Run, run, run as fast as she can
A competitive spirit and a lot of energy have driven alumna Monica Huff to complete 55 marathons (maybe more by the time you read this)
In December Monica Huff (PhD ’02) put a check mark beside the last item on her to-do list. She ran the Zappos.com Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon in Nevada, the last of the 50 states in which she had vowed to run.
It was her 55th marathon overall, most of them since 2006 when a friend bet her she couldn’t run a marathon in each of the 50 states.
To celebrate, Huff, who will be 42 in April, invited friends and family to accompany her to Las Vegas. About 55 people, including husband Reign Streiter (BSEd ’93), children Gabby, 11, Scout, 10, and Wyatt, 6, her mom, dad and siblings, were there to cheer her on or run themselves, several in their first marathon.
“I’ve run so many that now it’s really fun for me to see people run one for the first time,” she says. “A lot of people get nervous before their first one, but I tell them to just enjoy it.”
Huff, a psychologist with the U.S. Navy Manpower Analysis Center, ran her first marathon in San Diego in 1999. A tennis player growing up in Clemson, S.C., she didn’t start running until she was in graduate school at UGA.
“I was working on completing my doctorate, and I’d heard that you should treat time on your dissertation like training for a marathon,” she says.
She took that idea and ran with it, creating methodical schedules for running and writing to structure her life.
She ran her second marathon in 2003 as a reward for earning her doctorate.
“For me racing is like a treat or vacation,” she says. “I go to run a marathon, but I also get to rest, relax and read magazines.”
After her second race, Huff qualified for the Boston Marathon by 14 seconds. Since 2006, Huff has run about 10 marathons a year, occasionally running two in a weekend.
“At first I thought I would need more rest between marathons, but now I think the ideal is three weeks between each one,” she says.
Three weeks gives Huff time to rest, go on a few medium-length runs and race again.
“If I’m going to run more than 20 miles, I’d rather it be part of a race than just a training day,” she says.
Her favorite marathons are the “quirky, smaller ones,” she says.
“Some of them only have about 100 runners, so you get to know people better and you feel more of a bond.”
In October 2011 she ran the Big Sur Trail Marathon in California with a woman she met on the course. They connected over their similar careers (the other woman worked for the New Zealand Air Force), motherhood and a cow that charged across the course in front of them.
“That was probably the hardest marathon I’ve ever run,” she says. “We had to hike up this huge hill just to get to the starting line, and I was walking within the first two minutes.”
Still, Huff tied for fourth place in the women’s division and was first in her age group.
A competitor at heart, Huff is on to her next challenge: to rerun the races in the five states in which she did not finish in four hours: California, Illinois, Delaware, Tennessee and New York. According to the 50sub4 club, a support group for marathon runners, if Huff accomplishes her goal she will be only the fourth woman to finish a marathon in each state under four hours.
“For me it’s more important to be able to run than to run faster,” she says. “If I’m having a bad day running makes it better, and if I’m having a good day it makes it even better.”