LENEXA, Kan. -- A suburban Kansas City man who recently completed his quest of running marathons in all 50 states before the age of 50 credits a pair of gloves "delivered from the heavens" with getting him through his first one.
Forty-nine-year-old Austin Braithwait, whose final stop was a June 22 race in Duluth, Minnesota, ran his first marathon in Kansas City, Missouri, during an ice storm.
When Mile 16 rolled around, his hands were "freezing" and Braithwait was ecstatic to spot what looked like a pair of gloves lying in the middle of the course. Braithwait, then 26, was convinced one of the three runners ahead of him would snatch them up, leaving him to brave the elements for the remaining 10 miles. None did.
"I'm not sure I would have finished," Braithwait told The Kansas City Star, "had those not been delivered from the heavens."
Braithwait, of Lenexa, Kansas, called the experience "miserable," and he waited eight more years before running another one. But eventually he was hooked, leading UMB Bank's corporate trust during the week and running marathons on the weekends. Often his wife, Janna, and two children, Janna and Ritter, joined him.
Schedules often followed a similar pattern: a work meeting on Friday, a marathon on Saturday and a trip home on Sunday.
Some weekends, including on a trip in the South, he ran a marathon in Mississippi on a Saturday and one in Alabama on Sunday. Ditto for one time on the East Coast, when Braithwait ran in Pennsylvania and New Jersey on back-to-back days.
Despite all the marathons he has run-- 85 in total -- Braithwait describes himself as something of a "hack" on the preparation side of things. He considers finishing in the top third or top half a successful outing.
He said that clocking faster times requires "a lot more time than I have to give from a work and family standpoint."
His best preparation often came via raw experience. Braithwait used the base he acquired from the 10 to 12 marathons he ran per year to prepare for the following ones.
"There's definitely a sense of accomplishment," Braithwait said.
"It's been cool to have that goal out there for the last seven or eight years and really seeing, 'OK, I'm making progress.'"
As for the gloves he found all those years ago, well, those aren't coming out of his drawer for running gear any time soon. They're a keepsake of sorts.
Said Braithwait, chuckling: "I've never had the heart to throw them away."