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Mercy Home Heroes Spotlight: Anthony Ballor
Anthony Ballor had big plans for 2020. He was signed up to run the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, Berlin Marathon, and was hoping to add London to the mix as well. With Tokyo and Chicago already under his belt, he’d be at least halfway to the six world marathon majors.
But the world changed, and so did Ballor’s plans. Berlin and London cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and his pursuit was put on hold. He won’t add any new world majors to the trophy case this year, but Ballor will still be part of something epic in 2020 – the Heroes 10-year anniversary team.
This year’s Chicago Marathon will be Ballor’s seventh with the Heroes. Someday, he sees himself running his 20th with the team; he can’t imagine ever wanting to stop.
But before Ballor ever started running, he was in a much different place. Somewhere he didn’t want to be.
“I had some health problems that I was dealing with at a young age,” Ballor said. “I wasn’t in a good place in my life as far as my career and personal life goes.”
At one point, Ballor was 320 pounds and taking more than a dozen pills a day for various health reasons. He was also a steel trader, and in a work environment he described as hostile.
“I’m one of those people that grabs the bull by the horns, and if you don’t like how things are going – you’ve got to make a change,” he said. “I looked to running to deal with some of my issues and help me not only physically but mentally, as well with my job.”
Once Ballor started running, he was completing 5ks, 10ks, and eventually half marathons. By the time he joined his first Heroes team, he’d lost 135 pounds. Still, he never thought in a million years he’d be running marathons.
I’m one of those people that grabs the bull by the horns, and if you don’t like how things are going – you’ve got to make a change.
Ballor first heard about the Heroes team through one of his coworkers. There were not many runners that year, he recalls. He soon discovered that Mercy Home for Boys & Girls was exactly what he was looking for in a charity.
“I got to find out what Mercy Home was about and put my hands on it,” he said. “I’m real funny with charities – I don’t like just writing checks – I like to put my hands on it, I like to feel it, I like to see it, I want to be part of it.”
Today, Ballor doesn’t just support the Home by himself. He now owns his own steel company and shares the mission with his employees. They get involved in different fundraisers to support our kids, and Ballor has even brought some of them to Chicago to see the Home firsthand.
Another reason Ballor keeps coming back year after year is the Chicago Marathon itself. Though he’s run other marathons, none of them is quite like Chicago.
“You don’t understand it unless you’ve been there,” he explained. “Not only is it a first-class event – it’s a first-class event on a global scale.”
Being part of the Heroes team has also added to the race day experience for Ballor. To see how much the team has grown and to be a part of the 10-year anniversary is pretty special to him.
“It’s monumental – it blows my mind to be part of something that’s bigger than myself,” he said. “To see something grow to the magnitude of what our marathon team has done in the last five years is ridiculous.”
Ballor has not only seen the Heroes team change over the years, he has seen the changes he wanted for himself. More than 100 pounds lighter, in better health, and happier with his work, Ballor credits it all to running.
“I was able to make that change and affect every single thing in my life – my professional life, my personal life, my love life,” he said. “Every facet of my life is affected through running.”