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Lee Benson, Deseret News
Jim Hubbard poses with the T-shirt he received in 1980 when he participated in his second Deseret News Marathon. On July 24, 2018, he will run in his 40th straight race. Behind him are finishers medals from his many competitions.

MIDVALE — Jim Hubbard didn’t invent the “Just Do It” motto for Nike; he invented it for himself.

Jim is 67 years old and no one can remember him not doing something. When he’s awake. Ever. Mr. Perpetual Motion. Once he starts he doesn’t stop.

Take the Deseret News Marathon, for example. Thirty-nine years ago, on July 24, 1979, Hubbard entered the annual Pioneer Day 26.2-mile race for the first time. He’s run in every race ever since. This year’s marathon — coming up Tuesday, July 24 — will be his 40th in a row. Only Darryl Beardall, with 44 of them, has run more Deseret News marathons, and Darryl is 81.

Jim Hubbard
Jim Hubbard runs in the Deseret News Marathon in 1980. It was his second time participating in the event. On July 24, 2018, he will run in his 40th straight.

Jim’s longevity is enviable, but it’s his motivation that sets him apart from most other marathon marathoners. He doesn’t enter the race every summer for fame, fortune or glory, and certainly not to get his name in the newspaper (his daughter tipped us off about his streak; she’s the reason this story is happening).

He’s never won the race, nor his age division. Never podiumed. His best finish was 3 hours and 28 minutes in 1986 when he was 35 years old and in his prime. A certainly respectable time, but hardly record-setting. He hasn’t broken four hours in more than 20 years.

Thirty-nine years of entry fees has won him exactly 39 T-shirts, that’s it.

So why does he keep running?

“Just to do it,” he says. “I enjoy it.

“Just doing it is what matters. You don’t have to beat everyone else, you just have to finish yourself. That’s your win.”

“I think running cures everything. The harder I exercise the faster my body responds to healing and recovery. And the mental side is huge. You can’t get too wound up or depressed because you’re too tired.”

Jim was sitting on the couch in 1978 when he first became aware there was such a thing as the Deseret News Marathon. The race was in its ninth year of existence. Jim turned on his TV to watch the Days of ’47 Parade and noticed the marathon runners passing the floats and the marching bands on the way to the finish line.

“Hmm,” he remembers thinking, “those runners have been up since 5 and I’m sitting here on the couch. I’m missing all the fun.”

He’d been jogging for a few years, a mile or two at a time, just to stay in shape. But the idea of running 26 miles all at once intrigued him. So in early 1979 when his friend Bill Webber talked to him about training for the Golden Spike Marathon that spring in Ogden, Jim upped his daily mileage.

Lee Benson, Deseret News
Prior to the 1999 Deseret News Marathon, Jim Hubbard's employer, Ralph Wadsworth Construction, made him a commemorative T-shirt. He'd run in 20 Deseret News Marathons to that point; on July 24, 2018, his streak will reach 40 consecutive races.

Finishing the Golden Spike motivated Hubbard to enter that summer’s Deseret News Marathon as well. Little did he know the habit he started.

Webber never ran another marathon, by the way. “He told me, ‘Something broke in your brain and you never recovered,’” says Jim.

Of course, the races weren’t the point then or now.

The point was treating life like a marathon and not a sprint.

Pace yourself and above all, keep going.

Always having a 26.2 mile on the horizon to train for mandated getting up at dawn every morning for a run before heading off to work at Ralph Wadsworth Construction, where Jim helped build bridges until he retired just last year.

“I found that at 4:30 in the morning nobody’s in your way,” says Jim.

It’s never been just about running, either. Jim once did 60 to 100 pushups a day, every day, for 30 years. He’s hiked every peak in the Wasatch. Twelve years ago he started the Deer Creek Open Water Swim at Deer Creek Reservoir, which continues to this day, with — guess who? — as one of the participants. He sends everybody into the water and then jumps in himself. Most of the time he comes out last.

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Constantly doing things, he says, “makes us better. It improves society. It gets kids away from their phones, for one thing — and drugs.”

For his 40th marathon he’ll have plenty of company. His sons Jared, Jesse and Clint will run with him, along with son-in-law Lee Wilstead and grandson-in-law Alijandro Leman. With the exception of Alijandro, who is young and fast and a contender, they’ll run as a posse, surrounding Jim while he does the same thing he’s done every Pioneer Day since any of them can remember: Toe the starting line at 5 a.m. so he doesn’t miss all the fun.