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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Jonathan Kotter, who will be trying to win his fifth straight Deseret News Marathon this July 24, works out on the Olympus High School track in Holladay on Friday, July 5, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — With four straight Deseret News Marathon victories already under his belt, Jonathan Kotter is going for his fifth.

“Victory is far from assured, but definitely training is going well. I’ve had a couple of warmup races this year already and I’m looking forward to having a great race,” Kotter said.

The Deseret News Marathon is a family tradition for Kotter. His dad, Scott, was a frequent Deseret News Marathon runner. Kotter has fond memories of watching his dad run in the marathon on July 24 and then sticking around for the parade afterward. Watching his dad run marathons was one of the main reasons Kotter started running them himself.

“My dad ran a lot when I was growing up, particularly the Deseret News Marathon. … I have a lot of fun family memories with that. That’s definitely one thing that got me into marathoning,” Kotter said.

"It was my first marathon. I personally just love the pioneer history of it. We started then back at the Mountain Dell Golf Course and then went partway up East Canyon, came down. The rich historical piece of that was powerful. My great-grandfather was in the Martin handcart company and was one of the historians there, so literally coming into the valley on that day the way that they did, to me, was just powerful," Scott Kotter said.

Jonathan Kotter carries that tradition on with his own family, as they now stick around to watch the parade after he completes the marathon.

“For me, some family history there that makes it a very special marathon. Even now, my dad does not run anymore, but the rest of my family comes out and they always cheer me on at the end. We stick around to watch the parade afterward. There’s a lot of fun family memories there,” Kotter said.

"I never intended to teach my kids to run, but I think it's a powerful thing that applies to all of us. You grow up watching somebody lace up their shoes every day, and without ever asking, it was just kind of intuitive that he wanted to do that too," Scott Kotter said. "There was a day where he couldn't keep up with me — I was never the style of runner that he was, but I wasn't slow, either — and now the tables have totally turned, where I couldn't begin to keep up with him any more."

Now, Jonathan has become the inspiration for his dad.

"He's become the inspiration to me. I just love his drive and his fight," Scott Kotter said.

The second reason Jonathan Kotter got into running is that he was cut from the basketball team at Alta High School.

“All I had left was running where they don’t cut anyone. I had to stick with running,” Kotter said.

Kotter turned his disappointment from being cut from the basketball squad into triumph, setting track and field records at Alta and becoming a member of the cross-country team at BYU.

The Deseret News Marathon was Kotter’s first after college — and the first marathon he won after college.

"It was my first marathon after running collegiately, first marathon win, so it kind of has a special place in my heart in that sense. It’s my absolute favorite to do,” Kotter said.

To prepare for the Deseret News Marathon, Kotter — an attorney by day — runs around 80 to 90 miles per week, plus speed workouts and long runs on the weekend. The training pays off on race day.

“Marathons are never easy. It’s a long way and it always hurts. The reason why I run is kind of for the runner’s high afterwards. It’s not a lot of fun while you’re doing it, but afterwards, you can’t replace that feeling,” Kotter said.

Kotter’s favorite marathon to run in Utah is the Deseret News Marathon, which he compared to the Boston Marathon in terms of the support you get from people — lining the parade route in anticipation of the Days of ’47 Parade— cheering the runners on throughout the race.

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“It is probably Utah’s equivalent of the Boston Marathon as far as the support you get there, particularly at the end as you get to run through the parade route, it’s a lot of fun," Kotter said. "You can’t start at a prettier place than up at Big Mountain, then coming up through Emigration (Canyon). It’s a very pretty course, lots of fun support — particularly at the end — and also, a lot of it has a great downhill grade, especially through Emigration Canyon. It’s just a really runner favorable course, overall."