ORIGINALLY WRITTEN LAURA CAMPBELL
He’s running about 50 miles a week these days, and that puts Todd Lehman of Hillsboro right on track in his training for this month’s Boston Marathon.
Lehman, 27, will join some 20,000 other runners on Monday, April 18, in the 109th year of the world’s oldest annual marathon.
His parents, Don and Ruth Lehman of Kidron, Ohio, will join about 500,000 spectators who will line the 26.2-mile course this Patriots’ Day to watch a sporting event second only to the Super Bowl in its on-site media coverage.
The marathon will be Lehman’s fourth in less than three years, a string of races that sprang from a whimsical decision made as a senior at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va.
Lehman ran track at EMU, but as a middle-distance runner with the 800 meters as his main event, he had never run in any events longer than a mile.
Then, while out for a run one day, Lehman said he and a friend decided out of the blue to try running a marathon.
“We said, ‘Hey, let’s do a marathon together sometime,’ kind of on a whim,” he said.
So they began to train, and a year after graduating from EMU, Lehman undertook his first marathon at the 2002 Sunburst Races in South Bend, Ind., finishing with a time of 3:01.
“The first one was my best,” Lehman said.
And he’d planned on it being his last, too, he said.
“After I ran the first marathon, I decided I never needed to do another one, that one was enough,” he said with a laugh.
But then another runner friend, Bradley Yoder, qualified for the Boston Marathon.
“And he said, “Hey, I qualified; you should come and do it with me,'” Lehman said.
By that time, Lehman’s qualifying time from the 2002 marathon had expired, being “good” for only about 18 months after the race.
So Lehman ran in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon last April, where he finished 31st among nearly 1,500 runners with a time of 3:09:43, just under the 3:10 qualifying mark for the Boston Marathon in the 18-34 men’s category.
“My goal at Oklahoma was just to qualify for Boston,” Lehman said. “And I did–not by much, but I qualified.”
Other runners in the Hillsboro area joined Lehman for this race, including Randy Wiens, Glen Kliewer, Beth Schobert and Matt Krebs. Hillsboro High School teacher Bob Woelk is training for this year’s OKC Memorial Marathon on April 24.
“I’ve enjoyed having a community of runners in the area,” he said.
Lehman’s third marathon was the Freescale Marathon last month in Austin, Texas.
“The point of Austin was so that I would be…in decent shape for Boston,” he said.
And in decent shape he is, with a training schedule that puts him running more than 50 miles a week just before a race, including a long run of about 20 miles at a time.
Lehman starts training for a marathon about three months beforehand, he said, and depending on his fitness level at the start, he works up to his longest runs.
“If I haven’t run for more than six miles at one time for a while, then I’ll start with a six-mile or an eight-mile as my long run, and do a long run once a week or once every two weeks and slowly build that up until I do about a 20- or 22-miler.”
The other key aspect of training is total mileage per week, he said.
“In the early stages of training it would be lower, and I would be averaging probably 40 to mid-50s, and then as the training goes on it gets closer to mid-50s each week.”
Lehman realizes not everyone shares his enjoyment of running long distances.
“It’s kind of like country music,” he said with a laugh. “There’s no middle ground– either you love it or you hate it.”
For Lehman, it’s a matter of maintaining both physical and mental health.
“It helps (with) stress management,” he said. “And that’s just one piece of an overall feeling of health that I get from running.
“It’s kind of a break in the day,” he added.
A typical day includes Lehman’s job as youth pastor of both Trinity Mennonite and First Mennonite churches in Hillsboro. He moved to town late in 2001 to take the joint position, and it’s been a good decision, he said.
“I’ve been blessed with two very supportive church families,” he said, “and with good youth who come from strong individual families.”
In July, Lehman will take 19 of these youth to North Carolina for Charlotte 2005, a biennial convention for youth and adults of both Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.
Lehman was part of a committee of 12 individuals who planned the youth portion of the convention, including choosing the event’s theme, “Can’t Keep Quiet.”
With that planning all finished, Lehman can turn his immediate focus to next month’s marathon.
All runners who cross the finish line by 6 p.m. will receive a medal, and the top 15 men and 15 women will each receive a crystal bowl and between $1,500 and $100,000 in prize money.
Lehman said he and friend Yoder hope to finish within three hours of the noon start time. The world best for men is 2:04:55 and the course record is 2:07:15.
The Boston Marathon will likely be his last marathon “for a spell,” Lehman said.
“I’ll be ready for another break,” he said. “But I would suspect that, as long as my health allows, it will not be my last one.
“I’ve kind of fallen in love with the long running again.”