Challenging Himself to 50 Mile Runs and Ironman Aspirations Begins with Workouts at the YMCA

My Y Story: Steve Mason


45-year-old Steve Mason of Merrimack sets the bar high for himself. Very high. He has always been physically fit, but has upped his game with a recent indoor run at the Merrimack YMCA.

On Saturday, February 26, he arrived at the Merrimack YMCA when the doors opened at 6:00am. Within minutes he was running on the indoor track. The goal: Run 50 miles. At once. He put his earbuds in and focused on the challenge, all while listening to mix of rock, alternative, music, rap, and country.

“I like to go after things… when I set my mind I don’t stop unless there is a reason. I set my mind that I was going to run 50 miles that day. I planned out my nutrition needs and water needs for the day. I want the best times possible, so I had to plan for very short breaks. I thought about running in the same direction. If I did all my laps in one direction, it could hurt me. My plan was when no one was on the track, I will run in opposite direction.” Although this was the plan, there was fairly continuous action with runners and walkers on the track that Saturday, also.

“There were people who wanted to talk… and some wanted to run with me. I don’t think I told anyone what I was doing. There was one woman power walking on the track. I think she wanted to outlast me. She power-walked for 4 hours!

It was cool to see all the different people on the track and what they were doing. The space was loaded with people playing basketball, tennis, and hockey, I was amazed … it’s serious business and was like watching pro hockey players lacing up.”

Y tennis coach and member services representative Dick Lane watched more than three hours of Steve’s lengthy run. “I taught three sessions of tennis lessons and watched him run at an amazing pace for hours. I was in awe of his stamina and was wondering what his goal was. One of my students said, ‘there he goes again!’,” Dick said.

Steve ran for eight continuous hours – 50.4 miles, with an average pace of 9:55 minutes per mile. He ran a total 385 laps! (His Strava fitness tracking app told him his moving time was a total of 8 hours, 16 minutes). He said he was not in pain the day after his run. “I did feel discomfort in my right knee and my right ankle, which was the leg I turned on. With the track banking a bit, I felt that. I did run that Monday and still felt it. I was asked by friends to run a 50K in Virginia spur of the moment the weekend after and I ran with no problems!,” he shared. The friends drove down, ran the 50K and drove back to New Hampshire, all with 48 hours!

When asked about how he manages eight hours of constant movement, he shared, “I have a lot of experience with Gu packs (energy packs for runners). I can stomach it. It gives me what I need to continue to go. It’s not the best. I crave real food. It’s so easy to rip the top off that package. I will eat 1 to 2 an hour. And I will take between 2 and 6 salt chews every hour, too. I’m drinking as much water as I can. I stop briefly to eat a Gu, salt tabs. And drink water. And take a quick restroom break.”

“For me I need to challenge myself and I feel like running on pavement for me isn’t enough of a challenge. Even the indoor track, the purpose of the track was more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. You have to stay focused and not lose it. It was physically hard, but mentally exhausting,” he said. “I’ve done some big treadmill runs at the Y, 20 milers. But, I’m more of a trail runner. I enjoy being in mountains and different challenges that we have here in New Hampshire. I do 5ks with my daughter and some obstacle course races. But my love is being outdoors running in the mountains. I like to challenge myself so every year it could be something different. I took up rock climbing a couple of years ago, but I always run and it’s always part of the mix.  Last year I set a goal to do big challenges in the White Mountains. I hit 3,000 miles and got 1.6 million feet in elevation gain. This is equivalent of climbing Mount Everest from the ocean once a week. I was able to tick off all the goals that I put down on paper.

Being a member of the Y has been a family affair for him. He joined with his son in 2012 when his then 14-year-old son Chad wanted to power lift. Steve power lifted competitively in his youth, and was happy to share his knowledge with Chad.

Late last year, his daughter Paige, age 14, joined him at the Y. She, too, was interested in power lifting. Paige is also into running and hiking. Steve was glad to move his workouts inside at the Y, as he had his fill of running in the cold weather and rain.

Steve’s accomplishments go beyond his running. He is a frequent lap swimmer at the Merrimack YMCA. One goal this year is to do a full Ironman. “I’m not a triathlete. I’ve never done a triathlon. I jumped in the Y pool end of January. I swam as a kid. Never freestyle stroke. When I started swimming at the Y, I could only swim one lap and had to take a 30 second break. Last week I swam 2.75 miles, which is over an Ironman swim. I was happy to be able to do this swim under the cutoff time that I would need to do for an Ironman. I’ve been training pretty regularly so I can accomplish this goal. I’ve been working out three times per week with weights. Running and biking.” Steve is a truck driver by trade and makes deliveries all around New England. He sets his own hours and is able to get his workouts in by waking up early and getting his job done before focusing on working out. “Today, I was up at 2am and out the door at 2:20!,” he said.

“Almost my entire life I have struggled with alcohol and drugs. Eight years ago I gave all that up. This has been a huge part of my therapy… being outside doing physical activity like this and challenging myself. When I quit, I was afraid. I was not sure how I could survive. I believed that the only way to have fun was using alcohol and drugs. But, I’ve had more fun in the last 8 years, than in my entire life. I’ve done amazing things and been to amazing places that I never would have seen.”

Steve Mason, you are an inspiration! Your Y friends are cheering you on as you hit your personal goals and plan for your first Ironman!


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