How many of you could run a marathon?
That’s 26.2 miles – all at once, hopefully without stopping.
Too tough? It is for most people, who aren’t in the physical condition to even attempt such an undertaking.
Justin Daniels, unbelievably, has run a whopping 59 marathons, amazingly in 47 of our 50 states.
“I am definitely going to complete all 50,” says the 38-year-old Daniels, who is the coach of Union City’s cross country and track teams. “It’s going to happen at some point.”
A 2000 graduate of Union City Community High School, Daniels ran fourth or fifth on Jim Noffsinger-coached Indians’ team that featured two-time state qualifier Sean Threewits. But it wasn’t until years later – in 2013 – when his father was diagnosed with COPD, a progressive and chronic medical condition of the lungs that makes it hard to breathe, that he decided he wanted to do something to raise awareness. He chose running, but soon discovered it would take a lot of training.
He had only trained seven miles when he ran his first marathon and managed to finish, but he knew if he were to continue he would have to step up his game.
“At the end of 2013 I ran my first marathon in Indianapolis. It was the worst experience of my life because of how bad my legs hurt and how long it took to finish the race, but I made my dad proud because I was doing something for him.”
Since then, he’s taught his body through discipline and hard work how to handle the mental and physical challenges of running marathons. He has run marathons in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and several times in the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis. He’s also run marathons in every state but Alaska, Rhode Island and Maine, which he plans to do as soon as he can find some sponsors and fit it into his schedule.
In 2016, he ran an astounding 25 marathons and in December of 2018 he ran his first 50 mile ultra-marathon in Florida and finished in 6th place.
On June 18 of this year Daniels began a race that started in West Memphis, Arkansas and continued all the way to Castle Rock. Georgia.
“While running I met some of the nicest people I have ever met. At times the race went great then at other times I sat there wondering why I was attempting to run and walk that far.”
Daniels reflected on his long run on his website blog.
“The days were filled with 90-plus degree temperatures and no shade, while and the nights were peaceful trips down the highway or back roads of Southern towns. I teamed up with Amy Adams and Diane Durden on Day 2 and we began working together to get to the next checkpoint. While the three of us stayed together at night we would spread out during the day in hopes of moving along faster, but blisters began playing a factor in my race. Amy was a lifesaver and with her help had my blisters fixed and wrapped the way that they needed to be so I could continue going without much pain.
“Everything continued to go well through the rest of Tennessee and Mississippi but once entering into Alabama it began raining for the first time. Now we were dealing with pouring rain and extreme heat. We kept moving forward until we got to the Tennessee river and decided to stop for the night. While we were stopped sleeping in a women’s bathroom for the night it continued raining. Day 6 was where the race ended for me. The blisters, no supplies and over 10 miles to the next town I made a decision that I should stop at mile 163. I am proud of what I accomplished and I learned a lot to use at future races and next year when I will run HOTS once again if possible.”
“I haven’t qualified for the Boston Marathon yet.” Daniels says, “If it happens, great, but if it doesn’t there are plenty of other big races to compete in. My main goal is just to raise awareness for COPD and get the word out about it, and to honor my Dad because he has always been a big mentor to me. By going to different states I feel I’m doing that.
“I’ve made a lot of new friends and so many people continued to support me on social media, which is really what makes it worth it to me.”
Daniels’’ personal best time in a marathon is about 3:20, which is about 15 minutes short of what is needed to qualify for the Boston Marathon. He was on pace at last year’s Monumental, but tripped during the race and had to battle to finish.
Since he began his running, he has raised more than $5,000 for COPD, but he says more importantly he has raised awareness. He has more than 18,000 followers on his Facebook page, which he says is a great motivator.
Locally, Daniels has not only gained greater support, but has given back to the Randolph County community by donating more than 50 pairs of shoes. At Easter time, he ran to every town in the county and dropped off candy in Easter eggs for the young ones. In March, he ran in a virtual marathon at the YMCA.
Next up for Daniels is this weekend in Berkley, West Virginia, when he will run in the Cacapon 12-hour Challenge Trail Run, which will be a new experience. Runners will attempt to run as many 5 mile laps as they can over the 12-hour period. Baldwin’s goal os to complete at least 50 miles.
Daniels says his father is doing better, but remains on oxygen as a continues to battle COPD. With people like his own son making sure COPD stays in the spotlight, perhaps one day things will improve for those afflicted with the disease.