Ready, set, teach: The fast-paced life of Professor Michael Roberts

A look into the fast paced life of ENGL&101 professor Michael Roberts.

Andrea MendozaReporter

Professor Michael Roberts ran his first marathon when he was 16 years old. He was part of a running club and his high school cross country team in the ‘70s. Born and raised in Stockton, Calif., this is where his passion for running began.

Roberts has run in more than 40 marathons, including the Boston Marathon. Since the early ‘90s, he’s run races with distances up to 50 miles.

“I started running seriously when I was teaching high school in my late ‘20s, partly to relieve stress but also to connect with some of my students who were on the cross country team,” Roberts said.

He’s run the Rock and Roll Seattle, San Francisco, and the California International Marathon eight times. Marathons have led him all over the nation, including Austin City, the Twin Cities, Big Sur, Boston and Napa Valley. He’s also run 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons.

“Running has been both a compulsion and something I have really enjoyed,” Roberts said. “It has kept me in shape and has been a great stress reliever.”

Roberts ran the Boston Marathon in 1999 at 42 years old. It wasn’t an easy task, he said, because in order to run for this marathon, he had to qualify for it.  

“I qualified for Boston at the California International Marathon in Sacramento in 1998, with a time of 2:57:28,” Roberts said.

His strongest times for a marathon is 2:57:28, for a half marathon 1:21:20, a 10K 35:58, a 5K 17:56, a two-mile 10:58 and a one-mile 5:20. Roberts’ main goal in running is to have a good experience and finish the race. Although he’s won many awards, winning isn’t the biggest importance to him. He considers himself a mid-pack runner and not hypercompetitive. As he’s aged, the idea of running fast and breaking personal records isn’t that important as the experience is.

“Mostly, I like the camaraderie I experience during the races,” Roberts said.   

Although the Boston Marathon was a highlight in Robert’s running career, he likes the Trail Ultra Marathons better. These races are typically low-key, with fewer runners and less emphasis on winning and breaking records. Ultramarathons are technically any footrace longer than 26.2 miles, though 50K (31 miles) is commonly accepted as the shortest ultra distance. Ultras can be run on roads, but the majority of them are run on trails, according to Roberts has run the American River 50 Miler three times, Shadow of the Giants 50K four times, Ruth Anderson Ultra 50K two times and the Skyline 50K once.

“My favorites, though, have been trail ultras,” Roberts said. “My latest was the Beast of Big Creek, a half marathon to the top of Mount Ellinor and back, in the Olympics.”

Even though the usual races he runs have been completed solo, he’s joined local running clubs, including Club Oly Runners in Olympia. At the age of 58, he hopes to keep running for a long time.

“I ran the International Master’s Championship Marathon and saw runners over 100 years old,” Roberts said. “I hope my own running career will last to that age.”

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Andrea Mendoza
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Ready, set, teach: The fast-paced life of Professor Michael Roberts

by Andrea Mendoza time to read: 2 min