Many runners set lofty goals pertaining to speed and distance. But in terms of sheer long-term accomplishments, it’s hard to beat the feat that Austin’s Frank Livaudais just completed.
Last week, as he crossed the finish line of the Humboldt Bay Marathon in Eureka, CA, Livaudais finished his 200th marathon, and he racked up that number in only 15 years. That means Livaudais ran more than a marathon a month during that period. Those marathons took Livaudais—who is the VP Engineering for local marketing automation startup OutboundEngine—through 50 states, eight countries, and four continents. Wow.
Ready to Run has a first-hand account of what it was like in this interview with Frank.
RTR: When did you run your first marathon?
FL: 2/17/2002 – Austin Marathon
RTR: When did you get the idea of running many marathons. And when did you go to 200? Was it a progression?
FL: After the Austin Marathon, I wanted to qualify for Boston, so I trained and ran my second marathon (nine months later) in a 3:11:56 and missed it, so I ran another one three weeks later. I realized then I didn’t need nine months between marathons. I ran my next one in January and finally got my first BQ. My first four marathons were all in different states and I started reading about the 50 states club and thought it would be interesting to try and go for that. But I didn’t really think about it that much. Marathon #15 was Hawaii, so then it seemed like it was an attainable goal. I finished the 50 states in May of 2009 in Vermont. It was my sister’s first marathon and I went back with a high relay baton and handed it to her and ran her in the last few miles in a symbolic handing the baton off to her, but then I didn’t stop running marathons.
RTR: What was the toughest one?
FL: Comrades marathon in South Africa (2013). It’s a 54-mile race during the up year and it was one of the hottest ones on record. I also had a fractured pelvis and ran with ice down my shorts for most of the race. I’ve done Pikes Peak twice and that is probably the sorest I’ve ever been after a race. I’ve also gotten heat stroke at a couple trail 50ks and really struggled to finish.
RTR: You ran through injuries on occasion, right?
FL: I had a fractured pelvis for most of 2013, but still managed to get 12 marathons. I also pulled my hamstring at mile four of the St. George marathon in 2014 and used discarded shirts to make a hamstring tourniquet and limped my way the last 22 miles finishing just under 4:20. I pulled it again at the end of 26 but was 17-18 miles in and got an ace bandage from an aid station and tied it back together. I was mostly indestructible prior to 2013. I have run Saturday/Sunday marathons over a dozen times and once did a marathon Friday/Saturday/Sunday in three different states.
RTR: What was you fasted time? Slowest?
FL: Fastest: 2:54 in 2009 St. George. Slowest Marathon: Pike’s Peak: 5:50. Slowest marathon wearing snowshoes: 5:14 (I had the biggest blisters I’ve ever had. I had never worn snow shoes prior to running a marathon in them). Slowest run: Comrades in 10:49. I also ran the Medoc Marathon with my father in law and we stopped at all 20 wine stops and that was also a super slow time. In 2012, I ran a 3:00:01 in Baton Rouge and that was pretty frustrating!
RTR: What motivates you to keep going when it’s tough?
FL: I don’t ever want to not finish. I feel like if I DNF one time then it gets a lot easier to quit the next time. I’ve finished marathons with pulled hamstrings and fractured pelvis and heat stroke. Since I have done it so many times before I know that I can get to the finish no matter how hard it feels at the time. It may take my longer than I want and it may hurt more than I want but stopping isn’t an option.
RTR: How do you handle training when you are running more than a marathon a month?
FL: I don’t like 20-mile training runs, so I would rather run a whole marathon. My ideal would be to run a marathon every three to five weeks and use it as the long run. If you have a good day then you push hard and go for the time and if not, it was still a lot better effort than I would have put in for a regular 20-miler. Also, when you run them so often you’re never really upset if you have a bad weather day or a bad race in general. I feel bad for people who run one to two marathons a year and get a bad day: they must wait six to nine months for another chance.
RTR: How is your body after 200 marathons? Beat up? Stronger?
FL: I’m feeling better than I have in years. During 2013-2015 I had a lot of injuries ranging from a pelvis issue to bad hamstrings and tweaked knees. I’m running slower than I used to but I feel that I can keep doing this for a long time. I don’t really have the desire to go for 400 marathons, but I think I would like to run 5-6 a year and keep running Boston for as long as my body lets me. This April will be my 15th Boston and my 13th in a row.
RTR: What did you learn?
FL: I learned that you can do a lot more than you think you can. I believe that everyone can complete a marathon if they want to and that it is good for people to get out of the comfort zone. I also like that there are no race or class issue in running. You can have CEOs running with janitors and we’re all the same. Everyone wants to talk about their injuries, their next race, what to eat, etc.
RTR: Did you meet any interesting people along the way?
FL: I’ve run in a UT cycling jersey for my last 150-160 marathons or so (I don’t remember when I started doing it) and I will run into people in races that recognize me from prior races and we reconnect and have good conversations for a few miles. I’ve also met a complete range of people way faster and tougher than me. Chuck Engle has run a sub-three-hour marathon and won a marathon in every state, he’s who I’d like to be from a running perspective. At the other end of the spectrum is Larry Macon from San Antonio who has run more than 1600 marathons. When you compare it to 200, 200 doesn’t seem all that interesting!
RTR: What’s next for Frank Livaudais?
FL: I’ve recently joined the Board of the Austin Public Library Foundation. I’m really looking forward to the new library opening up downtown. I think it will be a good thing for the city. I will also keep running, but I don’t think I will ever hit 21 marathons in a year like I did in 2015. I want to run enough to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon as long as my body holds out. I enjoy eating too much to stop running. I will also run the last three continents to join the “Seven Continent Club” and I think I will also run the 50 states for a second time. I have 24 states that I’ve run at least twice. So, I am almost halfway there.
Upcoming races: Saturday, August 26, Camp Agapè 5K at Johnson Park, Marble Falls, at 8:00 a.m. Monday, September 4 (Labor Day), Labor Day Whine Run 5 Mile/5K at 7:30 a.m., Dry Comal Creek Winery, 1741 Herbelin Rd., New Braunfels