LIGHTHOUSE: Meet Jamie Gastineau

The Lighthouse Fitness Project is an opportunity to share and grow the vision, mission and focus of the Platte River Fitness Series through the stories and photographs of 10 individuals who have generously agreed to let us share their journey to wellness and the “Lighthouses” who helped guide them. Click here for more posts from the Lighthouse project.

Jamie Gastineau

Jamie Gastineau

"Time is precious." "Time is of the essence." "Time goes by too quickly." Both inside and just outside our awareness is this measure of our days and of our life that we call time. The simple ticking of a clock that never stops, an unalterable duality between something that can feel endless and something we know to be finite and seems "to fly," defines our relationship to time. Most people do come to realize at some point in their journey that time is the container in which we must put all of the moments we embrace, the people we love, the experiences we cherish, the beauty we see, and the joy that we feel. The sooner we can come to that realization, however, the better. One of the most important reasons to live in a healthful way is to expand the time we have in a way that improves the quality of our lives. We know there is no guarantee about the time we have, and that knowledge empowers those that are wise to make the most of each moment. When we live with a determined approach to wellness, we acknowledge that there are ways in which we can improve the chances that we have more time and that the quality of that time will be good.

For 25 years of his life, from the age of 15 to the age of 40, Jamie Gastineau was losing time, precious, irreplaceable time. A pack-a-day smoker, Jamie was losing 11 minutes of his life for every single cigarette he smoked — and, as a father, that meant he was losing precious time with children.

"I started smoking when I was 15 years old,” Jamie says. “Everyone in my family smoked, so it seemed natural. I smoked a pack a day for 25 years and quit at the age of 40. I quit smoking for two reasons. First, there were physical effects. I started noticing the respiratory effects associated with smoking, and I became aware that I simply did not feel well. I could feel the toll smoking was taking on my health."

According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is responsible for 90% of lung cancer deaths and 80-90% of COPD including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. There are 8.6 million Americans who have at least one serious illness caused by smoking. For Jamie, it was just "a matter of time."

The second reason Jamie quit smoking, a very difficult addiction to overcome, was quite simply because his son Matthew asked him to go to the track and run with him. As a loving father, he complied.

Jamie (right) and his son, Matthew

Jamie (right) and his son, Matthew

"Matthew was a runner at Hershey High School at the time and he asked me to join him for a run at the track,” Jamie says. “I said, 'Sure, I'll be glad to go and run some.' I ran two laps (a half-mile) around the track slowly, and I was sure I was going to die. After that, Matthew joined me for some short runs before he left for York College."

Because his son extended his hand, Jamie kept running. "I ran my first 5K race in September 2011. I remember thinking, 'I hope I can run 3 miles without walking.' The Platte River Fitness Series athletes and events kept me motivated and inspired to continue training. The athletes and volunteers that I have met through the PRFS are the most encouraging and inspiring people around."

What started as a trip to the track at the request of his son became his passion. He also discovered a true athletic talent.

"Running became a big part of my life and one of my goals was to run a full marathon. I have run many 5Ks, some 10Ks and 15Ks, done triathlons and competed in two half-marathons, all PRFS events. I ran my first full marathon in Lincoln this past May and only missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by 5 minutes. The Boston Marathon is our country's oldest and most prestigious marathon, and it requires athletes to achieve a qualifying time based on age."

To most marathoners, Boston is sacred. Like Kona for the triathlete, it is the event that represents the history, the legacy, and the beauty of endurance sports. It is the supreme goal for a marathoner.

"I decided to try another marathon and try to qualify. I ran my second marathon in Estes Park, Colo., in September 2014 and qualified for Boston by over 10 minutes. I have been accepted into the 2015 Boston Marathon."

Our life story becomes one about the choices we make. Jamie gives credit to his "lighthouse," his son Matthew, for giving him a reason to stop smoking. By quitting, Jamie gave Matthew the gift of more time. Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, and society pays not only in lives lost, but with $193 billion in healthcare costs and loss of productivity for smokers, according to the American Cancer Society. A smoker pays on average $6.36 per pack, but that pack costs all of us $35 in healthcare costs. For every day that people continue to smoke beyond their mid-30's, they lose 6 hours of life expectancy. This translates into over 3 months of time lost for every year someone smokes.

Jamie and Matthew understand the value of time. Life times and race times.

"None of this would be possible without my son Matthew and the PRFS community and all of the events they hold. There are people who are fast and there are people who walk. It doesn't matter how fast or slow you are. The goal, always, is to cross the finish line."

October has been designated as "Stoptober" to encourage people to quit smoking. By quitting, Jamie Gastineau gave Matthew two gifts. Jim Valvano once said, "My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person; he believed in me."

Jamie Gastineau gives this gift to his son each day. He also gives Matthew an even more priceless gift; more time, more days and more years to continue to believe in him … and to believe in the beauty of his own dreams. Boston Strong, Jamie, Boston Strong.