We call him our Saginaw sensation,” a co-owner of the gym, Rwaida Bates, said of Orosco. “He has inspired others to reach out that were scared of coming into a fitness facility.”
“He is so inspirational and such a wonderful person — everyone needs a Carlos in their lives,” she added.
Calling the scene at the finishing area “some of the most heartwarming, inspirational moments of my life,” Rwaida described Orosco as “a very humble person” who “has come out of his shell so much more since he’s been out and doing runs.”
That jibed with the assessment of Orosco from Rebecca Srebinski, a registered dietitian with the Covenant HealthCare Bariatric Program, where Orosco had his medical procedure and received his first counseling on diet and exercise.
“He was quiet and more reserved at first, but … began to open up more and has since blossomed,” she said in a statement.
“I just try to take it in stride, and if people see me as an inspiration, I appreciate it,” Orosco said. “I find it very humbling, and take it as an incredible compliment. If there’s things I can do/say that help people get to a healthier lifestyle, then I’m going to do whatever I can.”
Orosco has taken his own inspiration from Trepkowski, an ultramarathoner who has him feeling that he “definitely” wants to go past 26.2 miles. The pair also “definitely” intend to return to Detroit next year for the same event, but plan on going faster, he said.
“It was just really overwhelming,” he said of completing Sunday’s marathon. “It was something that I didn’t know what was going to happen — I was anxious, nervous, excited, scared — and the emotions that hit me when I crossed the finish line was something I’ve never felt before.
“I was in so much pain, physically, but didn’t feel any of it, because of everything else that was going on, and the moment there made all the training, the time and sacrifice — everything — worth it.”