By James Staten
Coach, Team In Training (TNT)
I’m just a few days away from taking on the biggest running challenge of my career – to run the Grand Canyon, rim to rim and back again.
It’s a race of extremes, over 42-plus miles of rocky terrain, fully exposed to the elements, a race during which temperatures will go from near freezing at the start and at the top of the North rim, to the mid-nineties as we cross the Colorado River. The whole ordeal will take me and my fellow Silicon Valley/Monterey Bay Area Team In Training coaches over 12 hours to complete.
And we can’t wait.
The Hard Way–On My Own
It’s hard to believe that, just nine short years ago, I could barely complete a half marathon. It was the Fall of 2002 when a friend from work, whom I had run with a few times, challenged me to get serious about my running and try a half marathon. I took her up on this challenge thinking, “How hard could it be? I run six or so miles each weekend, I feel I’m in pretty good shape. How hard could a little over twice that distance be?”
Hard. Very hard. I was hating life by mile ten that day.
As I was heading back down Ocean Boulevard in San Francisco towards the finish line, other runners were struggling, too, but many of them were whizzing by me with these incredible positive attitudes, partly because they were being cheered on by what seemed like hundreds of friends dressed in purple and calling out words of encouragement. As I was climbing the final hill to the finish I said, “I’ll never, ever, do this again – unless I can get proper coaching, and have those purple people cheering for me!”
The Better Way: With Coaching
So in the spring of 2003 I went to a Team In Training information meeting, learned what it would take and signed up.
I ended up doing a full marathon instead of a half that season, crossing the line in 80-degree heat at the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.
That season I learned that proper coaching and support make a world of difference — and I haven’t looked back since.
Every year since that race I’ve completed at least two marathons, and rose through the ranks of TNT as a mentor, captain, and now coach. I’ve been a part of TNT’s triathlon and hiking teams, as well but have always come back to my first love — the run team.
And last year, with the support of TNT, I took on the biggest challenge of my life, a year-long campaign to be the first person to complete the entire Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series and raise over $10,000 for leukemia research.
The Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series: Could I Do It?
The Rock’n’Roll Marathon Series, put on by Competitor Group out of San Diego, is a collection of marathons and half marathons spanning the United States. These events are a running party, as there are bands playing all along the course and there is a headliner concert at each finish line. And we aren’t talking party bands here but major acts including Sister Hazel, Neon Trees and Bret Michaels.
In 2010, the series had expanded to 14 events, eight of which were full marathons; if successful, I would be the first person to run every mile of every race in the series.
There were events nearly every month, with a stretch in the fall where I had an event every weekend for five weeks straight! Marathons were about every three to five weeks throughout the year. Eight marathons was two more in a single year than the total marathons I had ever attempted.
The year started strong with PF Chang’s Rock’n’Roll Arizona Marathon, a race benefitting The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), where I set a new marathon PR (personal record). Then it was off to races in New Orleans and Dallas, followed by the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, where we were nearly swept off the course by a tornado!
Next up was the inaugural Rock’n’Roll event, the San Diego Rock’n’Roll Marathon (a TNT spring season regular), then Seattle, Chicago, Virginia Beach, and Philadelphia.
The next race was the only one I had completed before, the San Jose Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon, which is a TNT summer team event again this year. This is a surprisingly beautiful event that takes you on a highlight tour of Silicon Valley’s capital via a fast, flat course – perfect for a new marathoner or someone seeking a PR. It’s always a thrill to run among and in front of your friends and family. And as a TNT coach, I finished my race, changed shirts and bibs and ran back out onto the course to help all our participants finish strong.
San Jose was also the start of a grueling stretch of back-to-back events with barely a free weekend in between. Right after San Jose was Denver, Los Angeles, and San Antonio – marathon, half, marathon. At the completion of the last Texas run I was nearing the finish of my year-long challenge and crossed over my fundraising goal. One challenge left.
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The Rock’n’Roll Las Vegas Marathon takes place in mid-December and is one of only three events that closes down the famous strip. Over 20,000 runners take over the street, running between the casinos, down to old downtown and back again. Along the way are the running Elvises, a run-through wedding chapel at the Venetian Hotel, and costumes galore. (In 2011, the race will switch to nighttime! It should be even more special with the neon lights.)
Victory! And Now It’s Your Turn!
With my R'n'R Series medals!
At the conclusion of Las Vegas, I had done it! Over $11,000 raised to help fight blood cancers, over 262 miles completed — and over 25,000 frequent flier miles collected. But the memories were the best part.
What does it take to run eight marathons and six halfs in a single year? The training, determination, and support of Team In Training.
Our experienced coaching staff follows a proven training plan that can get you off the couch and into a lifetime running habit. And I’m living proof.
I’ve now completed 29 marathons in my eight years with TNT, and hope I will still be running well into my 70s. I’m on a quest to complete 50 marathons by my 50th birthday, and this year I am taking on the Grand Canyon and Pike’s Peak Marathon as well as the Tahoe Triple.
But I don’t just do this for myself. What’s a bigger thrill to me is seeing someone like you — who isn’t sure at the start of a season if you can complete a marathon or a half — cross that finish line. We help hundreds of people like you to reach that goal and nearly everyone does.
Teams are forming all across the U.S. Go to http://www.teamintraining.org/ to see if there’s a Team In Training team near you.
Come join us for an information meeting this spring and then sign up for our summer season. We will train you for some of the most incredible events in the world, including San Jose Rock’n’Roll, the Nike Women’s Marathon, and incredible events in Chicago, Portland, and Dublin, Ireland.
I hope you will join me.
Zenergo — The Site for Runners!
When you’re not training for your next marathon, you still want to keep in good running shape — and Zenergo can help!
When you join Zenergo (it’s free, and fast) and sign up for the Running activity, you can make this your central location for scheduling, tracking, and maintaining all your running events, plans, regular schedule — and if you run with friends (always more fun that way!), you can create your own (informal) running group, and maintain a running-group calendar. You can also post pictures, and documents, and message among yourselves. And you can keep the whole thing as public or as private as you like. (You might find a few people in your neighborhood who are looking for running companions!)
Here’s an example of the Running activity profile. Here you can specify exactly what your running interests are. It makes it easy for others looking for running partners to match up more precisely (better than just “runner, looking for people to run with” ad in the paper!).
What the Running Activity looks like on your Running page
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