For the 200th time since 1974, Doug Kurtis has completed a marathon in less than three hours, and he couldn’t have picked a better place to do it.
The 61-year-old Motor City native hit the milestone—and broke his own record for the longest span between a runner’s first and last sub-three-hour marathon—on Sunday, Oct. 21, at the Detroit Free Press Marathon, finishing in 2:59:03.
Kurtis, a former Detroit Marathon race director and five-time qualifier for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, said last week he intended Sunday’s race to be his last at such an impressive pace, and in a post-race interview with the Free Press, he echoed that sentiment.
“I’ll run some more marathons but I won’t be competitive anymore,” Kurtis said. “I’m just going to run for health. I want to do some other things.”
Kurtis ran his first hometown marathon in 1979, finishing 10th with a time of 2:22:23. He finished second in both 1980 and 1981, and in 1987, he began a six-year streak of first-place finishes.
While familiarity with the course might have played a role in his most recent performance—as director, he worked on the 1999 rerouting that now brings runners over the Ambassador Bridge—Kurtis told the Free Press he got a little help from an old friend he trained with in the ‘90s.
“I got really lucky today because my former training partner, Dave Chomet—we just happened to hook up, and I would not have run that fast if he hadn’t been there,” Kurtis said. “He really pulled me along.”
Next up for Kurtis: planning Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, a 10K for which he serves as race director. If his days of intense pre-marathon training are over, his regimen remains one worth following. It’s certainly served him well over the last five decades.
“The key to my success, I think is two-a-day workouts,” Kurtis told the Free Press. “Putting a the three-to-five-hour break between the halves of a daily run lets the body rest, minimizing injury risk while allowing a sharper pace for the second half of the distance.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg