Dining director completes run

Rebecca Schultze

Rebecca Schultze

When recreational runner and SDSU dining service director John Sterbis sets a goal, he takes its achievement seriously.

For his first marathon on Sept. 29 he wanted to finish in four hours and 20 minutes. His official time was four hours and 20.00 minutes, exactly.

Twenty-five thousand spectators, University of Minnesota cheerleaders and numerous bands lined the 26.2 miles of the 2002 Twin Cities Marathon, motivating Sterbis and the other 6,640 racers to the finish line.

“It was not as difficult as I thought it would be,” Sterbis said about his first marathon experience.

The Twin Cities Marathon is the self-proclaimed “most beautiful urban marathon in America,” which began in 1982. The TCM is a combination of the City of Lakes marathon in Minneapolis and the St. Paul Marathon. The first TCM attracted 4,563 entrants and since its initial year, over 100,000 runners have crossed the finish line.

A runner for as long as he can remember, Sterbis decided to prepare for one of the things that he has always wanted to do: a marathon.

Sterbis ran just over 30 miles a week during his training period. He started to increase his miles in the first part of July, running his long training runs on Sunday mornings. He used a training guide from the Runner’s World website, but it did not prepare him for everything.

“That first 16-mile run just about killed me,” Sterbis said, citing 80 to 90 degree temperatures and a lack of water in his system during his out-and-back run on a gravel road. “I knew I was in bad shape when I wasn’t sweating.”

Instead of being discouraged, Sterbis learned that he would have to stash water bottles along his running route during his long runs.

Before the race, his longest run was a 20-miler.

“I cheated on the last half mile,” he said. “I limped all the way home.”

Sterbis’s training paid off, and by race day, he was ready.

“What’s amazing is how your body can adapt,” he said. “I remember having to do a 14-mile run and it felt easy.”

Running among thousands of other people was a new concept for the man who trained solo for this race. He brought his wife, Cara, and his daughters, Jamie, 8, and Kayla, 10, along to cheer him on through the Minneapolis and St. Paul streets.

Sterbis does not remember exactly what was going through his mind during those 26.2 miles.

“You just have to focus on moving forward,” he said. “You can’t worry about anyone passing you. You have to run your race.”

Sterbis kept his marathon goal under wraps, not telling a lot of people what he was preparing for, and not wanting to disappoint those that knew of his ambition.

“The thought of not finishing kept me going,” he said.

Sterbis said that up until mile 20 everything was going fine.

“Only between miles 20 and 25 were tough mentally and physically,” he said. “Mile 1.2 was purely mental and adrenaline.”

Sterbis paid for stressing his body with the loss of one toenail and some sore muscles for a couple of days. He was unable to eat after the race, but the next day he was able to replenish his body with food.

Only a week after the Twin Cities Marathon, Sterbis was out running 20 miles a week. He said that he will probably run another marathon next year, and then he will be able to apply what he has learned from this year’s experience.

“The race doesn’t start ’til mile 20. I wish I knew that at mile 13,” he said, laughing. “And go to the bathroom before the race.”

Sterbis highly recommends running a marathon for anyone.

The discipline that it takes to complete 26.2 miles can be applied in other areas of life. For Sterbis, he has learned how to achieve goals, whether when working or when running, and that you need to keep plugging away.

“If I’d given up after that first long run, I’d never have achieved this goal,” he said.

Sterbis, who oversees all SDSU dining services, considered running Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., next year, but it falls on the same weekend as orientation for the University. So, Sterbis is again looking at the TCM, hoping to improve his marathon time on Oct. 5, 2003.