Spotlight: Part music man, part marathon man

By day, Joel Aalberts is the public relations director for the School of Music and University Productions. Since Aug. 2001, he has worked to publicize the major theater, musical theater, opera and dance productions on campus, and he has done the national public relations for the School of Music.

Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services

In his free time, Aalberts also works for the arts as a member of the board of directors of the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. But he has another, less theatrical passion: marathon running.

Aalberts, who has run 24 marathons, was not on the cross country or track teams in high school or college. He began working out as a way to lose weight. “I started running and biking, which is how I lost 40 pounds when I was 17, and maintained an interest through college,” Aalberts says.

His desire to run marathons developed while he worked for the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium. “The technical director at Iowa was a marathoner and invited me to come on a couple of runs with him,” Aalberts says. “At the end of a fairly long run one day he told me that I ran well enough that I could run a marathon if I wanted to.” A year later Aalberts ran his first event. By his 24th marathon, he had won two races and improved his finish time by one hour and 20 minutes.

Every morning, Aalberts wakes up a little before 5 a.m. to exercise before heading to his job at the School of Music. Though he takes it easier when conditions are harsh during the winter and summer, Aalberts runs about 70 miles per week preceding a race. He typically trains alone and follows a system of adding longer miles over the weekend and balancing his training with weightlifting.

A runner he met en route to the Boston Marathon told him, “If you finish, you’ve won,” which Aalberts agrees is the most important idea on race day. Still, he strives to try to run his best race each time. “Of the last four races I’ve run, I’ve improved my record three times,” Aalberts says.

“More than anything, I think I run because I like how it makes me feel and because of all the time it allows me outdoors,” Aalberts says. “Oh yes, I also get to eat lots of dessert without worrying about it. That’s also good.”


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