Big Macs and Marathons
The astonishingly average record holder for most marathons laces up for Big Sur International.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Imagine waking up not long after the downtown bars make last call. Then imagine having to drive through darkness and foul weather for hours in order to make it to the starting line in time to run a marathon at dawn.
It takes tremendous willpower and a dose of stubbornness to make yourself do such a thing once, or even twice. So what does it take, mentally and physically, to hit the pavement for 26.2 miles every weekend and holiday of the year?
Ask Traviss Wilcox. Or watch him run, which reveals it’s apparently not speed or stride that’s required. He says it’s largely determination that allowed him to complete 114 marathons in 2011 alone, earning him the world record for the most in a year, when just three years ago he wasn’t even much of a jogger.
That’s 2,988.94 miles. Many people don’t drive that much in a year.
This weekend Wilcox, a 45-year-old web developer from the U.K., will participate in the Big Sur International Marathon, his 28th marathon of 2012.
“When people ask what marathon you’d like to do, [Big Sur] is right up there,” he says.
The Big Sur Marathon began in 1986 and has grown into an internationally recognized event, heralded as one of the Top Ten Races To Do Before You Die (Runner’s World UK) and Best Destination Marathon in North America (Runner’s World reader poll).
After securing the world record for most marathons in a year with a finishing kick that included nine in nine days in Florida, Wilcox flew back to London and did a 10th the next day.
Logistical nightmares aside – cross-Atlantic jet lag isn’t ideal race prep – one would imagine the schedule would be taxing on the body. But Wilcox demurs.
“You get used to it, to be honest,” he says. “Once you start running the next day [the stiffness] wears off.”
He admits to problems with ankles and knees, plus muscle and shin pain. But he says that he’s been able to “run through” his ailments, with a caveat: “I suspect I’d horrify a doctor.”
Wilcox’s training regimen proves unorthodox. He does not do long-distance runs to prepare and doesn’t stretch or warm up before a race.
“I feel physically better now than I have in years,” he says.
He says the number one criteria to his lifestyle is stubborness.
“You’ve just got to get up and decide, ‘This is what I’m doing today.’” he says. “It’s 75 percent willpower and 25 percent physical… maybe 90/10 some days.”
He claims the feeling of accomplishment is all the motivation he needs.
“It’s the sense of satisfaction when I finish,” he says. “It’s never easy. I like to look back and think I’ve achieved something worthwhile.”
It might surprise some that there’s no charity or epiphany that triggered such achievement, which gives his feat an almost Forrest Gump quality. But more surprising might be Wilcox’s pedestrian athleticism.
“I’m a very average person,” Wilcox says. “I’m probably 20 pounds too heavy. I’m no way exceptional at all. I have very average physique and fitness.”
He’s a fan of McDonalds and Burger King and Domino’s. He says he doesn’t eat much before a run, a lesson learned by way of painful stomach cramps.
Wilcox began running in 2009, when his partner Rachel Smith announced she was running the London Marathon and needed a training partner. His first race was a 5K, and from there the distance mounted: 10K, then 10 miles, then a half marathon, and finally a full.
“Traviss is tenacious and stubborn, definitely,” says Smith, who recently completed her 50th marathon. Big Sur will be her 51st.
“I don’t ever recall a moment where I thought, ‘Crikey, where is he going with all of this?’” she continues. “It kind of just evolved over the course of last year and I was happy to run with him whenever my work and family life allowed me to.”
Wilcox says his marathon schedule will be less weighty this year, “only” running in 60 or 70 events. He says he’d like to improve his speed (his personal best is 4 hours, 30 minutes) and to try running some 50 – or 100-mile events.
One hundred and fourteen marathons is a record few people will ever attempt to best, but the story of this man of many miles might inspire some of the most plebeian among us to get outside and run like no one’s watching.
“I think a lot of people could do what I’m doing,” Wilcox says. “You just have to have the belief and the logistical ability.”
THE BIG SUR INTERNATIONAL MARATHON takes place Sunday, April 29, starting at 6:45am at Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur and following Highway 1 to the finish line in Carmel. www.bsim.org