We are incredibly excited to share the journey of one of our RADrabbits, Josh Christensen, as he sets to run an amazing and inspirational 26 26.2 mile runs while he is 26 years old. Read all about it from Josh himself:
It was six months before my twenty-sixth birthday, and I was consumed by coming up with some sort of ridiculous goal for what I had already dubbed my “marathon birthday.” I had previously completed a small handful of ultramarathon races, including a fifty miler the year prior, so I knew that I could complete 26.2. How could I add a little something to the 26.2 to make it more challenging, but still somewhat realistic? I toyed with the idea of training to get my BQ, but I’m not all that interested in doing speed work and having my eyes glued to my watch while running. In addition to this, 3:05 is probably outside the realm of possibility for me at this point in time.
One Sunday morning I was in church with my wife Emily, and the idea of the 26-26-26 came to me. I’m sure what the priest was saying this day was beautiful and life-giving, but I was stuck on my new idea. The idea stemmed from what the Iron Cowboy, James Lawrence, did in 2015. He completed fifty Ironman Triathlons in all fifty states in fifty consecutive days. That dude is nuts, but I was able to tone down what he did and make it my own. My goal is to run 26 26.2 mile runs while I’m 26 years old. I told Emily about it on our way out of mass that morning, and she was a little taken aback. I imagine that she also thought I was dreaming, and that I wouldn't actually follow through. I can’t blame her; I’m a bit of a dreamer, and many of these dreams fade away once I begin to think of the logistics of them.
This goal is scary. I have never attempted a long-term running goal like this. I’d have to average a marathon every other week to complete it. Typically, I train for a big race, and when that race is over, it’s over. What if I get injured? What if I lose motivation and burnout? What about race fees and travel costs? What about the time commitment? There’s a good chance that I will fail due to one or more of these reasons, but I will certainly fail if I don’t go for it.
For a month or so I was too scared to tell more people about this goal. I knew that once I told my runner friends they would hold me accountable. This is a good thing, but I didn’t know that I was ready for this accountability yet. I began to pick up my mileage a bit and add some longer runs. And then I started to share my goal with a few people. The responses were varied: about half of the people told me there was no way I could do this, and the other half was encouraging and said it’ll be tough, but not impossible. I’m glad that I received both types of responses; I needed the positivity, but I’m also glad to go out and prove some people wrong.
I ran my first 26.2 on East Camino Cielo Road in Santa Barbara. I didn’t sign up for a race or measure out the course; I just got up early and ran until my Garmin said I had run 26.2.
Emily came up with me and rode her bike next to me for much of this run and kept my bottle filled with Tailwind. Since I knew that I would have twenty-five more marathons ahead of me in the near future, I chose to experiment a bit with my nutrition on this run. By the time that this year is over, I’m hoping to have my nutrition and hydration plan dialed in. I didn’t bonk, but I certainly should have eaten a few more Gu’s.
My second 26.2 ended up turning into 31 miles. I ran the Bulldog 50k in Malibu, California. Trail races are a blast, and I feel more at home on the trails than on the roads. Some people were telling me that it was bold to choose to do a 50k trail run with 5000 feet of elevation gain for my second 26.2 in ten days, but my thought is that once you run beyond twenty miles, it’s all the same anyways. There’s just something about a trail ultra that makes the experience more enjoyable.
This past weekend I finished my third 26.2 in twenty-four days. It was my first road marathon race experience. I never quite understood paying a huge amount to run on a flat, boring road, when I could be running in the mountains. I knew the race was coming up, but I was on the fence about entering. A few days prior to the Ventura Marathon I searched Craigslist just to see if somebody was selling their race bib for some reason. I found one for sale, and went on to purchase my entry on Craigslist from a guy whose friend had bailed on him. This was also a first.
The whole experience of the Ventura Marathon could be a blog post in itself. Since we’re on a major budget, Emily and I slept in the back of my car near the start line the night before the race. We put the back seats down, and crammed my old twin mattress from college into the back of the car. We didn’t take into account that it was Saturday night, and that we were in Downtown Ventura. We were woken up by loud people having a good time and by police sirens a number of times. I managed to get three solid hours of sleep between 2:00 and 5:00 when my alarm went off. As rough as this night of sleep was, it sure was nice to get out of bed and walk to the start.
I understand the draw to road marathons now. It was fun to see all of the people out on the streets cheering runners on, and being a part of the group of thousands of runners. The course was an out and back course, so I got to see some familiar faces while I was on my way out and they were on their way back. I had never run a marathon for time, so I didn’t know how to pace myself for something like this. I set an arbitrary time goal of four hours, and went out with the 3:55 pace group. I felt good about ten miles in and took off from this group talking with a runner in a No Meat Athlete singlet. I used to sport a NMA singlet in races, and it was fun to talk to somebody else about their plant-based diet. Though I lost her as we went through a water station, I kept my pace pretty even and relaxed through twenty miles. I couldn’t resist the urge to look at my watch during the final 10k and speculate where I would finish. I increased my effort a bit and came through the line at 3:48. It was a fun experience, and I look forward to training to race a marathon one day.
I’m not sure what my next 26.2 is going to look like. I have a few routes in Santa Barbara that I’d like to try. I’d also like to run one around a track, just to say that I did it. Beyond these vague ideas, I’m just making this up as I go. With finances being the greatest roadblock to me so far, I’m learning to be creative with these runs and I’m enjoying every bit of it.
When I was developing the goal, I thought about trying to make a big deal about it and attempting to bring attention or raise funds for some organizations I support. I learned that I didn’t really know how to go about this. I’d still like to impact others in some way with this running, but, for now, I’m just doing this for me. I’m doing this because it’s hard, and I want to see if I can do it. Maybe once I get a few more under my belt people will become more interested and want to support the journey. For now, though, I’m going to run most of these on local trails and roads on my own and try to buy some more race bibs on Craigslist.
Since this is a goal I know that I cannot complete alone, I’d love to connect with more runners. Maybe we can run a 26.2 together sometime soon.
- Josh Christensen, RADrabbit