Running 26.2 miles is never easy, and to do it 150 times seems a bit crazy, but that’s OK for longtime Fresno area running coach John Volkman.
“You don’t have to be crazy to be a marathoner, but it helps,” says Volkman, 66.
He’s been running for 36 years, completing marathons in all 50 states and all 10 Canadian provinces.
He has run the Boston Marathon 18 times, the most of any runner from the Fresno area.
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He was there in 2013 when the bombings took place and returned the following year, proposing to his now wife, Jodi, as a way of bringing some positivity to one of the nation’s most beloved races.
66 Age of John Volkman, who has run 150 marathons
He has old notebooks filled with running logs and Excel spreadsheets of the 565 races he’s completed, including 63 half-marathons and, as of Sunday, 150 marathons.
Volkman – who has mentored thousands of athletes as a coach for Team In Training as well as at Sanger, Reedley and Hoover high schools – finished the Two Cities marathon in 4 hours, 12:08 minutes.
“I’m seeing a few stars right now,” Volkman said after the race, overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from runners and spectators along the course.
“It’s such a great feeling,” he said. “No matter how you run a marathon, the last five, six miles are always hard.”
Running part of the way with Volkman was longtime friend Dr. Mike Baumann of Visalia. He completed his 110th marathon.
Baumann, who finished seven minutes ahead of Volkman, made an impressive final sprint that he capped with a heel-click at the finish line.
“I didn’t run my fastest today, but I had a blast,” Baumann said.
Baumann added that Two Cities is his favorite marathon.
“I’ll tell you why: the people, the volunteers, the spectators, the course, the weather, the food, the bling. It’s all awesome,” he said.
Contributing to those vibes were the thousands of spectators, including 26-year-old Kati Catania, of Old Town Clovis.
Catania and her townhouse neighbors shared coffee and donuts at 7:30 a.m. while playing hits like the theme song from “Rocky” on a portable speaker for runners passing by.
“Last year was my first year living here, and I didn’t know what was going on. This year, I’m prepared,” Catania said.
Comical messages like “Think of the Food!” and “Need an Uber?” were written in chalk on the course at the intersection of Pollasky Avenue and First Street.
At Willow and Teague avenues, 65 volunteers kept busy handing out cups of Gatorade and water.
There were 17 hydration stations and 13 first-aid stations for the benefit of participants like Ryan Carder and Anthony Mosqueda.
The Fresno State Army ROTC graduates, who were commissioned in June, drew plenty of attention as they ran the Clovis Half, for good reason.
Carder, 23, and Mosqueda, 22, wore 40-pound military backpacks for the entire 13.1 miles to raise awareness of veteran suicides.
I’ll tell you why: the people, the volunteers, the spectators, the course, the weather, the food, the bling. It’s all awesome.
Dr. Mike Baumann, on why the Twin Cities is his favorite marathon
“On average, 22 veterans commit suicide a day, so we’re trying to do what we can to help our veterans,” Mosqueda said.
“We weren’t going to take (the bags) off,” Carder added. “Yeah, we’re hurting. We’re sore. But, I mean, it’s only a part of it.”
“In the end it’s not for us; it’s for those veterans,” Mosqueda said.
The marathon was also a test of commitment for Sanger’s Oscar Joe Morales III.
After three surgeries on his left knee, Morales wanted to push his limits by attempting his first 26.2 mile race since 2012.
“Why not?” he asked “Might as well live now, right?”
Morales finished in 4:14:03, with bloody toes and blisters to show for it.
“I hit a wall at Mile 20, but that wasn’t going to stop me,” he said.
It was a Morales family affair, with sister Alyssa teaming with cousin-in-law Patrick Howes in the Fresno relay (2:56.03) while aunt Susan Medrano ran the Fresno Half in 2:08.56.
Fresno couple Cesar Leyva, 25, and Rosie Garcia, 28, ran their first marathon together. They had run 5Ks and half-marathons together.
“Definitely feel accomplished,” Leyva said.