University of Arkansas at Little Rock Assistant Track and Cross Country Coach Alan Webb is most famously known for setting the American record in the mile, but now the former Olympian is taking on a new challenge in life and is running with it — literally.
This summer, Webb competed in his first half-marathon and full marathon races. The 38-year-old coach said he was excited to take on a new challenge in his running career, all while staying in shape and setting a good example for his family and student-athletes.
“I’ve been involved with middle and distance running my whole adult life, but I’ve never run a marathon,” Webb said. “I think it will help me be a better coach. I wanted to give myself some accountability with my own fitness. I think it’s hopeful to give myself a checkpoint and remind myself that the measure of success is seeing yourself get better. I try to teach that to our athletes. That’s what makes it fun. I can’t compete at the same level as I did at the mile distance, but this is a fun way to get physically fit. I didn’t want to abandon those gifts that I’ve been blessed with. I’m trying to be a good example to my family and athletes here at Little Rock.”
Webb ran his first half-marathon in May at the Great American River Run in Memphis, Tennessee. He did well for his first time, finishing fourth with a time of 1 hour, 13 minutes, and 14 seconds.
After his success in the half-marathon, Webb was ready for his next challenge, his first full marathon. Since the track season had just finished at UA Little Rock, the timing seemed perfect. Webb and his wife Julia discussed which road race he should compete in, and Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, kept coming up. Sadly, by the time he decided to enter, registration for Grandma’s Marathon had already passed, but several friends in the running community helped Webb, including Amby Burfoot, a former executive editor of Runner’s World magazine.
“I was fortunate and blessed enough to have some people help me get into the race,” Webb said. I want to thank Amby Burfoot and Sarah Culver and all the people at Grandma’s for helping me.”
While Webb was thrilled to compete in Grandma’s Marathon, he said the experience was very different from the half-marathon.
“I’ve heard the cliché before that it’s so different than the half. It’s so true,” Webb said. “I’d say I’m a guy who likes to learn by doing. I got what I asked for, which was to get out there and learn by doing. It’s very difficult once you get past the half-marathon point. That’s long enough as it is, and to do it twice is crazy. There was a bunch of walking in there, and I slowed down quite significantly at the end.”
Webb finished Grandma’s Marathon in two hours and 48 minutes. It was about 20 minutes past his goal, but Webb had a great time at the event.
“It was an overall great experience,” Webb said. “Duluth is beautiful and I got to enjoy that. The event itself was very well done. Speaking of grandmas, my oldest daughter came with me to watch the race and her grandma Mary and her aunt Molly came to watch. We had Joanie’s grandma watching me run at Grandma’s Marathon. Joanie got to stay and visit with her grandmother for a week, but I had to bounce out right after the race to get back home and help with our new daughter, who was just a month old at the time.”
Webb is a busy man. He is a full-time college coach and the father to four daughters, including the newest arrival to his family, two-month-old baby Bridget. Finding the time to exercise can be a challenge, but Webb had made it a priority in his life.
“I do the best I can, just like anybody who has a full-time job that wants to have a commitment to stay fit,” Webb said. “Both Julia and I support each other in fitness, and we make sure that stays a priority for us. I get up for early morning runs and find the time to do it. I can’t run as much as a professional runner would run. I have other things that keep me in shape. Physical fitness should be on the list of things you should be prioritizing, and this is a fun way to incorporate it into my life. We do team trainings with the student-athletes.”
With the new school year starting next month, Webb says most of his time will soon be devoted to practices and workouts with his student-athletes and getting ready for the fall cross country and track seasons. December is the next time he expects to compete in a marathon, but he already has a goal in mind.
“My goal for the first marathon was to beat two hours and 30 minutes,” he said. “It was a little ambitious for the first one, but I’d love to run under two hours and 3o minutes in my next marathon. I always want to improve and get better. A lot of this started with me just jumping into workouts with our student-athletes. I wanted to be fitter and get myself back in shape to be healthy. That’s how it started, just getting back to the joy of running.”