“The memories you develop as a runner are amazing. Some good, some bad, but always amazing.”
~Coach Marc Burg
The summer of 1984 was a life changing year for Marc Burg. It was the beginning of a long running streak, one that would take him through nearly two decades. He didn’t start out as a runner in his formative years. He grew up playing many sports, like football, basketball, tennis and golf at Onteora High School in Boiceville, New York. “I saw running as a consequence or punishment for the sport, wasn’t anything I had any interest in.”
After attending the University of Vermont, Marc headed south to the University of South Carolina, where he had earned an assistantship to work at the office of Health Promotion, and to get his Master’s degree in Hospital Administration. Everyone at the office did something at lunchtime to stay active and healthy, whether it was biking, swimming or running. It was there, that he met many other like-minded people, whom he shared miles with around the University. “I started to enjoy running and saw the benefits of running, both for physical outlet, but also in terms of mental health and stress relief and getting through grad school.”
Marc got his first internship as a teacher/coach at Lexington High School, in South Carolina. He coached cross-country, basketball and track while pursuing his Masters. A switch was flipped, he was meant to coach. He had also set his sights on attempting a marathon, and began training with one of his friends, slowly adding miles each week. Shortly after, he successfully completed the Carolina Marathon. What he remembers most about the event was the painful chafing. “There is a true need for vaseline in marathon running, I didn’t know about that the first time. I learned quickly what I needed to do differently in marathons.” He ended up running about 50 marathons over the years, including New York City, Boston, Marine Corps and Montreal, as well as many local ones. The most memorable race for Marc took place in upstate New York at the Mohawk/Hudson River Marathon. He had signed up for a marathon, and raised money for the Leukemia Society. On race day, he ended up running a double marathon, covering 52.4 miles. The course took place along the Hudson river, and the kids he coached at the local high school, supported him and ran many miles with him.
It was on his trip home to New York during the summer of 1984, that Marc and a buddy of his, came up with the idea that they would run at least two miles, everyday. Marc kept a log with his runs. “Whether I was not feeling well, or at an airport, or where ever I was, I was into keeping my streak, as long as my friend from high school was going to do it as well.” Over that streak, there were many ups and downs. “I really embraced running through that whole period of time. I was also coaching through that time. I really wanted to show people the importance of what running could do for you.”
In 2000, Marc and his wife, Ann, adopted their son, Alex from Kazakhstan, “You can imagine how difficult keeping a running streak alive while traveling from Moscow to Kazakhstan was, my wife was a saint.” Marc recalls meeting their interpreter, and asking “Can I go out for a run?” She replied, “Are you crazy? There are many who don’t like Americans, especially not to see Americans running.” He ended up running on a 500 yard path between their hotel and the orphanage for his daily runs. This continued for the next five weeks while the adoption process was completed, and culminated with them bringing home their son on the fourth of July. In 2002, the streak came to an end, “for the good of the family” Marc mentions. From 1984 to 2009, he continued to run almost daily, only missing a handful of days.
In 2009, Marc was visiting his daughter, Celia, at her college Family Weekend. While on this visit, finishing up one of his daily runs, he knew something wasn’t quite right. His back had tightened up and Marc remembers, “I fell down and couldn’t get up.” He took an ambulance ride to the local hospital where he received treatment. He knew at that time “Something was wrong with my back.” He returned home and saw his chiropractor and tried running again. He battled with back pain over the next two years, and eventually underwent back surgery to alleviate a herniated disk. Surgery didn’t relieve the pain, so he had to stop running all together. About five years later, in 2014, Marc went in for a full hip replacement. Interestingly, both of these injuries weren’t attributed to running, although he had been forced to hang up his running shoes for eight years. In the fall of 2018, he decided to take a leap of faith. After his long hiatus, he wanted to run again. So he dusted off the old running shoes, and went out for a run. Much to his delight, he discovered his body could handle it. He’s now back to running, just about everyday, usually running 3 miles with his dog. Looking back, Marc tried to recreate the feelings he got from running. “I tried to substitute running, there really isn’t any, it’s not the same.”
Marc also has done a lot of charity and volunteer work for Camp-Ta-Kum-Ta, a camp that provides challenging, and extraordinary experiences in a safe and loving environment for children who have or have had cancer and their families. Marc has brought running to the camp, raised money for the camp, and goes up to South Hero, Vermont on a regular basis to present a scholarship that was named in his sister’s honor. “I try to take a lot of what I believe as a person and running, to the various organizations I work with.”
When I asked Marc if he had envisioned himself coaching this long, he said he knew in grad school, that he didn’t want to pursue the degree he was there for. He reflected back on his first years as a coach at Lexington High school, “I’m gonna teach and coach, to the non-liking of my mother and father, and pursue education from that point forward. I kinda did know that I wanted to coach as well as teach.”
When Marc isn’t working, coaching or running, you can find him trying to keep up with his grandson, Ben. He enjoys time spent with his family and gardening. He even lit up talking about his daughter recently running her 5k race, “carrying on the tradition” he smiled. “The memories you develop as a runner are amazing. Some good, some bad, but always amazing.”