Running a marathon with the Marines

In the fall of 2009, Bob Brenk watched his wife, Christine, place third in a local 10-kilometer road race.

He had taken some time away from running, and her accomplishment motivated him to lace up and start pounding the pavement again. Since then, he's ran five half-marathons and will run his first full marathon Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C.

Brenk, 52, registered for the Marine Corps Marathon in February. He said it was limited to the first 30,000 people, and 12,000 registered within the first hour. Registration was full in 24 hours.

He is dedicating his run to LIFESPAN, a nonprofit that works with children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. His goal is to finish the race in less than four hours and 15 minutes. He also wants to raise $10,000 but is only about halfway there.

"I decided to try a full marathon at 52 since I feel very young for my age but also realize it's probably now or never," said Brenk. "The MCM in D.C. has a great reputation, it's in a great city, and this will be a memorable experience. After I ran a half-marathon in April, I took about two weeks off completely and then started again."

Serious training for the MCM started in early June.

"I run several times a week, with a long run on the weekend," said Brenk. "The idea is to start with a long run of about 10 miles and add a mile a week."

He trains at Sportscenter Fitness & Athletic Club in Concord, where he runs on a treadmill, about five miles, four days per week.

"This week will be my peak week," he said. "I ran 24 miles last Sunday, seven tonight, seven on Thursday and 16 Saturday, for 54 miles this week. I will 'taper' next, reducing the mileage and probably take at least two days off completely before the race."

Originally from Milwaukee, Brenk moved to Concord in the late 90s, after joining his father-in-law's small business, Aldo Products. The longtime Concord resident has been married 22 years and has two children, Eric and Andrea.

Brenk met Davan Cloninger, the chief operating officer of LIFESPAN through a local chapter of Vistage, a national organization of business consultants that focus on self-improvement. After hearing Cloninger speak about budget cuts, he decided to run in support of the nonprofit.

"I believe the essence of being an American is self-reliance and striving to overachieve," said Brenk. "I am trying to do this at 52 because of the challenge and the feeling of personal achievement. I want to help LIFESPAN as a way of giving back. This is what Americans are great at doing: helping those who need it."

Motivation has not been hard to come by for Brenk.

"The biggest challenge so far was the 24 miles I did last Sunday and the greatest reward was finishing that training run with the feeling that I can finish 26.2 and raise money for a very worthy cause in the process," he said. "The greatest motivation in training is knowing that this really is much bigger than me. There are many people that have pledged to help and many more on the receiving end through the work done by the Lifespan staff."

Participating in the marathon represents self-improvement and giving back for Brenk.

"Maybe not everyone can run a marathon, but anyone can try," said Brenk. "Strive to do something in life that you once thought impossible to do. Make the process a journey and you will enrich your life in ways you cannot imagine. I expect to be pretty emotional as I cross the finish line."