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Friday, July 13, 2018

Have a Big Goal? Do it the Steve Brandstetter Way

A Feature of Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?  
By Cynthia Smith
After getting “tricked” into running the Heart Mini-Marathon by a co-worker in 2002, Steve Brandstetter couldn’t find his team on race day. But he “didn’t die,” and 87 marathons later, he’s still on the run. 
Steve ran the Flying Pig Half a few months later as a relay with that same co-worker, and immediately upon finishing made plans with his brother-in-law, Barry Hutzel, to run the Full Pig the next year. “I was never an athlete as a kid,” he explains, “but this was something I could do well. I felt like an athlete. Other people couldn’t do it; it made me feel special.” 
Steve Brandsetter and his daughter Stephanie after the Vancouver Marathon in 2016. Steve’s goal of running a marathon in every state was accomplished in June.
An Excuse to Get Out of the House
Because Steve’s wife Julie was struggling with MS and becoming more and more immobile, “we started using the marathons as an excuse to get out of the house,” Steve remembers. “She was content to stay home, but I knew that wasn’t best for her, even though it was easiest for me. The beach was too hot, too far, and too complicated with her wheelchair, so nearby races became our vacations.
“We stayed pretty close at first, going to other places in Ohio. Then we went to Louisville, where I have some cousins and an aunt and uncle. Our girls, Lauren and Stephanie, would often come along. They would run some and watch the race, bringing Julie out for fresh air when she felt up to it. We did Chicago, where I ran with Stout Avenue neighbor Maria McCarthy. We went to tiny towns and big cities. 
“Stephanie really got into it. She did Girls on the Run in Wyoming. We coached it together in the beginning; now she coaches it in Columbus where she is a kindergarten teacher.”

Steve and Julie in Cleveland in 2013.
A Goal Emerges
“At first I thought people who had goals like ‘run a marathon in all 50 states’ were being ridiculous. Then, one day I was running the Hatfield McCoy Marathon in West Virginia. Everyone was comparing how many states they had run, and with nine marathons in five states, I had done the fewest by far. Right then, I decided to make it a ‘loose goal’ to do all 50.
“Another reason I kept running was to stay in shape so I could continue to take care of Julie. It was very physical, and I didn’t want her to have to go into a nursing home because I couldn’t lift her anymore.
“Running became - and continues to be - my outlet for stress. Out by yourself, you have time to process things; you come up with problems and solve them in your head. You do a lot of soul-searching. When you get to run with other people, the support is wonderful. The activity makes for real, honest conversations.”
For the first few years, Steve only ran one marathon a year. But it was difficult to restart training every time, so he switched to one every few months. Three times he has done two on back-to-back days!

Wyomingite Karen Ward (far left) and Steve (far right) after his first marathon with Karen and brother-in-law Barry Hutzel (second from right).
#50: Anchorage, Alaska
Steve ran a marathon in his 50th state on June 24, and an entourage is accompanying him to celebrate. Susie, Steve’s newest fan, support, and on-course spectator will be there to share the experience. His daughter Stephanie (now Grider) and husband Nathan will run the Half, and daughter Lauren, mother Lois, sister Karen, and niece and nephew Kirsten and Brendan will also be on hand. “They have all been extremely supportive,” Steve explains, “so it was only right to invite them along.”

A Carefree Approach
Steve is approaching #50 the same way he faced the previous 87 (while Alaska represents his 50th state, he has repeated many marathons: he ran the Pig 13 times, and has run 24 Ohio marathons). “I try to savor every one. Like every other time, I will start, go through it, and finish. 
“It has helped that running was never the most important thing. I couldn’t make it that; Julie’s health was always Number One. I knew, as her caregiver, there might come a day when I couldn’t run anymore.” (Julie passed away in 2014.)
Steve participating in the a Guinness World Record event in Milwaukee: 62 people ran a marathon while continuously linked. The event raised over $100,000 for for Make it Happen Fund.
His Best and Worst
“The most painful was in Vancouver in 2016. I was running back to back; I had done Oregon the day before. I had gotten hurt before Oregon and was not in my best shape. As I was coming to the finish line in Oregon, I said to myself, ‘tomorrow is not in the bag.’ 
“You have to give it your best every time: take what God gives you that day. In Vancouver, I went down at mile eight with an injury and had to walk the remaining 18. I get mad at myself if I walk, and walking is not necessarily easier; you just want to be done. It took me over six hours. 
“My best was in California at the 2014 International Marathon in Sacramento. I ran a three-hour, 42-minute race, which was real close to qualifying for Boston. There were a lot of Olympic hopefuls there. It was cool to have my best day among excellent competition.”

Wall of memorabilia from Steve’s 85 marathons in 49 states.
First-Time Lady Marathon Whisperer
Steve likes to nurture new runners. If he falls in step with a first-timer, he encourages them. “You can be a calming effect and help out,” he notes.
“Running at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, I met a young woman and man from an Air Force Base in Alaska. They were in town visiting their parents. She was part of an Armed Forces team, and very coachable. I gave her tips. Her mom and dad were at the race, and invited us over afterwards. We are still in touch. 
“My daughters call me the ‘First-Time Lady Marathon Whisperer,’ ” he laughs.

1. “I think the biggest thing is to find what works for you, what motivates you. Hold on to that. You have to be persistent. I found, as a morning person, if I was going to run, it had to be early. I would go out before anyone needed me. You have to get up when the alarm goes off. If you plan to run later, you will find excuses all day long.
After Steve’s 30th marathon (Chicago, 2010) with former neighbor Maria McCarthy.

2. “It has worked for me to have ‘long obedience in the same direction’ as my friend and fellow runner Blayne Smith says. Other people jump on every fitness craze. Stick with something. 
3. “Find a training partner. You have to show up because they are waiting for you.” Steve and Carl Kappes have run together for many years. They frequently run with Blayne and Trip Eldredge on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and are often reminded by other Wyoming runners Jason Greene, Friendship United Methodist Church pastor Meshach Kanyion, Councilman Thaddius Hoffmeister and others, that the foursome are “cheating on” THEIR running group.
4. “Always have something to train for. I began running marathons more often to avoid starting at zero every time. 
5. “When starting out, don’t go so far that you hate it and won’t go out the next day. Build slowly. Walk some. Be patient. It is not instant gratification.
6. “Find a good physical therapist. Holly Muehlenkamp is my miracle worker. 
7. “Respect your body. Don’t push when you are sore. When necessary, accept that ‘today I don’t have it.’ When that happens, back off a bit; then come back. Don’t worry about it. Some people, if something goes wrong, they give up for months. After my first marathon, I could barely walk to the car!”

To Steve, “the rewards of running are metaphors for life: persistence, discipline, taking things one step at a time. Many things in my life have gone better because of the discipline I learned running. Running gave me strength for other parts of my life. You don’t think you will get through, but when you look back, you feel proud of what you did.
“In life (and in running), you have to retool, deal with setbacks. Soon after the love of my life died, my company closed down (he now works at Turnbull-Wahlert). You learn to put one foot in front of the other.” 
Steve doesn’t plan on stopping after Alaska. His next goal: 100 marathons. “I want to go some places I haven’t been.”

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