On Sunday, October 3rd, Dave Johnson ran his fifth marathon, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon
Dave’s first marathon was the original marathon course in Greece. He had only run 10 miles at a time in is training for the 26.2-mile race.
Since his first marathon, Dave has run one and set a new PR every year.
Marathon Dave Story and photos by Jeff McAvoy
Dave Johnson is a marathon runner. Recently he completed his fifth 26.2-mile race, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. On the way from Milwaukee to the starting line in Grafton, WI, Dave told me some of his marathon running stories.
Back in 2007, in the midst of his two-year Peace Corps service in Armenia, Dave and several friends talked about running the original marathon course, from Marathon, Greece to Athens. “The Peace Corps volunteers the year before us had done it, so we wanted it to become a kind of tradition,” Dave said. But, worried that he couldn’t afford the trip, Dave decided not to go. Three weeks before the marathon, however, he realized that he would have been missing out on the chance of a lifetime. “When I told my friends that I had registered for the race, they just rolled their eyes at me. I started running like crazy, but the longest distance I got up to in training was 10 miles. It wasn’t even half of the distance I would be running”
On our way to the Lakefront Marathon I remarked about how far away we were driving. “That’s how I felt when I ran that first marathon in Greece,” Dave told me. “ All of the runners get onto a bus and they drive you out to the starting line. They just kept going and going. I thought, ‘why haven’t we stopped yet? I have to run this far?!’” But he made it, completing the marathon in 3 hours, 54 minutes and 10 seconds.
After that, Dave was hooked and has run a marathon every year since. His second marathon was in 2008 in Detroit, his third in 2009 in Minneapolis, and his fourth in Cincinnati this May. With each marathon he improved his time and set a new personal record for himself. For the running of his fifth marathon he had the same goal, to be faster than he was before.
At the site of the starting line in Grafton, Dave prepared for the 26.2-mile run ahead of him. As he stretched and warmed up, he seemed excited and nervous. “I didn’t get to do as much training this summer as I would have liked,” he said. “I really want to beat my previous time, or it will feel like all of this training had been for nothing.” When the time came, he joined the other runners at the starting line.
I briefly saw Dave at four points along the marathon course. At the 5-, 9-, and 17-mile marks he appeared to be in great shape; keeping up with his pace group and having a good time. Around mile 25, things got tougher. “I actually stopped and walked for about 10 or 15 seconds,” Dave recalled. “Then I heard the 3:30 pace group coming up behind me and I realized that I was very close to setting a new PR.” With that realization, he started running again and beat his previous time by three seconds, finishing the race in 3 hours, 29 minutes and 3 seconds. “If it hadn’t been for that pacing group and my friends cheering me on at the finish line, I wouldn’t have beaten my previous time and it would have been a terrible day,” Dave said. “But, I made it, and I am really happy with my time!”
Exhausted from running and with a medal around his neck, friends surrounding him and a reason to celebrate, Dave said, “I have been in motion for the last 3 and a half hours, let’s go get some food and beer!”