Charles Bungert grew up big.
From the soccer fields, the basketball courts, the jujitsu arenas and the baseball diamonds, he was always the most sizable kid on the team.
In the sixth grade, he was told he was too big for pop warner football, even playing with kids three years older.
In high school Charles tried wrestling, but met the maximum weight requirement for freshman in his class.
He turned to (American) football in college, and though he succeeded as one of the most sought after players, was forced to stop competing due to debilitating spinal injuries.
For most of his life Charles was told he was too big for several things, but few knew this considerable characteristic carried into heart.
A generous person, who put others above himself, Charles would one day grow up to use his size in honour of his mother Carol, who was battling stage four cancer.
Aiming to beat the record for the world’s Heaviest person to complete a marathon (male) in 2013, Charles would defy doctors, others who doubted him, and everyone who ever saw being “big” as a hindrance to inspire his mother to fight the impossible.
At first, Charles set out to do the record in 2012, as a dare from his friends. He returned to his high school athletic fields, where he had been previously been handed off by a number of coaches who never knew what to do with his frame.
This time, he approached the school’s track on a full stomach and no training, took a glance at the turf that lay ahead of him, and ran.
Internally, Charles recognized that he was naturally strong. Despite weighing 419 pounds, he was a human powerhouse; faster and stronger than most people believed.
It took Charles three hours and thirty minutes to complete the first ten miles that day, but he walked off the track dripping with sweat, confident he could take on the Los Angeles Marathon for the record attempt.
The night before the 2012 marathon Charles received little sleep from overwhelming excitement, unbothered by the fact that he had no training for the race.
Unlike many who work out months in advance for the 26.2 mile endurance challenge, he was convinced his job as a bodyguard was preparation enough for what he was about to undergo.
That morning he stretched at the startling line ready, not fazed by the army of fit, muscular athletes around him.
Eight hours and thirty minutes later, Charles did just that, crossing the finish line drenched in sweat, enveloped in pride.
Sadly, because Charles did not have fitness experts to document his weight, and no witnesses during the attempt, Guinness World Records could not recognize the attempt as successful, as all guidelines needed to be adhered to.
But a few months later, Charles would have reason to try again, after hearing the news that his mother was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
“My mother Carol Victoria (Coleman) Bungert was first diagnosed after the doctors found something in her x-rays - a growth in her lungs. She wasn’t diagnosed until after they removed the mass.
"I was the only one there at the hospital that day with her, and she almost died once she was out of surgery. Her lungs had filled with blood and they had to do emergency procedures to bring her back.
This time the LA Marathon held greater motivation and purpose for Charles, who was determined to show his mother that mental and physical strength was all one needed to overcome an obstacle, even one that gave her a maximum of 12 months to live.
He set up a fundraising page for Carol hoping that others would be inspired by his mission and would donate to alleviate some of the costs that came with battling a life-threatening disease.
Months before the upcoming marathon, he sourced two personal trainers, a photographer, and witnesses to ensure he would be able to officially qualify for the title.
Having asthma, and an extra eight pounds to run with than the year before, Charles made sure to have the necessary materials to get him through another arduous 26 miles.
It seemed as though he had all checks in place, until Charles put his back out just two weeks before the race.
Experiencing excruciating pain, he could barely move, much less do day-to-day activities like putting on socks.
He had slipped two discs in his lower back, and even with daily electrotherapy and ice, could barely get bed on race day.
When he contemplated giving up, he remembered his mother, who was fighting an unbearably painful battle of her own.Without further hesitation, he laced up his sneakers and prepared to run for his second attempt.
"I received so many pats on the back while being passed by. Lots of crowd members and on lookers were amazed that a guy my size was as far in the race as I was when they'd see me. At different points, you want to give up plenty of times, or just sit down. You can't stop though."
During the latter half of the 2013 LA Marathon, Charles was pushing himself harder than last year.
His mother was waiting in a wheelchair at the finish line, and he didn’t want to make her wait long in rainy conditions after undergoing chemotherapy.
So he quickened his pace, even with the fear that his back might cripple him from the added pressure. Nevertheless, he persevered, catching a glimpse of Carol as he trotted towards the finish line.
With perseverance, Charles had obtained the record title, weighing in at 427 lbs, and beating his previous time by seven minutes.
Two months after Charles’ victory, his mother sadly passed away.
He was grateful that during her last moments, she was able to witness him overcome a hurdle he has experienced his entire life, and see what true courage and grit can do for someone faced with adversity.