What started as a small idea in Colorado has turned into a major milestone for Will Dobbs, who finished his first marathon, and 60th race overall, in Phoenix on Feb. 9.
For Dobbs, running has provided many physical benefits, such as losing around 50 pounds in one year and noticing improved strength, but he has also noticed feeling mentally sharper and more relaxed.
Dobbs first started running around 13 years ago while living in Colorado, where he completed about 12 to 14 smaller five and ten kilometer races. However, it was not until after moving to Tucson that Dobbs dove deeper into running.
And now, despite the daily commute between Tucson and Green Valley, where Dobbs works as a digital communications and social media specialist at La Posada, he still finds time to run 45 miles every week.
After becoming a member of Tucson-based running group The Southern Arizona Roadrunners, Dobbs’ journey moved toward the most challenging event he would ever take on, a full marathon.
“I thought, well, why don’t I try the marathon next, and that’s the best thing I thought I would do” Dobbs said. “Everybody had told me, I had been running again for about three to four years, I had been running half marathons.”
This is when Dobbs saw the next logical step, to move from half marathons, 13.1 miles, to doing a marathon, twice the distance.
“What I’ve learned is most people do the half marathons because they’re, usually, quick and easy and
fun and they’re not hard on the body,” Dobbs said. “The marathons can be awfully hard on the body if you don’t train.”
After finishing the marathon in 4 hours and 55 minutes, only 25 minutes above the standard time, Dobbs said that, while sore, he was not in as bad shape as he might have expected once he reached the finish line.
While Dobbs did train regularly and had run in 59 races prior to the marathon, it was while on his way to the big race when he learned from other runners how eating appropriate amounts of sugars and salts prior to running can provide energy and help to lessen some muscle pain.
“The marathon itself, you know, I walk away with, ‘well I have to do this next time around,’” Dobbs said. “Up to this point I was rather comical.
“Most of my marathon running I may shove down a granola bar before it, but I learned that some of these people are training with regiments, they train like five, six weeks out.”
Despite the competitive nature that comes with running, whether it is beating other runners’ times or your own, it is the social aspect that rekindled Dobbs’ love for running.
It was in Tucson where Dobbs began hanging out at what was then known as “Meet me at Maynards” group and getting to know other runners that he then took it up again himself.
“I never really pay too much attention to competition,” Dobbs said. “I go to do this, believe it or not, to have fun.”
The camaraderie is not just found among the runners – Dobbs also admires the support many of the competitors receive
from the crowds who go to watch the races, with some crowds often waiting three or four hours to cheer on the last few runners working their way to the finish line.
Many of the races also have added motivation and entertainment along the way.
Some races Dobbs participates in have different bands playing along the various mile markers, which he finds adds to the already lively atmosphere of the spectators and runners.
And while Dobbs finds that some of the more hardened racers may not care for the music, he does think it motivates more people to get involved with the sport who may not have been as willing before – a motivation that Dobbs says only helps to make more people healthy and active.
“The social aspect of running is that you do perform better when you’re running with other racers no matter what the skill set is,” Dobbs said.
During his marathon run in Mesa, Dobbs noted that runners from Winnipeg and Boston Marathon, competitors
who beat him by 90 minutes or more, were still at the finish line applauding him as he completed the race.
What Dobbs says he finds astounding is all the different people you meet, get to know and even recognize from different events.
For Dobbs, running could be a good way for people to meet many of their goals, whether it is to meet new people, gain a sense of accomplishment or just to help clear the mind and sort out stressful problems.
Despite the physical strain and endurance requirements which comes from running, it can also be way to relax.
Although there was a time when Dobbs did not think he would have completed 60 races, especially a full marathon, he now has plans to continue and run more in the future.
“It’s just the spirit of when you start a race and finish it, that’s what it’s about,” Dobbs said. “You want to finish what you start and be happy at what you’ve done, and that’s what I like to tell people about it.”