For some, running is their sport. For others, it’s something they start doing after they stop playing their respective sport in order to keep themselves fit or for their health. Mike O’Donnell grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and started off playing soccer. It wasn’t until the 1970s that he began running in marathons.
After finishing out his soccer career, O’Donnell wanted a way to keep his knees and legs going.
“I’m relatively old, so I did my first race in 1978 and I started running after playing soccer at university in deciding that I wanted to keep my knees, at least keep skin on them. I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said.
The Melbourne Marathon was first held in 1978 and has been run ever since then, even during the COVID year, although it was held virtually.
“At that time, running was sort of starting. They did their first marathon in Melbourne and they brought out a very famous American runner to headline,” he said. “That got me interested and after finishing out soccer training, I decided to start running.”
He moved to the United States in the 1980s after meeting his wife in Australia.
“I met my wife-to-be at graduate school in Australia, she was from Kansas, I lost the toss and had to move to Kansas in 1988,” he said. “We escaped to Colorado in 2000 when I was offered a position in Denver and just recently retired from that position to our little farm in eastern Colorado.”
He began running across the United States and has since moved to Kirk, Colorado. where he resides now. O’Donnell began getting interested in smaller races as the years have passed, unlike the races in the bigger cities.
“Ones like the New York Marathon, where there’s 60,000 or 70,000 people and you have to wait in the corrals at the start for like three hours before your race.”
He found out about the Monument Marathon while he was running one in a different state.
“I actually learned about it at the Colfax Marathon in Denver. There was a trade show and there was someone sitting at the table promoting the Monument Marathon,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve run a bunch of the major races and I now live in Eastern Colorado. The location is not that far from here, probably a three and a half to four hour drive, it’s just a fun run.”
His 50th marathon happened to be the Monument Marathon in 2019 and has since transitioned to the half-marathon.
“I’ve done them on and off throughout the years and I finished my 50th marathon a few years ago. Now that I’m older and don’t train as much as I used to when I was in the 70s or 80s, I’ve done a lot of half-marathons over the years,” he said. “I used to do them competitively but now, it’s more of an easy distance for me to run.”
The Monument Marathon is his favorite for many reasons, including the distance from where he lives.
“That’s the sort of thing that appeals to me the most, the fact that it’s a relatively easy, traffic-free drive,” O’Donnell said. “The fact that it’s such a community friendly run and I’ve done (the Monument Marathon) multiple times and there are more volunteers on the course than there are runners. Everyone is so friendly and cheery. It’s always been a fun experience.”
This will be the fifth or sixth Monument Marathon that O’Donnell will be competing in.
“The half marathon is always part of the marathon course and I've always enjoyed that last section of the marathon course along the dirt and up the hill past the (cemetery),” he said. “So I like that back half of the course better than the front. The half-marathon was an easy transition for me and it’s a lot of pressure, fun, relaxed, friendly, not overcrowded, it’s just an easy race to do.”