Justin Gillette likes to run. He also likes to win.
“Marathon Man,” as he has been nicknamed, has done a lot of both over the years as Gillette has 72 marathon victories, including two victories at the Kalamazoo Marathon.
He’ll be attempting to win his third straight Kalamazoo Marathon on May 4. He had little difficulty winning the race in 2013, posting such a commanding lead that he was able to take a bathroom break during the race.
Gillette has found a way to maintain his success by continuing to set lofty goals for himself.
“The easiest way to stay motivated it to keep setting goals to attain,” he said. “That helps to keep the training and racing exciting. Breaking a course record or winning a particular marathon are things that keep me going.”
Running wasn’t always a part of Gillette’s life. Required training pushed him into distance running.
“I started running in 1996 to get in shape for our physical education timed mile for the Presidential Physical Fitness test,” he said. “From there I started to enjoy the solitude that came with long distance running.”
Gillette said he didn’t fully catch the running bug until he ran his first marathon.
“I ran my first marathon in 1999 and was hooked,” he said. “Now it becomes a test of seeing how hard I can push my body. Can I run fast marathons several weekends in a row? Can I win a marathon in every state? Can I do this while maintaining a humble demeanor?”
Gillette has maintained his humble demeanor going in to this year’s marathon, acknowledging that while he’d like to win it for a third year in a row, there are no guarantees of a three-peat.
“I would like to get a three-peat but like all other things in life nothing is a certainty,” he said. “I know that the Kalamazoo Marathon is a growing event that attracts runners. There are a lot of talented runners who could show up to win this year, I just have to do my best to be prepared to run fast.”
Gillette was one of the fan favorites at last year’s Kalamazoo Marathon and has motivated runners nationwide through social media, but doesn’t see himself as a role model to fellow runners or those interested in running.
“I do not view myself as a role model. Most races I have to leave right away to catch a flight home,” he said. “Fortunately the Kalamazoo Marathon is a short hour drive from home. That allows me to stay at the race to encourage athletes that I would miss seeing otherwise.”
Although Gillette entered last year’s race with a knee injury, he expects his performance this year to be similar to 2013.
“Last year I entered the race with a high level of fitness but an injured knee,” he said. “This year I come in healthy but with a lower level of fitness due to an awful winter to train through. I would imagine that my time should be comparable to my 2013 time.”
While Gillette said the course for the Kalamazoo Marathon isn’t the most challenging one he faces, it does provide its share of challenges.
“The Kalamazoo Marathon is a fair course. There are some hard hills but that just makes the feeling of completing the race that much better. I ran really strong there in 2012 which proves that if you are in shape you can run that course fast,” he said.
Gillette will be introducing someone new to the Kalamazoo Marathon in 2014.
“I am excited to be coming back to the Kalamazoo Marathon. The race is growing pretty rapidly,” he said. “This year I am bringing my wife, Melissa Gillette, with me to run. Hopefully we can both win the marathon.”
Gillette has encountered many people who are unsure about running due to their physical ability, but said anyone can run.
“I have heard several excuses why a person can not run and I usually respond to those by saying ‘If Oprah can run a marathon you can too,’” he said. “Actually my freshman science teacher is thinking about tackling a marathon. She is a young 41 years of age and a little nervous. I gave her that same advice. As we all know Oprah does not have a typical athletic body.”
“I hope my teacher does not fail this assignment.”
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