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IF YOU GO

Who: Greg McQuaid running the Santa Rosa Marathon

What: Quest to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks

Why: Raise money and awareness for Breathe California

When: Start 6:30 a.m. Sunday

Where: Old Courthouse Square

Info: www.crowdrise.com/52-marathons-52-weeks

If you ask Greg McQuaid what he’s doing this weekend, it’s a fair bet his answer will be some variation of “I’ll be running.”

McQuaid, 47, has been running every weekend for the past 33 weeks. Not that unusual, you say? Well, what if I told you he’s run a marathon every weekend for the past 33 weekends?

On Sunday, he’ll attempt to keep his streak going at the Santa Rosa Marathon.

But it’s less a streak than a commitment.

Last November, McQuaid, a former radio DJ (he was “Irish Greg” on KFOG) who lives in San Francisco, decided to run a marathon every weekend to benefit Breathe California, a nonprofit clean air and anti-smoking advocacy group he had joined as a board member.

In some ways, McQuaid doesn’t seem to fit as a Breathe California booster. After all, he spent 20 years as a pack-a-day cigarette smoker.

But in other ways, it makes total sense. He’s dealt with asthma his whole life and he’s now a decade into being cigarette-free.

So McQuaid tried to think of something to both mark his 10 years without a cigarette and also garner a little attention for Breathe California. A longtime runner and veteran of between 25 and 30 marathons before this quest began, McQuaid committed to running a marathon every weekend for all of 2017.

Then he told people.

“When you put it out there on social media, you are kind of stuck doing it,” he said.

His marathons are not always official; they are not always wicked fast — but they are always 26.2 miles or more and they are always documented on social media. Sometimes people following his journey will join him on runs, either running with him or riding bikes.

He ran the Los Angeles Marathon in 4:23, the Oakland Marathon in 4:12 and the Big Sur Marathon in 4:12.

When he runs official events, like the Santa Rosa Marathon, McQuaid inevitably gets questions about his shirt advertising his pack-a-day past and his commitment to 52 marathons in 52 weeks.

He’s happy to share.

“Even clean air has become political,” he said. “The Paris Climate Accord is under threat, the people running the EPA don’t care particularly about the clean air … but the wonky side of climate change and clean air takes a back seat to my narrative of not smoking and giving up smoking.”

McQuaid started smoking at 15, growing up in Dublin, Ireland.

“It was Ireland in the ’80s; it felt like everybody smoked, it was always around,” he said. “I had been a tennis player and suddenly discovered music and girls and my whole world changed.”

He added, “I also have asthma, so I’m an even bigger idiot.”

It all made him feel rotten, but he did little to change his lifestyle until he decided a decade ago to go cold turkey on the cigarettes.

“You get sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said.

Without cigarettes, he turned to other fixations.

“That’s when I did the classic addition thing, I got all into this,” he said.

IF YOU GO

Who: Greg McQuaid running the Santa Rosa Marathon

What: Quest to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks

Why: Raise money and awareness for Breathe California

When: Start 6:30 a.m. Sunday

Where: Old Courthouse Square

Info: www.crowdrise.com/52-marathons-52-weeks

“This” is running and cycling.

“I was really a better cyclist, but my wife got sick of broken bones,” he said.

When McQuaid committed to the 52-marathons-in-52-weeks pledge, he didn’t give it a ton of thought. He knew he could easily complete the 26.2 miles, so why not rip one off every weekend?

“I didn’t think a lot about the whole thing, how difficult it would be,” he said.

Sometimes, he’ll do an official half-marathon, but makes sure he gets in 26.2 miles by running to or from the event.

Then he spends the next five days recovering. Essentially, he trains for marathons by running them.

It hasn’t always been easy. He’s learning what works for his body as he goes.

He hasn’t gotten sick or injured, but he has definitely been sore and crampy.

Early on in the journey, McQuaid was giving a post-marathon talk to an audience that included a bunch of young school kids. He started to cramp — violently. Stricken and contorting in pain, it was quite the scene, he said.

“There were all of these children terrified, wondering what was going on,” he said.

He has since become a devotee of regular massage. He also walks to work to keep his legs moving but not pounding.

“Muscle pain is something you can deal with, but if it’s skeletal, you are in trouble,” he said.

One of the pitfalls of making a very public vow and a very public commitment to fundraising? You are sometimes stuck taking your show on the road to gin up support.

Moral support has been strong. Financial support? Not so much.

McQuaid’s goal by year’s end is $100,000. At last check he was at $7,400. He surmises that the political environment and campaigns asking for advocacy dollars might be diverting attention away from more traditional charities.

Despite being a bit disappointed with his fundraising prowess so far, McQuaid said he’s had very few bad days.

Sure, the day it rained steadily as he ran all the way from Sausalito to Fairfax wasn’t a hoot, but he’s remained healthy and in a good head space for the better part of eight months.

He’s looking forward to running the Santa Rosa course Sunday.

“I know it’s grown a lot over the years,” he said. “Everyone tells me great things.”

After that, he’ll prep for a homecoming of sorts when he runs the Dublin Marathon in October. Then it’s the push on to the finish.

But if you see McQuaid on the course Sunday, go ahead and ask him about his shirt and his journey. The former DJ is not afraid to talk. Plus, he likes the company out on the road.

“It makes life a lot easier than just trudging along on my own,” he said.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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