Brian’s Blog

Diaries of a Marathon Junkie

My name is Brian, and I am addicted to marathons. 

This will probably seem crazy to most people, but the 26.2 mile tradition has taken over my life.  Like most addictions, it is difficult to understand how I went from a largely inactive lifestyle to not being able to go a full day without training or planning for my next race.    

I started running in 2004 as a way to keep fit and meet some new people after I got a full time job.  It was a small 10km Learn to Run group that I joined to keep me motivated and focused.  Over several weeks, we supported each other as we struggled to build up to our first 10km races.  It was really hard work and I couldn’t even imagine attempting twice that distance, let alone a marathon, but the sense of accomplishment upon crossing the finish line was infectious. 

As many times as I wanted to give up during the training, I had my group to help me along and stay optimistic.  We continued running together after our springtime 10km and a few of us went on to complete our first Half-Marathons in the fall on my 19th birthday.  As painful as that first 21.1km was, it was the best birthday present I could ever have given myself. 

After some time off, I was asked to join a small group of older guys on their Sunday morning long runs.  I ran with John, Ron and a couple others each week that winter, struggling to keep up with them while listening to their inspiring stories.  Their inspiration gave me enough courage to toe the line at the annual Around the Bay 30k Road Race in Hamilton.  Somehow, a couple great race representatives convinced me to register for a Spring marathon at the expo.  That meant 6 more weeks of training and I would attempt the great distance of 26.2 miles.  I was scared. 

On race day, I had one goal: to finish.  I figured that would be my marathon and then that would be it.  Well, thanks to some smart training, I did finish and felt relatively good. 

*In distance running, things start to be described more in relative terms, once you discover that it could always be worse. * 

I think that is the point where I actually started to enjoy running just for the sake of running.  It would be a full year before I would come back to the marathon and try for a new personal best (PB).   

I found yoga and it brought my running up to a much higher level.  This is where my addiction began to take shape.  First it was a couple races each year, then it was 4, and finally, in 2008 I completed 8 marathons.  In the fall, I set the challenge for myself to run 5 marathons within 36 days while raising money for Team Diabetes.  Surprising even myself, I was able to do it, not to mention running a new PB on the 3rd one. 

So what could I do next???  It seemed like a great idea to quit my job and spend a month in India to become a yoga teacher.  I’d follow that up with my first attempt at 50k in Australia and kick it off with running the Great Wall Marathon in China before returning home.  Both were very humbling experiences but I was fortunately to have meet many incredible and inspiring people from all over the world.  Only 8 days after the Great Wall, I offered to pace my old running pal, John, in the Ottawa marathon where he would set a new PB by over 6 minutes.  It made me so happy to be able to help John after all of his help early on with my running. 

After now completing 24 marathons and three 50k’s, I have come to realize that for me, it’s a lot more than just running, it’s about the people you meet and the relationships you create.  I feel so fortunate to know so many of these inspiring people. 

Being a part of the lululemon family now has pushed me even further to set some really daring BHAGs such as running a marathon barefoot, or completing a 100 mile race in less than 24 hours.  It has also given me the opportunity to guide beginner runners through those tough times leading up to their first races. 

I no longer sign up for a race to run a fast time, but I do it to meet incredible people and spend some quality time with those I have bonded with during countless hours of training.   I hope to see the whole world by running.   It blows me away to see where running has brought me in only 6 short years.  What makes me nervous is to wonder where it will take me in the future if I keep on doing more and setting the bar even higher.   

© Brian Groot 2020