Hooked on Running

by | Apr 10, 2017 | Alumni Profiles, Spring 2017

Many people try to run a marathon at least once in their lifetime, training for perhaps a few months prior to the event to build their endurance. Ed Thompson ’71 took this idea several steps further.

Thompson didn’t get hooked on running until he was 56 when a coworker detailed his experience running the Chevron Houston Marathon in January 2005. Sparking his interest, Thompson decided to give it a try and signed up for a program to make himself ready for the next Chevron Houston Marathon. “I began run-walking a mile,” Thompson said. “After a couple weeks, I could run three miles. One morning, I ran a half-marathon distance before work.” Within a matter of a few months, Thompson had discovered his passion for marathon running.

“My first marathon participation, in 2006, was not a fast one: 5 hours and 37 minutes and the fastest I ever ran,” Thompson admitted. While the last 6.2 miles took him over two hours, as Thompson looked around at the finish, he “was surprised it had been so easy,” he said, having “envisioned crawling across the finish line.” But Thompson perhaps shouldn’t have been so surprised given how much preparation he put into training for this marathon. By the time the next Chevron Houston Marathon arrived, Thompson had run seven timed races, including a 25K trail race and a 30K street race, and lost 40 pounds. In the eight years that followed, Thompson ran 32 marathons in 10 states, 10 of which were ultra-marathons—specifically, three 50-mile marathons and seven 50K marathons.

Thompson also shares that through this sport, he has had the opportunity to get to know some inspiring people and build meaningful relationships with his fellow runners. Not long after discovering his passion for running, Thompson befriended a young 17-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. “He could not speak and walked at a kilter to one side,” explained Thompson. “Running straightened him up, and he ran and ran for hours.” The two were kindred spirits. “On a vacation to South Padre Island,” Thompson recounted, “I put [text to speech] software on a laptop; he typed away and his first spoken words to me were “‘How can I be a better runner?’” After gaining permission from the boy’s parents, Thompson began taking him to races. “I was essentially his coach,” said Thompson. The two completed 12 marathons together, including the Boston Marathon. “Runner’s World even did a feature on him,” said Thompson, “but all good things come to an end, and he moved away.”

As Thompson’s passion for marathon running grew, so did the intensity of his races. He completed 11 marathons and two more 50K ultras in 2010, growing his resume by running the Boston Marathon and the Maui Marathon. As 2011 rolled around, Thompson continued pushing himself, running 50-mile races, one in Washington and one in Texas, in addition to two 50K’s in Texas and a marathon in Oklahoma. Thompson completed another five marathons in 2012, starting with a 50-mile race and adding marathons in Little Rock, Arkansas; Modesto, California; and Boise, Idaho, as well as a 50K in Texas. 2013 marked Thompson’s last year of marathon running, tallying his final numbers as 22 regular-distance marathons, seven 50K marathons and three 50-mile races.

After eight years of marathon running, Thompson has left the sport with fond memories. Thompson now spends his free time traveling across the globe. As usual, Thompson is never one to go half way, and has explored 22 countries in five years with his wife. “We have climbed the leaning tower of Pisa, the Acropolis to the Parthenon, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, too many castles to count, looked out from the top of Pikes Peak and the St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice,” said Thompson.

“I miss the fun of the marathon,” admitted Thompson, “I have photo albums on my cell phone for each of the marathons. However, I have left that for younger persons.”