This Strava-Famous Wisconsinite Tries to Run a Marathon Every Single Day

Can any human body take that kind of beating?

This Strava-Famous Wisconsinite Tries to Run a Marathon Every Single Day
Brett Jordan/Unsplash
By Tanner Garrity / May 5, 2020 6:30 am

Outside’s Stephanie Pearson first found Michael Shattuck on Strava back in the summer of 2019, when the anonymous Wisconsinite runner was averaging an astonishing 250 miles a week. That’s 50 more miles than an ultra runner’s weekly plan of 200 miles per week (a figure many in the running community are reticent to even believe), and over 100 more miles more than the training regimens of Olympians who compete in 5Ks and 10Ks.

As Shattuck’s notoriety grew (he now has 4,000 followers on Strava, with supporters as far away as Australia), Pearson paid a visit to his home in Wisconsin, 90 miles northwest of Milwaukee, where for the majority of 2019, Shattuck was trying to run a full marathon every single day. The trip, and her subsequent story, sought to answer some crucial questions: Why a marathon a day? How does he do it? Can a human body even sustain it?

What Pearson found was an all-or-nothing 42-year-old captivated by the gritty, masochism of Navy SEALs,  grappling with years of trauma (the loss of friends, the loss of a steady job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) and battling bipolar disorder. The last point, Pearson explains, plays a crucial role in Shattuck’s running and his ongoing quest to achieve a world record for the greatest daily mileage average over the course of a year. His routine — seven banana smoothies, one to three hour nightly sleeps, runs during polar vortexes — is extreme, but it’s preferred, by both Shattuck and his family members, to the dark places his manic depression can otherwise bring him to.

There’s some research into this. “Lifestyle interventions” like exercise and dietary changes have been shown to help those with bipolar disorder, and the extreme sport community has its share of participants with the disorder, who more commonly sign up for mountain biking and rock climbing. Running, at least for Shattuck, might be an example of this.

But while running might supplant degenerative alcohol abuse, drug use, or overeating (behaviors Shattuck struggled with in the past), more discussions are needed about whether excessive exercise is really an effective alternative for treatment. Shattuck runs at a relatively leisurely pace, with 10:00-minute miles, but he runs so many of them. He had to take an official break in January of this year, due to issues pretty much everywhere, with his knees, calves, groin, heels, and even ribs, from a nasty tumble.

Still, before shutting the operation down, Shattuck had run marathons on 423 days in a row. Later this month, he plans to a new streak, of 2,013 straight days, to honor Captain Charlie Plumb. The Navy fighter pilot was shot down in Vietnam and tortured as a POW for 2,013 days.

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