When one of my childhood friends, Derek Zardus, changed his LinkedIn profile to "Chief Running Officer" of GloboRun last year, my curiosity piqued. A job focused on running - how cool is that? Then, several months later, Derek announced his plan to run 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 weeks - amazing! As I followed his 50-50-50 schedule and stories, I was hooked on the incredible marathon scenery that he was posting; the great people that he was meeting; and the Forrest-Gump-esque adventure of a lifetime that he was having.
Last week, I had a chance to interview Derek on his quest to run 50 marathons. Need some inspiration? Read below!:
1. When did you
come up with your plan to run a marathon in every state in just 1 year's time?
Derek: About a year before I started my trip, I was feeling lost and unfocused. I decided to do an old fashioned dream board. It's where you take a poster board and fill it with images from magazines or photos about the things that you want in your life. Just because you made put a photo of a yellow Lamborghini doesn't mean you necessarily want to own a Lamborghini. When I look at the overall picture, the overwhelming majority of images had to deal with travel and running. At the time as I was starting to plan this (January 2015), James Lawrence, The Iron Cowboy , was planning to do 50 Ironmans in 50 states in 50 days. I really liked the sound of 50-50-50. I knew that I couldn't physically do what he was doing, but I looked for some way that I could do something similar and challenging. I had done road trips around the U.S. before and 50 states in 50 weeks seemed realistic on a logistic level. Then it just became a matter of what physical level I would attempt. I knew I could do 50 5ks or 50 10ks easily. So then the question became whether I would do 50 half marathons or 50 marathons. I wanted to challenge myself. I love the long run. I'm fortunate that I'm one of the runners who gets a runner's high. At the end of the day I knew that I could do a half marathon every week but I didn't know if my body could handle a marathon a week. That sealed the deal for me.
2. What has been one of your most memorable experiences on this journey?
Derek: Without a doubt the most memorable moment of my trip was
overcoming anxiety and fear about running the course of California's Big Sur
Marathon unofficially without any support or protection on the road. Big Sur is
breathtakingly beautiful and arguably one of the two most beautiful marathons
in the US. However, it's also an
incredibly tight road with dramatic heart-stopping cliffs to your left and
imposing rocky outcroppings to your right. As I was driving the course the day
before, there was a pile of rocks in the middle of the road from an avalanche
and drivers were all over the road. Running marathon routes without any support
or road closures has its challenges on the most simple of courses. This is a
marathon with many hills, lots of tight curves, and epic views. Add in crazy
drivers showing off for their significant others in their sports cars and it's
like being the frog in a real life "Frogger" video game! Visually and
experientially this was a highlight of the year.
3. Your bio mentions that you suffered a herniated disc and had to have surgery. How did you pull yourself through this and get back to walking & running?
Derek: I already had friends who had much worse injuries return
to running so I knew that it was a matter of doing my exercises and physical
therapy and committing to a recovery training regiment. It was particularly
important that I had a great surgeon who is part of the medical facility that
focuses on athletes. I don't really still think of myself as an athlete in a
competitive sense but it was empowering that these doctors worked with athletes
recovering from much worse injuries and going on to excel in their chosen
sport. My doctor knew I was nervous about surgery and made it clear that I did
not need to have the surgery. When I herniated my disc the effluvia from the
disc basically squirted out on my spinal cord and nerves. This was causing me
both pain and physical discomfort in my hip and leg. The surgeon made it clear
that my body would eventually reabsorb the goo, but that could have taken
anywhere from 3 months to a year. He set out the risks and made it clear that
this was a very simple surgery that he does on a regular basis and then I could
be running again in 6 weeks. True to his word, I was able to run a mile 6 weeks
after my surgery. Having confidence in your medical team is definitely an
important part of the healing process.
4. What advice do you have for someone that is trying to motivate themselves to start running and work up to a marathon?
Derek: You'd be amazed how many people that I talk to about what I'm doing immediately assume that I want everybody to be a runner. I'm a big believer in doing what you enjoy. There are a lot of sports out there. If you don't like running, start skiing, if you don't like skiing, try biking. I do believe that everybody should be active in some way. If somebody says to me that they want to run but they hate running I ask them if they've ever run distance longer than a 5K. I hate running single miles and I dislike running 5Ks. I usually find my stride after four to five miles. I really love running 15 to 16 miles. If somebody needs motivation I tell them I have three motivators: People, Places, and Music. If you're having a hard time motivating yourself to run, find somebody to run with. If you're not social and that's not going to motivate you, find a beautiful place to run. And if both of those fail, find your personal theme song and run to songs that are similar to that. I can tell you right now that if I can run the miles that I have run this year, then almost anybody can do it. Even after losing 45 to 50 pounds this year, I'm still almost 50 pounds overweight. You just have to decide what it is that you love. I love how I feel when I run and I train in a way so I can do that for a long time.
At the time of this posting, Derek Zardus has eclipsed the 40 marathon point and is heading down the home stretch ("Home stretch" = 9 more marathons = 235.8 miles?!)
How many of us have struggled starting with much smaller
goals than Derek's 50-50-50? Losing a
few pounds?...starting to run?...getting healthier? But if you follow Derek's adventure, you'll
see that he's accomplished it all by taking one step at a time! Way to
go, Derek. You're an absolute
inspiration for getting out there and just doing it!!
Check out GloboRun's website to see more great pictures and stories.