What I’ve Learned From Running 127 Marathons
By Ben Navarrete
Every year on Global Running Day, the first Wednesday in June, millions of people from around the world pledge to run, and for many it’s the first step on their way to a new and healthy lifestyle.
My advice for new runners would be to make it a habit. You have to make the time to run, but trust me it’s worth it. It took me 52 years to discover the gift of running, but through sticking with my routine and setting realistic goals, this 68-year-old can still post times faster than people who are 20 years younger than me.
Running is the ultimate equalizer in the world of sports. Breaking a personal record or reaching a goal is dependent on the amount of time, effort, grit and determination that you’re willing to put in to your training.
It wasn’t until 2001, at the age of 52, that running grabbed my attention. Like most adults new to running, my first goal was to run and finish a 5K. Between the fulfilment I felt from training and witnessing the 2001 New York City Marathon, which begins in my home borough of Staten Island, I caught the running bug and there was no looking back.
November 2, 2003, is a day I will always remember, the day I ran my first New York City Marathon.
I made my way to Fort Wadsworth, lined up in my corral with the thousands of other runners, waited my turn to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn, and set off on my 26.2-mile journey through my city.
Since that early, brisk fall morning toeing the line on the bridge, I have run 13 New York City Marathons — including the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon — and 127 marathons total. I’m often asked why I keep going, and to me, there are many reasons to keep moving. I run for the time it gives me to myself. I run for a sense of accomplishment. I run for the health benefits.
The most valuable lesson running has taught me is that you will have good runs and you will have bad runs, but like in life, the good always seems to outweigh the bad.
The more I progress as a runner and as an individual, the more important this lesson seems to become. This is why I dedicate so much time to sharing running, and the lesson its taught me, with others. Through my work with New York Road Runners, the folks responsible for the TCS New York City Marathon, as an NYRR Striders coach I am able to motivate seniors to keep moving, and as a senior myself I choose to lead by example.
NYRR Striders is a free, coach-led walking program designed to make walking and running more accessible to older adults, and is available to over 40 senior centers, community facilities and neighborhood parks across New York City. It’s very gratifying for me to be able to positively influence older adults and to expose them to all the benefits, both physical and emotional, that being active can provide.
This year for Global Running Day I plan to add “World Record Holder” to my running resume, as a member of NYRR’s world-record attempt for most people on a treadmill relay.
Of course, a relay is a team effort. One of the greatest things about running, which many don’t realize is the sense of community that comes along with the sport. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a ‘lone-wolf’ activity, not if you don’t want it to be.
Running has brought me across the world, and I have met some of my best friends through racing, and the travel that comes along with it. I have run marathons in China, Germany, Mexico and countless other places I probably never would have been to if not for a race.
Some of my favorite marathons to date are the Fort Collins, Disney World, Chicago and Boston marathons, but the one I keep coming back for is New York. I keep repeating the New York City Marathon because every year NYRR finds a way to make the world’s greatest marathon greater. After 13 years, I know the next year’s race will have something newer and better then the last. I already have my sights set on the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon this fall and am excited to see what my 14th run through New York City’s five boroughs has in store for me.
For those of you out there who are still with me, and have read my two cents on the sport I love, I have one key takeaway for you: just get out, run and never look back.