Steve Eaton: Columnist starts the long road to becoming 'The Marathon Man'

Published: Friday, May 16 2014 4:05 p.m. MDT

Runners participate in the Salt Lake City Marathon Saturday, April 19, 2014.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News Archives

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You can start calling me “The Marathon Man.”

I have been working out at a new gym in Logan called “PlaygrounZ,” which is owned and run by Jeremy Strom and Lisa Townsend. I think the capital “Z” is in there because soon after any workout you feel like getting Zs or going to sleep.

I go to class four times a week and two very unusual things have been happening since I joined. One is that I keep coming back, despite the fact that the workouts I do seem to consistently involve the type of exercise that eventually makes me look as if I’d been dropped from an airplane onto the floor. I don’t just look like I’m tired and have collapsed but, instead, one gets the impression that it is time to draw a chalk outline around my body.

The other very unusual thing that’s started to happen is that I’m losing weight that doesn’t come back each weekend.

The odd thing about the approach that Jeremy and Lisa offer is that it seems to involve lots of positive feedback and respect. They look for something, anything they can do or say to encourage people to push ahead and do exercises in proper form. This requires some very impressive creativity on their part.

Other than the fact that I have way bigger abs than anyone else in the gym, it would not be easy to find something laudable about my movements … when there are movements. For example, Lisa told me one day that I am good at “soft landings.” I have no idea what this means but I’m extremely proud of it.

Jeremy’s specialty is running. He knows his stuff. He recently was flown to the Philippines to teach more than 100 trainers how to get people ready to run triathlons. He has invented his own exercise equipment and has worked with some very important athletes around the world.

He clearly knows how muscles are supposed to work. He’s always saying things like: “You should feel this in your inside thimbular; If this is hurting your spatula, you are doing it wrong.” No one tells him we have no idea what he is talking about or that his exercises make everything hurt.

Jeremy said he has long believed he could take anyone, no matter how out of shape, and get them ready to run a marathon in one year. He asked me if he could test out his theory on me. I have always wanted to run a marathon, so I readily agreed. I timed myself the other day, and I am already able to run one minute without stopping.

I know I have potential for Olympic-level performance because a few years ago I ran a mile without stopping. I remember I arrived at a Utah State University indoor track one day and a real track coach was there. They were just finishing their workout, so I had to ask him if I could use the track.

After he gave me permission, I said to him in my most serious voice, “I don’t know if you heard about this yet but last week I ran a mile without stopping. Should I be on the USU track team? I don’t know. I’m 53, you tell me.”

He was at a loss for words and his eyes seemed to be searching me as if he was wondering if I was for real.

I pointed at the athletes around him stretching and putting on their sweats and said, “I mean, tell me this: How many of them could actually run a mile without stopping?”

He said slowly, “Oh, I think they all could.”

And I just ran away, waiting for him to chase me down but he did not. He was probably tired and I was very fast.

Now I know that running a marathon is not easy. Some of them can be 10 or more miles long, and I’m guessing I’ll have to learn to run for up to an hour straight, without stopping if I am going to win.

I’m going to run the Salt Lake City Marathon next year, and I think there are a lot of people who go to that race, so the chance of me finishing even in the top 10 will be slim. I’m going to go for it anyway. I know I don’t look like a marathon man yet because I am roughly 450 pounds overweight, but a year is a long time, and I believe soon I’ll be flying down the street so fast you won’t even recognize me.

After I glide across the finish line, I’ll bet there will be more than one track coach interested in me. I’ve long hoped, however, to wear a Seahawks uniform, and I think an impressive marathon performance could help make that happen. I don’t need to be the quarterback and make $16 million; I just want to play in a position where I won’t get knocked down all the time. My jersey will read Steve “Marathon Man” Eaton, but people will probably just chant “The Marathon Man” for short.

It all starts now. I’ll see you in a year.

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan. He can be reached at eatonnews@gmail.com.

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