Running two, maybe three, marathons a year is enough for most people. But if you have the ambitious goal of running at least one marathon in all 50 states like James Brown, you’ll have to do a lot more than that – somewhere in the ballpark of six to eight marathons per year.
Below, he shares with us how he trains for back-to-back marathons, his pre- and post-race rituals and his most memorable races to date.
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Years running? About 10 total, 6 years competitively
Favorite workout? I am glutton for punishment; therefore I really like hill training. There have been several races in which I’ve participated and they’ve had unexpected hills at the times that are most challenging: toward the end or within the last third of the distance. I’ve found that if I train for hills, I can usually push through these tough moments and jam the downhill.
Favorite distance to race? This is a difficult question. It all depends on how I am feeling. Sometimes, I like the marathon distance because it gives me time to think and I can set a target pace and just stay there. Then there are shorter distances I like to run because I get the urge to really race and push for faster completion time. It’s a mood thing I suppose.
Favorite song to get pumped up pre-race? Easy – “Me & You” by Nero. Especially the chorus: “Are you ready?/Do you know?/I feel it too.” At race time, you have to be ready as you are at the point of no return. It’s a nice mix of techno rhythms and dirty rock electric guitar. Before that, I really liked the redone “Confusion” by New Order from the movie “Blade.” That one can still get me pretty amped.
Favorite post-race treat? Post-race treat has to be chocolate milk. Helps with recovery, but I like it because it’s sweet. Then after that, I usually want a big, juicy cheeseburger and fries as a part-two reward.
How did you get started with running?
I initially started in undergrad in San Diego. It was a way to relieve stress from working as a teller in a bank and studying so many hours. Then I figured I’d set a marathon goal and train for my first marathon. During training, I injured myself (too many miles, too fast) and picked up cycling for about four months. One day, I was about to take my bike out of my car and the tires were flat so I laced up my trainers and the rest is history.
What’s kept me going all these years is that each event has a different outcome. I can do the same race year after year and finish faster or slower, have to nurse through cramping legs or side stitches, or get passed by someone I beat the year before. I like that anything can happen in the field. The unknown keeps it interesting.
You are a marathon maniac – how many marathons are you running this year and what motivated you to race 26.2 so many times in 2013?
I am slated for a total of six to eight marathons this year. A goal I have is to run a race in every state, and the Rock and Roll Marathon Series has a season pass that gives access to run any event for the year. I suppose they didn’t really count on someone like me to sign up to run so many. Also, my goal is to try not to repeat marathons so I can get to my 50 states. I don’t know the full count to-date, but I know I still have around 40 marathons to run!
What are your tips for training for back-to-back marathons?
It’s actually pretty hard to train back-to-backs. Depending on their frequency, there may be about one month between. I’ve just treated each marathon as a long run with a medal instead of an actual race. I’ve thrown out all thoughts of the marathon as a race this year. And that has really helped me. I have also had to learn to really listen to my body and pull back when necessary. I feel the biggest lesson was to cross-train, cross-train, cross-train. I invested in a better bike and updated my swimming equipment so I can cross-train more. It’s really helped with injury prevention. That and I’ve been getting massages nearly every three weeks!
Do you have any pre- and/or post-race rituals?
This is a good question. I actually have a pre-race ritual where just before the start, I’m standing and I stretch down toward the ground. I give the roadway a quick pat or two to thank it for the opportunity to punish it and beg it not to punish me back with an injury and for it to keep an eye on the other runners. Bizarre.
After races, however, I need my quiet time, so I generally don’t speak to anyone after a longer distance so I can reflect on any learning opportunities. Plus, I feel utterly disgusting and covered in salt and want to dunk my salty body under water to freshen a bit. Now, I bring a wet towel in a zipper plastic bag with me to races so I can freshen up sooner than later. It’s helped my after-race mental recovery.
What’s been your most memorable race to date and what makes it stand out?
Top of the list is the 2013 San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon. That was the first race my family was able to attend. It was great seeing them at mile 11 cheering me on and then again at mile 17 when I really needed to hear them to keep me going to the finish. Second is the Honolulu Marathon. It was a nice run that starts at 5am, but as the finish is on the ocean, just after crossing, I headed directly to the ocean and dunked myself in the water. Hawaiians believe the ocean waters around the island have healing properties. I concur.
Where are your favorite places to run in Milwaukee?
For shorter distances, I like to run along the lakefront and Art Museum area and maybe get a quick hill in at Lake Drive or the Water Tower hill area. I also like running north to Fox Point. The houses are incredible and there’s not a lot of traffic.
What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
I like the South Shore Half Marathon. It’s very well organized and the participants are great. It’s also a pretty challenging course with the few hills and winding roads. I am not a fan of the hairpin turnarounds and that race challenges me with the turnaround. The beer is usually really good, too.
The shorter distances are fun runs as well because the young runners are surprised I keep up with them throughout the race. And then there’s the Race for the Bacon . . . who doesn’t like bacon?
What are your running goals for the upcoming year?
Next year, I’d like to shoot for two to three half-Ironman distances races and cut back to a maximum of four marathons. So I will be incorporating a lot of cross-training in my workouts. Next year will be a test of cross-training and its benefits. Another goal will be to teach myself to run smarter.
Thanks for chatting with us, James! If you’d like to learn more about James, check out his blog, Eating on the Run, for running tips, recipes and more!
If you’re a runner in MKE, we’d love to chat with you. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to be featured or know someone who should be featured in an upcoming Let’s Get to Know . . . post.
Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!