Silverthorne marathoner takes on Europe, world
SUMMIT COUNTY – Remember that scene from Forrest Gump where Forrest just runs across the country and back for two years?
Silverthorne’s John Wallace has him beat. In fact, he has almost every runner in the world beat. Not in speed, but in distance and dedication.
The part-time Summit Countian has completed a marathon in every state in America, in every province and territory in Canada and on every continent, including Antarctica.
He returned from Europe Tuesday after getting ever closer to his next goal of running every available European marathon. With Bucharest, Romania and Zagreb, Croatia taken care of earlier this month, the 58-year-old retiree has but two to go. He plans to finish those next spring.
According to his research, that would make him the world’s only person to complete all 35 European marathons. The races would put him at a total of 205 completed in 57 countries.
And he didn’t even start until he was 38.
“I took up running to lose the weight I gained after I quit smoking,” Wallace said. “I swore I’d never do another (marathon) after the first one.”
Wallace broke that promise quickly. He started using running as a way to relieve stress then began setting goals as a marathoner.
By the time he retired, he had done all the domestic races and had set his sights on Europe. In one year living in England in 1999, Wallace completed an astounding 25 marathons.
“I got (more than) halfway through Europe that year, then I found out no other runner had done (them all), which actually surprised me,” Wallace said.
Over the past three years, Wallace has traveled back to the continent in an effort to complete the task. Only the Slovakia and Yugoslavia marathons remain. If any other European countries put together a marathon, he’ll do them too.
“Now I wrap marathons around travel,” he said. “I don’t take a trip unless there’s a marathon.”
In August, he returned to the scene of his first race, in Reno, Nev. Twenty years later, Wallace beat his time by two minutes. He trains in the summer on the paved trails around Dillon Reservoir, running 50 to 65 miles per week. He spends his winters in Florida.
He said the most enjoyable race is the Boston Marathon because of the history and the caliber of runners. The toughest are the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado Springs, which goes straight up above 14,000 feet and back down, and the Antarctica marathon, which takes place on ice, snow, dirt and mud on an island off the coast of the mainland.
For a man who says, “If I don’t have a goal, I can’t stay motivated,” what happens next summer after, with any luck, he finishes the final pieces of the European puzzle?
Well, there’s always Central and South America.
Wallace said only one person has run marathons in more countries than he – a 74-year-old Floridian man who has run in 95. Wallace has 57 under his belt, but, still on the good side of age 60, there’s plenty of time to catch up.
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