Marathon man Steve Neibergall completes 100th marathon in Kenya …

 and has now run race on all seven continents

runner11n-5-webAfter 100 marathons on all seven continents, Steve Neibergall is finally taking the time to slow down. The 52-year-old Safeway executive, who lives in Annapolis, just completed the Safaricom Marathon in Kenya.

After 100 marathons on all seven continents, Steve Neibergall is finally taking the time to slow down.

The 52-year-old Safeway executive, who lives in Annapolis, just completed the Safaricom Marathon in Kenya, running the 26.2 mile race through the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in the country’s northern region, past African wildlife and across the savannah.

But Neibergall, who is the president of the eastern division of the supermarket chain Safeway, wasn’t always into extreme running. He told the Daily News that while he ran track and field in high school, the idea of long races seemed daunting when mixed with life’s other obligations.

He started his career as a grocery store clerk, moving up to being a store manager. “As a clerk, you don’t have the time,” he said. “Then you start having children, and life gets busy.”

But, after becoming a supermarket manager, Neibergall spent a good amount of time on his feet, walking around the store.

That led him to run a few miles a week. It was then around 2004 when a friend said that training for half marathons and marathons only involved one “long run” each week – around 10 to 13 miles.

The weekday runs weren’t much different – so Neibergall, who wanted to lose some extra weight, started training.

His first marathon was the 2005 Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in Phoenix. He made it to the finish line in just under four hours, but was in agony. “Immediately after crossing, I couldn’t walk,” he said, feeling the lactic acid take over his muscles.

Neibergall running the Antarctica Marathon - only 100 people are allowed on the continent at any one time, and he had to wait five years for his turn to run.

COURTESY STEVE NEIBERGALL

Neibergall running the Antarctica Marathon – only 100 people are allowed on the continent at any one time, and he had to wait five years for his turn to run.

Though he thought of running seemed daunting, Neibergall’s interest was piqued. “I kind of figured it was run and done, but I was still reading about running, and I didn’t know about the specifics – the shoes, the Goop, and such.”

By 2007, Neibergall had incorporated speed workouts into his running regimen, and found the proper gear. He decided to run the marathon in Austin, Tx., a qualifier for that year’s prestigious Boston Marathon.

And that was the real watershed moment. “Once I qualified for Boston, I just started running some of the California marathons – Lake Tahoe, San Diego, Redwood Country, Big Sur.”

His wife, Deborah, joined him for many of them, often running a half marathon to his full, and meeting up after the race.

Then, a friend told him about the 50 States Club, a group of runners who set out to run the punishing race in all 50 states, including Hawaii and Alaska. He completed that in 2011.

“I said, that would be fun, but my wife thought I was kind of crazy,” Neibergall said. “Still, she’s been very supportive.”

When asked how he has managed to afford the many races across the country and across the world, he told the News: “It’s a big commitment. They should call it the $50,000 club,” noting the steep cost of registration fees, airfare, and hotels.

The Maryland resident in front of the Rio de Janeiro map in Brazil.

COURTESY STEVE NEIBERGALL

The Maryland resident in front of the Rio de Janeiro map in Brazil.

“It does get expensive.”

While chipping away at Massachusetts (the 2008 Boston Marathon,) he heard of the Seven Continents Club, an ever-more ambitious running group that sought to run marathons on all seven continents, including Antarctica.

Even getting to the southernmost continent was an adventure – Neibergall had to fly into Buenos Aires, then to Patagonia, and from there, a bare-bones Russian steam liner took them across the extremely violent Drake Passage.

“We had one day where the waves were 30 feet tall and you had to hold on for dear life,” he said.

After arriving on terra firma, Neibergall and 100 other runners began preparing for the 26.2-mile race on the coldest place on earth. “You’re worried about falling,” he explained – even though he went during the summer, the temperature was still 10 degrees below freezing, and the rocky terrain was littered with slick patches of ice and snow.

“It was like running on the surface of the moon.”

While Neibergall made it through the race without incident, other runners were treated for bumps, bruises, scrapes, and turned ankles.

And with the SafariCom marathon, Neibergall has completed his 100th marathon, logging some 2,620 miles and countless others from training. To celebrate, he and his wife are slowing down a bit.

Neibergall fininishing the Boston Marathon in 2008. He ran it again this year, but was stopped at the 25-mile mark because of the bombings.

COURTESY STEVE NEIBERGALL

Neibergall fininishing the Boston Marathon in 2008. He ran it again this year, but was stopped at the 25-mile mark because of the bombings.

Neibergall also ran into several bouts of bad luck. He was scheduled to run the 2012 ING New York City marathon with famed blind marathon runner and triathlete Charlie Plaskon, serving as his eyes for the race.

But in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called off the annual race. “We were really disappointed,” he said.

Neibergall and Plakson thought they’d give it a second shot and made plans to run the 2013 Boston Marathon. But after reaching mile 25, they were told to stop.

“We were devastated that it happened,” Neibergall said, but added that his family just narrowly avoided disaster on two fronts – his wife, Deborah, had been waiting at the finish line across from where one of the bombs would soon go off.

But because someone had inadvertently shoved her, she had hurt her back and slipped back to her hotel room for some painkillers. It likely saved her life.

“We were very lucky,” he said.

The executive still plans to run a marathon or two each year. In the meantime, he calculated how many laps he’d need to take around the cruise ship in the Mediterranean – around 200.

“My wife calls running my mistress, but she’s still supportive,” he said.

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source: New York Daily by Beth Stebner

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Categories: Runners, Sports

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