Denis Desmond has been a long time member of FRWSD and recently completed his 50th Marathon in Austin. Long known for his endurance and perseverance with his running, Denis now also bikes centuries every week. He’s been a member of the board in several roles including Chair in 2004. And get some insight from Devin, his partner, on what really happens.
(Austin Finish Line 2022)
What in particular got you interested in running?
It was really just intended to get in better physical shape. My brother and sister have always been super athletes, and my sister convinced me to try running. She trained and ran with me for my first marathon in Long Beach in 2000. That got me hooked on marathons!
What motivates you to stay focused during these events?
Snacks at the finish line! And the medal. And although I ran a lot of marathons multiple times (Rock and Roll San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, etc.), I try to pick interesting places to keep my mind on sightseeing and not on running. It’s a great way to tour a new city, running 26 miles that you’d probably mostly never see otherwise. Some are more interesting than others, of course.
What’s the most memorable one?
That’s the hardest question because so many funny and interesting things in every marathon. A few: Guadalajara – which was incredibly well-organized and every family along the route came out to cheer the runners. Paris (the city where I was born) where they handed out whole bananas at water stations (banana peels on cobblestones!). El Paso, running practically solo across the desert at sunrise. Boston, running together with my brother, sister, and sister-in-law. Lisbon, where Mario M. got us in the elite runners’ tent before and the VIP tent after. Hoover Dam, finishing with a bloody head wound after tripping and headbutting a rock wall at Mile 6. And…Austin this year, when Devin, Luis, Ruben and Rey all cheered me on at Mile 25 to get through the last UPHILL mile! I’ve only placed twice: Santa Clarita in 2014 (3rd in my division) and Hoover Dam last year (1st in my division – there were only a couple of us!).
(Bakersfield & Long Beach)
There’s a lot of intense training for most people, yet you seem to be able to run a marathon with no training at all! How many hours do you dedicate to your preparation? How do you keep at the top of your game and how do you prevent injuries?
I think I would do better if I did that intense training, but my way was to stay marathon-ready by running one every few months, with some long runs in between. I’ve been less successful at preventing injuries, especially recently as I feel the wear on my knees, back, and other parts. But I really admire members like Debbie, Khalid, James H., Dan Katz and others who focus and improve through incredible discipline and hard work. They’re my inspiration to run better. I’ve had many running injuries, but my first instinct is, “run through it!” Not always the best advice clinically-speaking, and I’ve definitely been sidelined before.
Is there a BIG goal that you are aiming for?
My running goal was to complete 50 marathons, but now that’s done and I’ve had to reduce running as parts are wearing out. So I’m trying to augment it with more bicycling, which I really enjoy. Now I’m focused on my biking goal of riding every street in San Diego. That’s a whole new adventure that Luis S. and Ken P. suffer through while I drag them to every corner of the city on our Sunday rides.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being able to participate in such a rarefied arena?
I think for all runners there’s a sense of accomplishment after every run. Since my goal was 50 marathons, I’m happy to have achieved that, even if it took me 22 years and some of them weren’t particularly fast.
What are the other hobbies that you have when you are not training or competing?
So many things and not enough time. Mainly cycling at this point, but also: traveling, photography, model car and plane collecting, and planespotting. (I’m a plane geek!)
And for Devin – you’ve been an amazing support for Denis and you, yourself have quite a few races under your belt. You’re a constant at the Sunday events! What motivates you?
FOMO. I was very against running when I originally met Denis. I never liked it as a kid and basically dreaded every time we were forced to run for P.E. But eventually Denis and his friend Carrie started running together because she wanted to prepare for a race and I slowly picked it up and ran with them. At some point, only Carrie and I ran together because we were too slow for Denis. For me now, it’s a great time to get out, get some exercise, listen to podcasts, and basically have some time to disconnect from the world.
Do you have a big goal? Any insight on how Denis trains for the events?
My only goal is to stay active and to keep connected with the FRWSD who have become a second family to both of us! I always wanted to run one race with Denis, but I’m too slow and he just leaves me in the dust.
Denis typically doesn’t have a very regimented training plan for races. About 1-2 weeks before, he will do a long run to make sure he can do the distance, but one thing I’ve always found amazing about him is that just being in a race gives him the energy and willpower to finish, regardless of his training and preparation. He also never stretches, which is amazing in and of itself.
Even when he joined the Boston Marathon training group, he didn’t follow their plan and kind of did his own thing at some point in the program! But that never stopped him from crushing the race!