The Pittsburgh Marathon is Cancelled but Jeff Gleason and a small group of his buddies will be running their own marathon
COVID-19 might have put a stop to the Pittsburgh Marathon, but it didn't stop a group of Pittsburgh runners from planning their own. During the wee hours of the morning Friday, March 27, elite athlete Jeff Gleason and his running buddies will go the distance – running while the rest of Pittsburgh sleeps.
His small team is nothing short of extraordinary: "Wayne Kurtz is our de facto race director -- he actually ran 30 full Ironmen over 30 straight days," says Gleason. I'll serve as co-pilot and Bill Thompson, ultra-runner extraordinaire, will be my wingman. He ran across the entire state of Tennessee for no particular reason."
When the alarm rings, they will lace up their running shoes and strap on head lamps. Starting somewhere between 1 and 2 a.m., they will track their miles by Garmin and finish long before the city wakes. And afterwards, they are planning to go to work.
Gleason is not a quitter. In addition to medaling in marathons, he has completed over 70 ultramarathons. His "never say die" attitude got him through four 135-mile crossings of the Mojave Desert in unbearable heat and Big Foot, an excruciating 200-mile race through mixed terrain across the Cascade Mountains in Washington State.
That perseverance also came into play a few years ago, when debilitating knee pain knocked Gleason off course. Several physicians told him knee replacement was necessary, and he would never run again. After searching high and low, he found Richard Berger, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Rush UniversityMedical Center, Chicago, who performs joint replacement without cutting muscles, ligaments or tendons. Because of this, the recovery is faster with less scar tissue build up. That means within months, athletes like Jeff can return to their sport. In fact, three months post-surgery, Jeff completed the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. In hindsight, he says, "I could have done the whole [26.2], but my wife would have killed me."
In addition to the Pittsburgh Marathon, Jeff was planning to complete his 30th 100-miler ultra in New Jersey—which was also cancelled. But even with no foreseeable races in his future, he found a silver lining. "Fortunately (or maybe not so fortunately)," says Gleason, "I have some friends who are crazy enough to run over 26 miles in the middle of the night."
Above all, Jeff is just happy to be running again—pain free. "There is a running God," he admits, "and his name is Dr. Berger."
posted Thursday March 26th
by Jeff Gleason