On Nov. 17, Austin runner Bill Schroeder will line up for the start of his 100thmarathon. That’s a lot of miles and a lot of memories, and we caught up with him to find out how he’s feeling as he reaches the end of a long-term goal. (Responses have been edited.)
- When did you start your quest to run 100 marathons?In earnest, it began near the end of 2017. I ended 2017 with 55 marathons, and I put together a plan to finish in Nevada in November 2019 – or at another race in April 2020, if things didn’t go as planned. I called 2018 the Year of the Unknown, because until then the most marathons I had ever done in a year was six, and now I was going to do 26. I kept waiting for my body to break down, which didn’t happen. At the start of 2019, I only had 19 left. By then, I got to enjoy the marathons more and just ran how I felt, with less concern for holding back.
- Did you set out to run 100, or did it just happen?Goals change. For decades I chased time. At a certain age, time catches up to you. I set a goal to run a sub-4-hour marathon in all 50 states and continue my streak of running a minimum of 25 minutes a day that began Oct. 16, 2011.
- What was your first marathon?My first (October 1981, 3:38) and second (October 1982, 3:34) marathons were the Wade YMCA Pacemakers marathons. I did the first one on a whim, with less than 20 miles a week of running, but I was 19 and invincible. I hated running when I finished those two marathons. I have been reminded many times – you can fake a 5K, but you can’t fake a marathon.
4. Tell me about three of the most memorable races.The Shamrock Marathon in March 1983, marathon number three, was the first one I actually trained for, and the first that I finished in under 3 hours – 2:58. It was probably the first race that I actually felt the “runner’s high.” I’m not sure my feet were touching the ground the first 5 miles. I call the 1998 Chicago Marathon, marathon number 28, the “Perfect Time.” Anyone who has attended my goal setting seminar knows it came as a result of setting a stretch goal and actually attaining it. I hit an 8-minute marathon PR of 2:36:22, and the first half was even my half marathon PR. It was my sixth and final marathon PR. I had deferred the 2018 Marshall University Marathon, marathon number 77, for two years due to the death of my youngest stepson, Evan, and getting into the 2017 New York City Marathon. I call it the “Magic Marathon” because as the race unfolded, the mantra “Feel the magic” popped into my head, and I had a fantastic day. I also saw a fellow runner whose shirt said on the back, “They are not forgotten, they don’t go away, they run beside us every day!” I thought of Evan and my mom throughout the race. That, plus the connection to the “We Are Marshall” theme, made it only the second race I have ever teared up while talking about. My time was 3:11.
5. Will you keep running marathons after you finish number 100?I already have marathons planned for December, January, April, May and June. Goals are important. There are the marathon “majors,” and I will only need Tokyo after I run London this April. Seven Continents sounds exciting, too, and I only have two of those. I want to work on breaking 3:30 in 25 states. I also want to get back to climbing all the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. I have climbed 12 of 58.
6. Which marathon was most difficult?Breaking 4 hours in marathon number 73, the Millennium Meadows Marathon in Grand Rapids in August 2018, was tough. The dewpoint was 72 percent at the start. The other extreme was the Veterans Marathon, marathon number 78, outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana, where it was 6 degrees. That was the closest I ever came to not starting a marathon.
7. Did you ever think you might not reach 100?I never thought I wouldn’t finish 100 marathons, but I wasn’t sure I could really do 45 marathons in less than 2 years and under 4 hours each. That’s why I had a backup plan to finish at Mt. Charleston in April. It is one of the points I share during my Secrets of Marathoning – “we, you, and I are so much stronger than we think we are.”
8. How many miles do you run per week, on average?While training to race marathons, I was running 70 to 75 miles per week. During the last 2 years, mileage has varied from 30 to 85 miles, depending on how many marathons I am running that week. I have learned that recovery is essential.
9. Do the marathons get any easier?They don’t get easier, because it is 26.2 miles and anything can happen. What makes it easier is knowing what it takes to finish. I do know that warmer weather is the most significant contributing factor for me. I have had multiple IVs following warm marathons, so I take extra precautions now. No matter how big the marathon, if the starting temperature is over 60 degrees, I carry 24 ounces of electrolyte drink.
10. What’s your biggest advice to another runner trying to reach this same goal?Travel with a comfortable pillow. I have an awesome camping pillow that works perfectly for me, and I am always guaranteed a pillow that works and allows me to sleep better the night before a race in a different city. If you try to do it quickly with 20+ marathons a year, then you can’t “race” that many and they need to be considered “long runs.” I will say the running streak makes all the difference for me, because I recover more quickly and stay injury-free. Also, get good at planning, because that many trips in a year became a logistical challenge while still putting on 18 races a year for charity back in Austin. Finally, the sooner you figure out your “marathon recipe” for success, the better. You need to figure out what works for you, from a pre-race evening meal, pre-race breakfast, and nutrition while running, to post-run recovery, clothing, and chafing spots. We are our own experiment. What works for you might not work for me.
11. How will you celebrate?On Nov. 17 at Rock n’ Roll Vegas, I’ll reach my goal by crossing the finish line at night under the bright lights of the Vegas strip. More than 40 friends will join me at the MGM Grand, where we will celebrate in a large suite after the race. I know many others who will be cheering for me virtually. I am fortunate to have such a great group of friends.
Schroeder says he’d like to thank his wife Mindy, whom he met while training for a marathon, for helping him reach his goal, along with his son Jake, who keeps an eye on the house and pets while they travel.
Also on the list? Richard Toy for leading the free No Excuses Running workouts when he’s gone, Vanessa Kline at Beast Pacing, Daniel and Jesse Rueckert at Mainly Marathons, the 50<4 Club, and everyone who has sent him positive well-wishes along the way.
“It has made me feel like I am running with lots of people, even when no one is around me on the course,” he says.