Two men who donít know each other share a journey symbolized by one big bridge.

For some, running or walking the 6.2-mile Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk is as unfathomable as climbing Mount Everest.

It used to be for Bryan Ganey of Moncks Corner and Clinton Terrell of Ridgeville. Both men suffered from obesity so severe that it was crippling. Both men seized control of it, forgoing bariatric surgery, and transformed their lives through healthy eating and exercise. And both view the walk, scheduled for March 31, as a gateway to their new lives.

What a difference a year makes.

One year ago, Clinton Terrell weighed just shy of 500 pounds and never would have fathomed walking the Bridge Run.

As of March 8, the 5-foot 9-inch Ridgeville man weighed 238 pounds and will walk the bridge with a friend and co-workers from the Goose Creek office of South Carolina Federal Credit Union.

"I'm more happy than I ever have been. I'm 30 but I feel like I'm 20. I have a lust for life that I never had and in the process of doing things I would have never done," says Terrell.

His moment of truth came after a short walk from the credit union building to his car. He was out of breath.

"At that moment, I knew I had to make a change or life really had nothing for me," recalls Terrell.

He went to the Medical University of South Carolina Weight Management Center.

On the first consultation, he was asked about bariatric surgery, and Terrell shot it down, calling it a "Band-Aid."

"I wanted it the hard way," says Terrell. "I wanted to know that when I faced hard choices down the road that I'd be strong enough to make the right decision."

But he did adhere to the center's program of diet, exercise, nutrition training, group meetings and medical assessments. He exercises for one hour, six days a week, doing cardio on the elliptical machine and lifting weights

"One of the first things they did was to weigh me. I had been terrified of scales for years, knowing my weight was out of control. But I was committed to doing this -- determined to make a change and have a better, healthier life -- so I got on the scales," he says.

He ultimately hopes to weigh in the 200-210 range and eventually plans to have corrective surgery to remove excess skin and tighten it. But he already revels in otherwise fairly normal routines, such as being able to buy clothes in regular stores and not going to "big and tall" stores or special-ordering clothes.

"I've never flown in an airplane because I was too big to fit in a seat, so I'm going to fly somewhere to go on vacation," he says.

Bryan Ganey's journey started in June 2010, when he was hospitalized at Trident Medical Center with a near fatal pulmonary embolism. At the time, his 5-foot-8-inch frame carried 577 pounds.

While in the hospital, he resolved to change and made a bucket list of things he wanted to do, including the Bridge Run.

He knew that bariatric surgery was an option but chose not to have it.

"I know myself and my compulsive overeating. It (surgery) seemed like the easy way out, and I knew that if I didn't put in the work, nothing would change. I was only interested in a long-term, sustainable solution," says the 39-year-old Moncks Corner man.

So Ganey started walking and eating a "common sense diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains and a lot of water" -- about 2,500 calories per day.

The weight starting dropping, and at 400 pounds last spring, he walked the Bridge Run. It took him about three hours and put so much stress on his knees that he had to take off work from Verizon Wireless.

The injury didn't deter him.

He has continued moving and eating healthy, losing an average of about five pounds every two weeks. To celebrate getting under 300 pounds in mid-February, Ganey got a new driver's license. At the time of this interview (March 7), he weighed 287 pounds.

Besides feeling more energetic and happy, the payoff also comes in dropping his medications from 10 to two, saving about $1,000 in out-of-pocket expenses each year.

Ultimately, Ganey wants to get to just under 200 pounds. But before then, he's looking forward to a faster, less painful walk.