Jay Marshall '88 of Richmond, Ill. has completed eight marathons in three years since he started running, and he is not stopping there. He is always asking "what's next?" in life and has dedicated himself to a mission to stay healthy and set an example for his three sons: Flynn, 16; William, 13; and Reed, 11, by staying fit.
Marshall's twin brother, John, started him down this path by inspiring him to start riding his bike more in 2005. About a year later and 50 pounds lighter, Marshall participated with his brother in RAIN (Ride Across Indiana), a 160-mile, one-day bike ride. He completed the ride and was left hungry for new ways to push himself.
"I continued to ride and stay healthy, always looking for something to do next," Marshall says. His next step was an organization called Randoneurs USA (RUSA), which bikes in a French style, setting personal challenges on a prescribed route instead of racing those around you.
Marshall began his transition into running in August 2008 when he was asked to coach cross country at Antioch Upper Grade School, the school where he teaches. "I didn't know much about running, but I had another knowledgeable coach to guide me," Marshall says. "I decided to run with the kids, which is how I was introduced to the act of running."
One year later, Marshall began running with a group of people in Chain-o-Lakes State Park. They convinced him to enter a half-marathon in Crystal Lake, Ill. in August 2009. Despite his lack of running experience, he finished.
Pushing on, Marshall learned more from a teacher who worked with his wife, Beth Nohling Marshall '91, and became his unofficial running coach. She trained him to run for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in November 2009.
In running that event, Marshall knew he was "bit by the marathon bug." He ran the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha the next spring, and though discouraged after he "sort of blew up near the end" of the race, the bug kept biting; he was determined to make 26.2 miles in less than 3 hours, 30 minutes so he could qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon.
He prepared for the qualification run by pushing himself through two full marathons two weekends in a row. "This was unorthodox," Marshall says, "but it was another 'what's next?' challenge I set for myself."
He took it slow and finished the pair of races in just under four hours each. Afterwards, he felt he was well on his way to qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
His coach convinced him to run a marathon in Madison, Wis., two weeks before entering his run in Carmel, Ind., the race that could qualify him for Boston. But Marshall was too fatigued from Madison to beat the required time in Carmel and came up short.
He had one last chance to finish within the 3 hour, 30 minute mark in the Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles, Ill., marking his eighth marathon in less than three years.
"I had a great deal of trepidation the night before," Marshall says, "and even said to Beth that if she was looking for me at the finish line it could be within a window of 30 minutes."
Beth watched the next day as he crossed the finish line at the 3 hours, 16 minutes, 56 seconds mark, making him eligible to run in Boston on April 16.
"I think I have really set a nice balance for myself," Marshall says. "I hope I am setting an example for my boys. I want them to set goals and try to achieve them."
His current goal is "to run a marathon a month." If he completes the Boston marathon in less than 3 hours, 10 minutes, he will qualify for a run in New York. Meanwhile, Marshall prepares to run in Chicago later this year as he continues to push himself, exploring what's next. ? by Jackson Lewis '13