Teacher challenges himself with ultimate 50-mile run


COVID-19 sent the entire world into a lockdown in the spring of 2020. Everyone was informed to wear masks, stay six feet away, and put outdoor activities on hold. But that didn’t stop Joseph Monahan, 9th Grade English teacher, from running.

“I had a lot of time, so I registered for a 50-mile race,” Mr. Monahan said, “but unfortunately, it was canceled due to COVID.”

However, he kept running to prepare for the race’s return. That came this fall when he participated in the Des Plaines River Trail 50-Mile Run. After seeing it listed, Mr. Monahan was finally able to register for the race in April and start training.

“It is a huge investment in time and effort,” he said. “You have to be consistent with your practice. If it’s cold, or rainy, or snowy, or whatever, you still have to get out there and run, no matter the circumstance.”

However, motivation was never a problem.

“I deliberately told a lot of people about the race,” he said. “It put more pressure on me in a way. I didn’t want to go next door to Mr. Marvin and say ‘I couldn’t do it’, or anything like that. So that was motivation enough for me.”

Mr. Monahan was hoping to finish in the Top 10 in the race, which had 64 contestants.

“However, I was also aware that this is something I’ve never done before,” he said. “So, I didn’t know. I wanted to be optimistic, but I also didn’t want to be naive, thinking I could do something I was able to do a lot better than before.”

Not to mention, the night before the race was very rocky.

“The night before the race, I woke up at midnight, and I never went back to sleep,” he recalled. “But after going through all this training and months of preparation, I wasn’t going to make excuses.”

Being 63-years-old, Mr. Monahan was proud of himself for being able to run 50 miles.

“I finished 13 out of 64,” he  said. “And even though I hadn’t reached my goal, I’m quite proud of myself because I was the oldest male finisher, and the race was a great sense of satisfaction.”

The conditions were almost perfect the day of the race. He was healthy, the weather was great that day, but most importantly, he was excited to run the race.

“I was pretty confident that I would finish,” he said. “In my mind, I broke the race up into 5-mile segments and tried to just focus on getting through the next five miles. Once I reached 40 miles, I knew I would finish with a pretty good time.”

The trail Mr. Monahan ran was called Des Plaines River Trail, which goes on for about 60 miles.

“It was kind of like an unpaved bicycle path,” he said. “It has dirt, limestone, gravel, and a beautiful view through the woods. I guess it goes all the way to Wisconsin if you keep going.”

Mr. Monahan also wanted to thank a special someone for helping him through the whole ordeal.

“It sounds odd to be 63 and still use the word girlfriend,” he said, “but I would like to thank my significant other, Michelle. All this time, she’s had to put up with me during training, and she was there waiting for me at the finish line with her camera in hand, snapping a bunch of photos. And I wanted to take her to a nice dinner to show my appreciation for everything.”

Overall, he was really glad he was able to experience the race.

“To me, there was no point in doing the race until I was absolutely prepared,” he said. “I would not have ran the trail and crossed that finish line if I wasn’t 100% ready. And I’m glad I was.”