Ah, August! For many of us, fall is marathon season. Our August weekends are filled with 20 mile long runs and then about that many pancakes. For GGRC member Steve Fullerton, fall is marathon season. And so is winter, and spring, and summer. This man has run 25 marathons — yes, you read that right! — and he’s not stopping anytime soon. If anything, he’s getting faster. Read ahead to learn about how he does it.
When did you decide to run your first marathon? Why?
I started running in October 2010 and ran my first marathon in February 2012. I heard an interview with Donna Deegan, a local newscaster and 3-time breast cancer survivor. She founded a marathon with all proceeds donated to the Mayo Clinic for breast cancer research, and to help cancer patients with financial needs. I figured if a 3-time breast cancer survivor can run a marathon, then so can I.
What was your first marathon like? (I know it was an adventure!)
I coerced my wife, son, and daughter into joining me so we would complete our first marathon together. Our family adventure had a very inauspicious start—I tripped on a curb at the shuttle stop to the runner’s village. I was out cold and broke my wrist. An ambulance was dispatched and I received treatment. I refused transport; I wasn’t going to miss my first marathon. My son stayed by my side and we finished in 4:39.
How many marathons have you done?
I have run 25 marathons. This year I ran Houston, Boston, and San Francisco.
What was your most memorable marathon experience?
My fondest memory is the first time I achieved a BQ, the 2016 San Francisco marathon. I ran a 3:38, more than an hour faster than my first marathon. I negative split the 2nd half by more than 3 minutes and miles 20-26 were my fastest.
You ran the formidable 2018 Boston Marathon. What was that like?
The rain and wind were awful, but I love racing when it is cold. I tried to draft as much as possible and welcomed the hills as a respite from the wind. My hands were useless, so I had to stop whenever I needed fluids or a gel. I badly missed the tangents and ran my longest marathon: 26.8 miles. The heat this year was much tougher for me. I finished more than 6 minutes slower than last year and picked up 5 new black toenails.
You recently ran the San Francisco Marathon. What was the highlight and lowlight of that race?
The highlights were: finishing a training cycle without injury or illness, my parents seeing me race for the first time, my family at the finish line, hosting a friend from Florida, and the GGRC aid station. The lowlight was the early starting time for the 2nd half marathon. This put walkers in front of marathon runners. I had to run in the grass several times in Golden Gate Park to get around large groups. There were even places on the road that were almost completely blocked.
Why do you keep running marathons?
I plan to run fewer, probably Houston and an occasional destination race. Early on I set a goal to run Boston, which seemed unattainable since I needed to break 3:40, an hour faster than my first marathon. I decided to set incremental goals: first break 4:30, then try to improve by 10-minute increments. I ran 3-4 marathons per year, not always trying for a PR, but experimenting with nutrition and hydration. I ran several just to practice miles 20-26. Breaking 4 hours was a milestone that gave me confidence that I could get a BQ. I achieved this goal at the 2016 San Francisco marathon, but I missed the cutoff. I aged up for 2018 but set a goal to qualify at the faster time, which I did in Eugene with a 3:30:44.
What’s your favorite tip for training for a marathon?
There are too many to pick a favorite. Here are some for consideration:
· Training works: speed, tempo, recovery, long runs, and mileage. Find a reliable coach to oversee your training, as there will need to be adjustments along the way.
· For long runs, make sure you stay aerobic otherwise you aren’t building endurance. Use a HR monitor and know your zones.
· Practice nutrition and hydration to figure out what works for you. This took 10+ marathons for me.
· Include cross training and strength training to help prevent injuries.
· Have a Plan B for race day, conditions may not be conducive for a PR. There are so many things that can happen in a long race; something usually does.
What’s your next race? Why?
I’m running Houston in January. It is an annual tradition with two of my college roommates. I’m looking for a 50k trail race for my next adventure.
Want to be like Steve? Join us at one of our regular runs!