PROFILE--Paul Fetscher has run 48 consecutive NYC Marathons

(1-2020) Paul Fetscher passed 100,000 running miles so long ago he doesn't remember when it happened. Never an elite runner, Fetscher has nonetheless done about all you can do in running--from the Great Wall of China to the last 48 straight NYC Marathons. Now 75, the New York City running icon is suffering through only the third running injury of his life--the other two weren't even caused by running--and will bounce back soon. Known for his quips, Fetscher sometimes likes to quote himself. "I'm running the same times I always did, I'm just not covering the same distances."

Career/Profession? President of Great American Brokerage, a commercial real estate broker specializing in restaurants and retail.

When and why did you start running? When I entered Carey High School in Franklin Square, NY. I noticed the pretty girls were walking home with the guys with the Varsity Letter jackets. Track was the only individual sport. I started as a long jumper, but my gym teacher said I had to run cross-country if I wanted to do track the next year. Little did I know I would fall in love with distance running. By the end of my first season, I was the #2 runner in my district, and I was hooked.

How much did you run in your peak years, miles/week? In the 1970’s, a 100 mile week was about par. Before the top races, more like 105 – 115 per week. I didn’t count
my aging in years. Years were divided into: getting ready for Boston; getting ready for New York. My biggest preparation for New York was weeks of 164 miles, 147, 126, 85. Hey, I had to taper.
Racing Falmouth

What were some of your top race performances, or running achievements? Third runner in NY State to break 10:00 for 2 miles in high school. Track scholarship to The Citadel. Past VP of the New York Road Runners Club when Fred Lebow was president. Founder and one-time winner (2:21:49) of the Long Island Marathon. Co-founder of the Warren Street Social and Athletic Club. Two-time record setter in Empire State Building RunUp. First American to run a marathon in East Germany and Russia.

I have run in 48 straight NYC Marathons. (I missed the first). Have completed 303 races of marathon distance or longer. When I began losing quality, I switched to quantity.

How much are you running and cross-training now? Now more like 30-40 miles a week. Does dancing count as cross-training?

Recent racing? Did two marathons last October-November. Won my  age group in the Suffolk County Marathon, and came back a week later to run eight minutes faster in New York. Sadly, both were over 5:30.

Does it bother you that you are slower now? Yes, I am frustrated that I can no longer “Go for a ride on my legs.” But I still love the sport and I love the people. Runners never chide you when they go past. We are a mutually supportive community.

Any diet or weight changes? At 6’ 3” and 170#, I’m not exactly fat. But I ran some of my fastest races around 147#. Ted Corbitt extolled the value of Vitamin C and Vitamin B Complex. Ken Cooper told me to add fish oil. I’ve also added naproxen sodium and CBD oil.

What injuries or other health issues have you faced through the years? In 60 years, I have only had three injuries that resulted in a Zero Mileage. One was a motorcycle accident. The second was tripping on bailing wire before the 2001 NYC Marathon. The third is current. What felt like a strained tendon turned out to be a stress fracture. If you have to take a month off, December and the holidays are a good time for that.

Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or two?
“It Hurts to Run Good” – Ron Lane, my h.s. track coach
“There is no such thing as a ‘Runners High’. Everyone else has a ‘Non-Runners Low’. We’re Supposed to feel good!” Jim Fixx
“When I’m having a difficult long race, I simply remind myself: Sooner or later the finish line will arrive."--Paul Fetscher 
“The starters pistol has cured more people than Oral Roberts." – Paul Fetscher
“I run the same times I used to, I just don’t cover the same distances.” – Paul Fetscher

Three tips for aspiring lifetime runners?
1--Do 80 percent of your running slow, 10 percent tempo, and 10 percent hard.
2--Enjoy the journey. You can’t run a personal best EVERY time out. But you can enjoy every run.
3--Take the time to look around, to savor the surroundings, and enjoy nature. “Be Here Now” – Baba Ram Das

How does running improve your life? Even after all these years, I still enjoy getting up at first light. Starting my day with a run clears my head and gives me the opportunity to set priorities for the day. The synapses fire better when well oxygenated. It is the best time for creative thinking and problem solving. 

What are the biggest lessons you have learned from running? I have made my dearest enduring friendships with people I have met through running. What can you say about a Ted Corbitt, a Walt Stack, a Tommy Leonard, a Billy Squires, a Jim Fixx, a Kathrine Switzer, two Johnny Kelleys, and so many others? I feel energetic and vital. I am far younger than my years and my non-running peers.

Our sport is wonderful in that it is not a Zero Sum Sport. We don’t have one winner and one loser. We race against ourselves and our own goals. At times, we toe the start with an Olympian or world-record holder. After, we often share a beer with them. Our sport is so egalitarian.

As runners, we dress without pretense. We go for runs around the world without fancy cars, suits, or watches. Instead we are open and approachable. I have had great wordless communications with a child on the streets of Moscow, with a 10 yr old kicking a soccer ball around Shanghai Stadium. I have carried crates off a junk in Hong Kong Harbor. I have run with wild horses in Nevada and seen porpoises and whales while running on both the Atlantic and Pacific. I have run a marathon on an active volcano and run through the Gates of Kiev and on The Great Wall of China. I could not have chosen a better life than that of a runner.