By DAVE HANNEMAN
CINCINNATI — Steve Miller ran cross country during his high schools days at Riverdale High School.
Eighteen years later he’s still running cross country — literally — 26.2 miles at a time.
Miller completed a rare feat this year, joining the exclusive ranks of the 50sub4 Marathon Club when he ran a time of 3:21.22 and finished second in the 15th annual Prince of Wales Marathon in Craig, Alaska.
The race capped Miller’s quest to not only run a marathon in all 50 states, but post a sub-4 hour time in each one as well. According to the 50sub4 Marathon Club web site, he is the first Ohio runner to ever do so.
“It was a great conclusion to this long journey,” Miller said in June via email.
That journey began on the back roads and rolling rural farmland around Riverdale High School, and ended with a float plane trip to a tiny town in the southern region of our 49th state.
Like the three-legged flight from Cincinnati, where he is an applications developer at the University of Cincinnati, to Alaska, Miller’s marathon trek has had its ups, downs and lay-overs.
An all-North Central Conference standout in track and cross country during his junior and seniors years at Riverdale, Miller hung up his running shoes when he headed off to college. But after earning a degree at Ohio State and settling down Miller felt the need to get back on track.
“Two years after graduating from OSU, I saw the result of sitting behind a computer all day, so I decided to start running again to get back into shape,” Miller said.
“I had tried to get back into it a few times, but without a goal, it didn’t really stick. I decided to train for my first marathon, (and) when looking at how to get started, I found Team in Training (TNT), the Leukemia &
Lymphoma Society’s marathon training group. By agreeing to a set fund-raising goal, I was granted access to a training plan, coach, and people to run with.”
Setting a goal did two things, both good, as far as Miller was concerned.
“I raised $4,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” he said. “And I lost 35 pounds.”
But why the marathon? Thousands of people walk, run, jog to stay in shape. Running a marathon may seem like the extreme limit of an exercise program.
But for someone with the drive and determination of Miller, a guy who graduated from Ohio State cum laude in Computer Science & Engineering, it seemed only natural.
“I chose the marathon distance because it sounded long enough to be something I would really need to train for while still being attainable,” Miller said.
“It definitely is like that mountain (because it’s there) analogy. After meeting a few people who were further along in their 50 states journey, the competitor in me was saying ‘If he can do it, of course I can do it!'”
While training for his first marathon, Miller expanded his to-do list, vowing to run at least one marathon in each of the 50 states. There would be, though, a slight detour.
“After five marathons, I took another break from running to focus on my involvement with the Greater Cincinnati Jaycees, a local chapter of an international community service and leadership development organization called Junior Chamber International,” said Miller, who, in 2005, served as president of a chapter that garnered a number of state and national awards for its work with the local community.
By 2008, Miller was back pounding out the miles. He joined the 50 States Marathon Club, then learned of an even rarer fraternity.
“After completing the Fargo (N.D.) Marathon, I had dinner with fellow 50 stater David Holmen, who told me about a more exclusive club: the 50sub4 Marathon Club,” Miller said.
“Members of this group must finish a marathon in less than four hours for the state to count. At the time, I had run a marathon or further in 33 states, but only 24 of them had been under four hours.”
Miller knew he would have to retrace some steps … thousands of steps actually. Making the 50sub4 Marathon Club would also take precise organization and planning, but he knew he could make it work.
“To juggle running on top of a full-time job and raising a two-year-old, I get up at 5:30 every morning and run before my wife and daughter wake up. Then I head to work so I can finish in time to pick my daughter up from daycare,” Miller said.
“On weekends when I wasn’t racing, I’d also squeeze my long runs early enough to still be able to spend time with my family.”
On weekends when he was racing, “marathon” was an appropriate term, and it didn’t refer just to running.
“For a lot of the states, I would drive there on Friday, run Saturday morning, and then drive straight back after the race to minimize my time away,” Miller said.
“I also started running two marathons a weekend to cut down on travel costs and to get the most out of my time away. During my 50sub4 quest, I’ve done eleven doubles.”
In December of 2012, Miller completed the Honolulu Marathon in 3:44.00 and became the 761st member of the 50 States Marathon Club. Hawaii also became the 40th notch on his 50sub4 belt.
Miller ran his first Boston Marathon in the spring of 2013. He completed the course in a personal best time of 3:01.10, and, fortunately, was sitting with his wife in a restaurant six blocks from the finish line when two pressure cooker bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 250.
Miller spent the next 18 months crossing off the final stops on his list of 50sub4 states, then ran his way into the 50sub4 record book in the wilds of Alaska where he became the 54th person to certify they had completed a sub-four hour marathon in all 50 states.
Miller has run 65 marathons to date, and several shorter events. When he can work it into his schedule he likes to make it back for the Forest Tree Town Festival, see old friends and take a run in the Tree Town Trot 5K.
“When I set my sights on the 50-state goals, I had a self-imposed rule of not running a second marathon in any state until I had completed one in all 50. It was my ‘no-repeats’ rule,” Miller said.
“But there’s always a loophole, right? I raced in a couple of half marathons, but they just seemed too short. It’s funny what your body gets used to. During half marathons, I’d get to mile 8 and I start thinking, ‘Wow, I better pick up the pace because I only have 5 miles to go.'”
Now that Miller has accomplished his 50sub4 quest his schedule may change a bit. But he’s still setting his goals high.
“I’ve finished second in four marathons, so one of my remaining goals is to win one” he said.
“The closest I came was at the Run With The Horses Marathon in Green River, Wyoming. It was in the desert plains, and I could literally feel my mouth dry out as I talked. I’m typically pretty bad about drinking enough water during a run, so I made a concerted effort to come to a complete stop at each aid station and drink two cups of water. I lost by about a minute and a half, about the time I spent at two water stops.
“On the bright side, I didn’t need to go to the hospital afterwards and was able to finish the Pikes Peak Marathon the next day. But it would’ve been nice to get that W.”
Considering what Miller has accomplished so far, you could say he already has.
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