PA’s Marathon Man Runs Again

Running 26.2 miles would be a daunting task for most PA faculty and students, but English teacher John Stableford ’63 finished his 23rd consecutive Boston Marathon last weekend. Since 1982, Coach Stableford has found the courage and determination to compete in one of the most challenging and competitive races around the world, the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon. Although he did not run a personal best, Stableford realizes there is much more to gain from the experience than the time. So what inspires him to run so many marathons? “I ran my first one on a whim,” said Stableford, “I always had it in the back of my mind as a challenge, mostly because I had a student before I came to Andover who did it and spoke so glowingly about the experience.” Stableford ran two marathons before he became really serious. When he turned 40, he began to get competitive. Now, Stableford is more concerned with maintaining his fitness level, “I think I run first for health, second to help my coaching, and only third for the competition. And as I have aged, the gap between these three goals has widened. I like to compete, but it is much less important to me now.” Although Stableford runs year round because of his involvement with the cross-country and track teams, he begins to increase his intensity in January to prepare for the big race. Stableford starts out running 40 miles a week, and slowly increases to 70 miles a week in March. “I once figured that if I string together the miles from January first to marathon day together, they would be like running from Andover to Cleveland,” commented Stableford. Stableford has run twenty marathons under 3 hours and eleven under 2 hours and 50 minutes. Twice he has finished with a time of 2 hours and 46 minutes. Stableford’s goal this year was to complete the race around 3 hours and 10 minutes. However, because of the intense heat, Stableford was forced to abandon his race plan, finishing with a time of 3:55.35. “By mile 24 I was ruined, so I walked nearly two miles before I resumed running to finish under four hours. It was a complete meltdown, but I finished.” The hardest part of the Boston Marathon are the notorious hills that begin at mile seventeen and continue through twenty-one. Stableford explained,“ This has to be the toughest five miles of the race and most of the time, the toughest section. However, any marathoner will tell you that the last six miles of any marathon present a completely different challenge because your energy-delivering system switches from carbohydrates to fats. It is a shock.” When asked what he does in his “off season,” Stableford responded, “I never really stop running. I have some lighter times-around Christmas, for instance, but I run for exercise. I’m addicted.”