Looking for a new personal challenge after dropping a whopping 220 pounds, Arizona’s “The Biggest Loser” champion, John Rhode, has agreed to run in the March 3, 2012 inaugural PHOENIX MARATHON and act as celebrity host for the race.

The 41-year-old special education teacher and coach from Mesa, Rhode lost over 49% of his starting weight during the six-month competition and says he wants to focus his attention now on motivating others to achieve their life’s goals.

 “The PHOENIX MARATHON is the perfect event for me to support for two reasons,” Rhode said. “It gives me an opportunity to promote physical fitness and healthy living in my hometown community and, equally important to me as a teacher, the PHOENIX MARATHON will raise funds to benefit AzBrainfood, which is a wonderful charity providing nutritional weekend meals for Arizona students who come from homes where food is scarce.”

AzBrainfood (www.azbrainfood.org) discretely provides backpacks filled with food to hungry children each weekend as they leave school on Friday afternoons.

The PHOENIX MARATHON will begin in the foothills above the Valley of the Sun under the iconic, white PHOENIX sign located in northeast Mesa and will descend to a course set along the banks of the Salt River. The 2012 first-year event will feature a half-marathon, 10k and Kids 1K with a full marathon race set for March 2013.

Rhode says he looks forward to joining with other Arizonans and runners from around the country in the PHOENIX MARATHON and sees the race as an opportunity to prepare for and train for the LA Marathon later in March, which he announced as his next goal following his victory as the bigger loser.

“But my strongest reason for helping get this new, exciting marathon launched is to help the hundred of elementary school children in our community who, without the help of AzBrainfood, would come to school on Monday mornings without having received the proper nutrition necessary to focus on their school work and be prepared to learn their lessons,” Rhode stated. “This is literally an opportunity to ‘run for food’ and benefit our community.”

Individuals interested in joining Rhode in the PHOENIX MARATHON can visit www.PHXmarathon.com to register for any of the three events.

“I hope we’ll have a huge turnout to this inaugural event,” Rhode concluded. “I’ll be there and I look forward to running this great course with fellow health and exercise enthusiasts.”