Rock Around The Calendar

Photo: Courtesy James Staten

Photo: Courtesy James Staten

James Staten aims to become the first person to complete 14 Rock ‘n’ Roll events in a single year.

Interview by: Matt Fitzgerald

No one has ever run 14 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series events in a single year. That’s because there have never been 14 such events in a single year, until this year. In 2010 there is one individual who is known to be planning to complete the full series, which has expanded from 11 events in 2009. That individual is James Staten, 42, of Redwood Shores, Calif., who works in market research.

James started his quest in grand fashion on January 17, setting a new personal best of 3:17 at the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, his 22nd marathon. We spoke to James as he was getting ready to taper for the second chapter of his adventure: the Rock ‘n’ Roll Mardi Gras Marathon on February 28.

RunNow.com: So, how long did this whole thing get started?

James Staten: I’ve been casually running for eight or nine years and I got serious in 2003. That’s when I ran my first half marathon. I started out by traveling a lot with my job and getting really frustrated because I never saw any of the cities I went to. So I would just get out of my hotel room, turn left and run. I never ran more than six miles until a friend of mine from work said, “If you like to run you should try a half.” So I ran the San Francisco Kaiser Half Marathon, which happened on Super Bowl Sunday. It just about killed me, because I had been training for six miles and jumping up to 13 was a really stupid idea.

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But it was a chance for me to see all of these Team in Training people cheering everyone else on besides me. That got me thinking, “If I ever do this again, or if I do a full, I really ought to do this [Team in Training thing] so I can have this kind of support.” That’s what got me into Team in Training.

If that first half marathon just about killed you, what made you come back for more?

Probably the same thing that a lot of people feel: the incredible feeling when I crossed the finish line. I asked myself, “Do I want to have that feeling again?” Absolutely. “Do I want to have the feeling I had in mile nine through 13? Absolutely not.”

What was your first marathon?

I did the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Alaska in 2004. I started as a member with [Team in Training] just like everyone else, then I became a mentor for them, then a captain for them, and now I’m a coach for Team in Training.

A lot of people go through the Team in Training program once, maybe twice, then move on. Why did you choose to stay with and move up in the organization?

A lot of it was because of the social connections I made through the program. I have tons of friends I’ve made through Team in Training. I sort of informally run an alumni group for people who just want to keep running together but can’t do the fundraising thing every single time. And that’s become a really nice feeder network for people to go back into the team.

I lost my mom to cancer, I lost my aunt to cancer, my uncle, and a lot of other people in my family, so it’s a cause that’s very important to me. And I’ve met a lot of people who have suffered with Leukemia through this program and now they’re all personal friends and I raise money for them. I’ve raised $50,000 for the cause thus far.

What was your first Rock ‘n’ Roll event?

My first Rock ‘n’ Roll event was the inaugural San Jose half marathon. I did that just for fun with some friends and really enjoyed the multiple bands and how incredibly well organized it was.

At the time there were only seven Rock ‘n’ Roll events. I thought, “San Jose was great—wouldn’t it be cool to do all of them?” Then it became eight, and then nine, and then 10, and then 11. When it finally got to 14, that became such a greater goal than just doing seven in a year. If I’m the only person who ends up doing them all, then I’ll be the first. I set a big fundraising goal of $10,000 and I’m more than halfway there already.

So, event number one—Arizona—is in the bag. Number two, Mardi Gras, is in a few days. How are you feeling at this point?

I’m feeling pretty good. I just finished my 18-mile run a few minutes ago. Now I just taper.

Is it going to be difficult to juggle all of these events with your job?

My work has been really great. They’ve been very supportive, and as long as I can set up consulting engagements that are close to these cities [in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Series], they’re going to help out with some of the travel costs, which is great. PowerBar is one of my sponsors, and they’ve been great, and I’m trying to get some other corporate sponsors and really spread the word about how to fight blood cancers, how to get in better shape and how to take advantage of these great events.

What are the other biggest challenges associated with this project?

I think the biggest challenge is the number of events. The most events I’ve ever done in a year is eight, and I’ve never done marathons only three weeks apart. That happens in June with San Diego and Seattle. Two weeks after New Orleans is [the Rock ‘N’ Roll] Dallas [Half Marathon], so that’s pretty rapid. Keeping up the training through a whole year, keeping my body injury free, and hopefully keeping the same time through most of these events is the challenge for me.

Are you doing anything special to stay healthy through this process?

I think the key for me to stay healthy is to stay in a high-mileage training mode.  I’m a little worried about having dips in my training and then trying to build back up again. I probably should pay more attention to the mileage on my shoes. I’m one of those people who tends to push the limit.

Do you have some friends or fellow Team in Training members that you will be able to run or at least travel with or visit at each of these events?

That’s what’s been so great about all of the friends I’ve made with Team in Training. I’ve got six people from this team coming to New Orleans. There’s four of us all going to Nashville. My company has a very large office in Dallas and I’ve recruited a bunch of my work colleagues to run with me in Dallas. Pretty much at every event we’re going to have a big group. San Diego’s probably going to be our biggest because we’re renting a beach house and there’s about 14 of us coming down.

How can people help you out with your fundraising?

The easiest way is for people to go to my blog, which is at smsjames.blogspot.com. That’s where I’m also chronicling all of my training and all of my events this year.

[sgi:MattFitzgerald]

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