Going the distance

Mike Beckwith completes his 5th marathon — and his first in 20 years

Hampton Lake resident Mike Beckwith, 63, just completed his fifth marathon. That’s more than most people can say about their running records, but this most recent race is also the first marathon he’s run in about 20 years.

“Running the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon was important to me because it had been 20 years since my last one,” he said. “Mentally and physically, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it again. My biggest challenge was getting to the 20-mile marker, but once I got there, I knew I was almost home.”

It might have been awhile between races, but Beckwith says he’s always been a runner. He started when he was in high school, playing football, basketball and baseball and running home from practice several times a week. He’s run several other marathons and half marathons, including twice running in the Chicago Marathon, but as the years went on, he said, it became harder to find time to train for a race.

“During my career, I traveled a lot so it was difficult to find time to train,” he said. “Even though I always took my running shoes with me, my runs became more about learning my way around town, sightseeing and thinking of different ideas for my next business meeting. But when I moved to Bluffton, the traveling stopped, so I was able to set goals and utilize a training schedule. … I’ve always been goal-oriented, so I thought, why not go for the marathon?”

To help prepare for the Savannah race, Beckwith enrolled in Palmetto Running Company’s 16-week marathon training program, which includes distance running, cross training, stretching, speed work and meetings on hydration, diet and running gear. When Beckwith took his place at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon’s starting line, he was ready to run.

“I finished overall in the top 50 percent, and No. 17 in my age group,” he said of the Savannah race. “My goal was to finish in around four hours. I fell off pace at mile 16, and finished at 4:38. Initially, hitting my planned time was important to me, but shortly into the race, my focus became more about being part of the marathon and how blessed I was just to be running a marathon at the age of 63.”

Even when he wasn’t training for a marathon, Beckwith said he always made time to lace up his sneakers and run. After moving to Hampton Lake in 2010, he got involved with the community’s Tiger Bass Race, and now is the co-chairman of the event, helping to raise more than $30,000 for area charities in the past two years.

“I have been running all my life. It has taught me so many great things about life, including values, setting and achieving goals, discipline, competition and self-confidence,” Beckwith said. “Running is the center of my life. I’m not currently training for another marathon, but I said the same thing after the Cape Cod marathon 20 years ago.”