The Washington Post: Runner resumes marathon streak after friends won’t let him give up

Friday, January 5, 2024

By Kelyn Soong, The Washington Post
Appeared in The Washington Post on January 5, 2024

Chris Farley is a runner who, for nearly a quarter-century, had finished a marathon or otherwise run 26.2 miles every year in under three hours. But in November, Farley, the owner of the Pacers Running stores in the D.C. area, was pretty sure his streak was over.

He ran the New York City Marathon in just over three hours, a disappointment to him and his wide orbit of friends and supporters. He was ready to call it quits and say the streak was behind him — until his friends stepped in and told him they’d help him achieve his goal. His streak could still be alive.

Chris Farley, crossing the marathon finish line in Baltimore County with Johnny Pace. Farley's friends organized a marathon race for him on Dec 27.
Chris Farley, crossing the marathon finish line in Baltimore County with Johnny Pace. Farley’s friends organized a marathon race for him on Dec 27. 

That’s how, on Dec. 27, Farley, a 47-year-old from Arlington, Va., found himself running his second marathon in two months, this one on a paved trail in Baltimore County with virtually no spectators. It was organized by his friends in the running community just for him.

He finished the race, dubbed the NCR Last Chance Marathon, in 2 hours 57 minutes and 35.6 seconds.

The streak continues.

“I was just relieved and very happy,” Farley said.

Back in November, word of Farley failing to run under three hours at the New York City Marathon elicited strong emotions in his circles. Many of Farley’s friends refused to accept that his streak had ended.

“Stop being selfish,” one of his friends texted him with a mixture of sarcasm and motivational honesty. “This isn’t about you. It’s about an ideal. It’s about a dream. Your fans demand more.”

There was, his friends reasoned, still time left in the year. It convinced Farley to keep trying.

At a running conference and trade show in Austin in late November, Farley got together with two of his friends, Josh Levinson and Will Murdoch of Charm City Run, a specialty running store company primarily based in the Baltimore area. The two convinced Farley that his next attempt should be in Glencoe, Md., and Charm City Run — which manages dozens of races every year — would organize the race.

Farley agreed and got to work. For the next six weeks, he locked into his training. He increased his sleep from six to seven hours. And he made his own meals instead of grabbing food at a convenience store.

“It’s the little things that I think add up over time that make a difference,” Farley said.

But in the days leading up to the race, Farley had his doubts. He was struggling with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, a painful condition, and the forecast called for heavy rain all morning. Farley wondered if they could move the race back.

While the race had no aid stations or mile markers, Charm City Run still needed to get approval from the boarding school where the course starts and Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, said Murdoch, Charm City Run’s events director. He also gave the Baltimore Road Runners Club a heads up, since the USA Track & Field-certified course would be the same as the one the club uses for the NCR Marathon held on the Northern Central Railroad Trail every November.

“The forecast was so bad, I was honestly really nervous for Chris,” said Johnny Pace, a 26-year-old Manhattan resident who ran alongside Farley for the race. Pace also ran with Farley at the New York City Marathon in November.

But while it was overcast, the rain mostly held off. Shortly after the start of the race, Farley saw that the Charm City Run team brought out about 20 staff members to cheer him on. It crystallized the purpose of the streak and helped buoy his confidence.

“That completely turned me around from some doubt to the kind of feeling I was going to be able to accomplish it,” Farley said. “It was another data point of how awesome this running challenge is and what this community does for runners.”

The two runners were joined by Phil Le for the majority of the run. Le, 32, who lives in Arlington, rode alongside Farley and Pace on a bike while acting as their portable aid station with a backpack full of hydration bottles and energy gels. Shawn Loper, 45, who works part time for the Charm City Run events team and is Murdoch’s brother-in-law, joined from miles seven to 20.

“To have been there and witnessed it all, it was fantastic,” Le said.

At mile 25, Farley realized that he would reach his sub-three-hour goal. And as they approached the finish line under an inflatable arch and in front of about a dozen of Farley’s friends and family members, Farley threw his arms up triumphantly as Pace turned to look at Farley’s reaction. In doing so, he slightly out-leaned Farley to officially finish first in 2:57:35.

“I told Johnny that he deserved the win because he carried me for two marathons,” Farley said with a laugh. “But I made sure he knew that I won my age group.”


Friday, January 5, 2024

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