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Marathon Man

Nate Thompson • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:59 AM

Grand Haven resident Dan Starkey admitted what he accomplished in the past year isn’t for everyone, and quite honestly, it wasn’t the smartest thing he’s ever attempted.

But at the same time, the 57-year-old says he’s proud to say he signed up for — and completed — 12 marathons in 2012.

“I had a friend who recently did it, and I’m a goal-oriented guy, so I thought it was worthy of my effort,” said Starkey, a native of Mancelona, about 40 miles northeast of Traverse City. “It was a fun adventure. I was able to travel a little bit, and had the opportunity to go and compete with some friends.

“But some advice I’ve received from others who’ve tried it is don’t do it,” he added. “You obviously need to be in pretty decent shape to attempt such a thing, because it does take a toll on your body.”

Starkey said he typically competes in two marathons a year, so adding 10 more competitions of 26.2 miles each required some accelerated muscle healing. He fought through an Achilles injury in February and later had hamstring issues that affected his performance, but they weren’t severe enough to cut his goal short.

Starkey based his schedule of marathons on the reputation of the event, the weather in the area, and from his past experience. For example, he’s competed in the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City several times, and calls it one of his favorites, considering his northern Michigan roots.

He started his grueling test on Jan. 15 at the Houston Marathon, and continued a southern swing with trips to Birmingham, Ala., in February (Mercedes Marathon); and Virginia Beach, Va., in March (Shamrock Marathon).

Maybe his most daunting challenge was the prestigious Boston Marathon on April 16, where record-soaring temperatures made running conditions almost unbearable. More than 2,100 runners were treated at medical tents along the course, as temperatures soared to the upper 80s.

“I shouldn’t have even started. It was a mistake,” Starkey said. “It was a real struggle. The worst of all 12. I had just injured my Achilles and probably should have rested it, but I somehow got through it.”

Starkey, who professionally works as a civil engineer in Grand Rapids, said he spent an estimated $5,000 on travel expenses, sign-up fees and other costs during his yearlong challenge.

During the summer months, however, expenses were limited as he competed mainly in Michigan. In May, the trip was to Traverse City; in June, he competed in the Charlevoix Marathon; and July brought the Grand Island Trail Marathon in Munising.

“That was the only one primarily on a trail, and that was fun; very scenic,” Starkey said. “It was difficult, because it was very hilly.”

Starkey returned to the East Coast in August and September to compete in the Drake Well Marathon in Titusville, Pa., and the Rochester Marathon in Rochester, N.Y.

He closed out the year with trips to Cleveland, Ohio (Towpath Marathon), Indianapolis (Monumental Marathon), and his final event on Dec. 8, the Kiawah Island Marathon in Charleston, S.C.

“I’m glad it’s over,” Starkey admitted. “I’ve planned on doing the Bayshore again next year along with one or two more, but I’m definitely tapering it down.”

In the meantime, he’ll continue to look forward to meeting up with his informal running group at the Coffee Grounds in Grand Haven or the Village Baker in Spring Lake every Saturday morning.

“Anybody is welcome to come and join us,” he said.

Starkey said he’ll continue to push himself to achieve new goals in the sport, although his next in mind may take much longer than a year.

“My next goal is to run a marathon in all 50 states,” he said. “I’ve already got about 14 states down, but I’ve got a long ways to go.”

He would also like to run 2,013 miles in 2013 — a number  well above his typical 1,500 miles per year.

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