DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jimmie Johnson is aiming for 90 to 100 miles per week. He’s put in 70 miles in each of the last five weeks, and come April, he hopes to be doing more — but not behind the wheel of his No. 48 Chevrolet. With his own two feet.
Distance running is among the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champ’s many active hobbies, which also include skiing, cycling and triathlons. Before qualifying for the Daytona 500 and The Clash exhibition race Sunday, Johnson completed the Daytona Beach Half Marathon, finishing second in his early-40s age group and 15th overall.
Tuesday, the 43-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver announced his plans to compete in the Boston Marathon on April 15 — his first 26.2-miler and an item on his bucket list.
“You hear these killer stories about the energy, the excitement, the people, what it’s like, and I just want to experience it,” Johnson told For The Win on Wednesday.
Johnson said he was watching the Boston Marathon on TV in 2013, the year of the bombing, and he was inspired by the city’s “Boston Strong” message in response.
Scheduling is always a challenge, however, as many marathons are on weekends, conflicting with NASCAR events.
But the Boston Marathon is on a Monday, and this year, it follows the race Saturday night at Richmond Raceway in mid-April. The timing is perfect without a traditional Sunday NASCAR race, and Johnson will have a little more than a day to recover from that and travel to Boston.
However, that quick turnover is the least of his worries. Johnson ran a 7:12-minute mile in Sunday’s half marathon, saying he treated it like any other training run. But preparing for a race twice as long is a different beast — especially with NASCAR racing all nine weekends leading up to the famous marathon, starting with Sunday’s Daytona 500.
He said the longest distance he’s done at one time is 22 miles, and every Monday, he puts in 20. He has a detailed training plan to help him up his mileage ahead of the Boston race, starting with “many early mornings.”
“Thankfully with running, you can take 30-minute windows and chip away at your volume for a week,” Johnson said.
“So if I run into a 30- to 45-minute window, I’ve got my shoes on as fast as I can and knock out five or six miles. Do that two or three times during the day, and you’re at 12 (to) 18 miles before you know it.”
Johnson is hardly the only NASCAR driver in this kind of exceptional shape. 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray, 42, and Landon Cassill, 29, joined him in the Daytona half Sunday, finishing fifth and 87th overall, respectively. The course included a lap around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway and a jog down the beach between miles seven and eight.
“I run, while not every day but most days anyway, 10 to 15 miles,” said McMurray, who averaged a 6:54-minute mile. “To run 13 miles isn’t that big of a deal. I …read more