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Running out of marathon goals!

Running out of marathon goals!

Story by: John M Wallace

On August 30, 1998 I will cross the finish line at the Noosa Marathon (Australia) to complete my 130th marathon. This marathon will represent the completion of a major goal for me - the completion of a marathon on all seven continents!

But this accomplishment also presents a major dilemma since I am running out of marathon goals. Why is that a dilemma? Because like most runners and especially marathoners, I need a goal to motivate me. Without a goal it is difficult to maintain 50+ miles per week, to run hill repeats and intervals, to force myself out the door in bad weather or to rise at 4am in a strange city to get a run in before my business meeting.

OK you say. But how can I be running out of marathon goals? To explain I must go back to the beginning - like all marathoners- to my initial goal, my first marathon.

In 1982 I was running about 30 miles per week and had just completed my first 10K. I na´vely figured that I was ready to run a marathon. I increased my mileage to 40 miles per week including a 15 mile long run in preparation for the Silver State Marathon in Reno, NV where I was living. I still vividly remember 'hitting the wall' at 23 miles and as I walked and ran the last 5K I cursed myself with each painful step and promised that if I finished alive "I would never do such a stupid thing again".

However as I crossed the finish line in 3:28:24 the exhuberation of completing my goal quickly eased the pain. Even I was surprised when a week later I found myself thinking that I could probably do better if only I trained harder and smarter. My next marathon goal had been set! One year later I took 14 minutes off my time at the same Silver State Marathon.

In the spring of 84 ,I moved to Dallas, TX and soon found my way to White Rock Lake where most of the running community do their long runs on the weekends. Somehow I ended up running with a group of hard-core fanatics (er, runners) who ran 13 to 15 mile training runs at a sub 7 minute pace. They introduced me to new terms and training practices such as hill repeats, intervals, fartleks and racing 10Ks every week. My marathon life has never been the same!


My new goal became a sub 3-hour marathon! However a new job and house in Dallas took their toll on my training time and it was not until the White Rock Marathon in December 86 that I was able to achieve that goal with a 2:59:35. I realized that 3 hours represented an ultimate marathon performance for me and although that became my target goal for all future marathons I was only able to achieve that goal five more times in my career.

Since I needed a new marathon goal I settled on running all the major or best marathons - there are many so-called lists in many of the running magazines. As I was running Boston, LA, Chicago, NY, etc, I decided to see how many marathons I could race in one year. In 1988 I completed 21 marathons with an average time of 3:05 with four sub 3-hour races including my PR of 2:58 at Twin Cities. I realized that I had pushed the physical limits of my body with that goal so backed off and continued with my 'lists' goal. But I soon completed the 'lists' and started looking for marathons in places I had never visited before. This goal took me to some interesting sites such as Salmon River, ID and the Chickamauga Battlefield in GA before I decided to expand the geography to include international locations such as Rio de Janeiro, London and Athens.

Not surprisingly something had to go wrong or break under this grueling pace and it happened to be the plantar fascia on my left foot during the last 10K of The Original Marathon in Athens, Greece in October 1990. Since I had tore the tendon off my foot I was unable to run or train for 11 months. Now the goal became to get healthy again and keep my streak of consecutive years of marathoning alive. So in September 91, I began a 90 day miracle training program to complete the White Rock Marathon in Dec 91 in 3:24:10. I was back!

But I was also older and wiser so I only completed five marathons in 1992 as I nursed my injury. Then in the spring of 93 I faced my first marathon goal dilemma! I had run my best times. I had completed all the 'lists' marathons. What was I to do? How could I stay motivated? Luckily I read an article in Runners World about an informal club called the 50+DC whose members had or were attempting to run a marathon in all 50 states + DC. A quick review of my running log showed that I had already run 20 states + DC. I was saved - a new goal was established! Unfortunately like most marathoners I am compulsive. So I focused on running the remaining 30 states over the next 30 months to finish my 50th state at the Hoosier Marathon on June 11, 1995 in Ft Wayne, IN. Completing this goal was fun and interesting. I visited many states and parts of the country that I had never been to and probably would not have gone to but for the goal. I met a lot of very interesting people, both runners and spectators who broadened my knowledge and horizons. I do not regret one minute or one run of that goal!

While I was working on the Canada goal I established one of my most memorable goals - to run my 100th marathon at the 100th anniversary of Boston! I actually had to slow down my marathon pace to achieve that goal but it was worth it for the wonderful experience and memories I received at Boston.


As I was nearing completion of the 50+DC goal, I realized that I would need a new goal and the 50 +DC club rescued me again. Many members were working on a goal to complete all 12 provinces and territories of Canada. That became my new goal! Logistically this goal was even more difficult than the 50+DC goal because of the long distances to travel and most provinces only have one marathon per year. So if you miss one or there is a schedule conflict you have to wait a whole year. And remember I am still compulsive! Again this was a very enjoyable experience as I definitely saw parts of the world, such as Nanasivik, NWT (450 miles above the Arctic Circle) that I would never have visited otherwise. I completed this goal in St John's, Nfld on Sept 21, 97 to become only the 15th person in the world to complete both the US and Canada.

While I was nearing completion of the Canada goal the 50+DC club also provided my next goal - to complete all seven continents. When the 2nd Antarctica Marathon was held in Feb 97, I was there since I was afraid that I may not get another chance. When I crossed the finish line to complete the toughest marathon I have ever run, I only had three continents left. South Africa and Asia (Hong Kong) I managed to complete in one interesting and enjoyable trip in Feb 98. And as I stated earlier I will complete Australia in Aug 98 to become only the 5th and youngest person in the world to complete the US, Canada and the Continents.

But unlike the completion of all my previous goals, I have no new marathon goal beyond this one. The only interesting goal I can think of is to complete as many counties as possible. But the expense of such a goal would be prohibitive without a corporate sponsor. Therefore I am in a quandary. Will I stop running marathons? No! But it will just not be the same without a big goal to motivate me.

However I still have one continual marathon goal remaining. I want to extend my streak of consecutive years of marathoning to at least 40 years, which means I will be running marathons into my late 70s. Hope to see you on the roads!


Cool Running Australia 13.06.98. John can be contacted at

This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010

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