U.K. couple is running toward 1,000 completed marathons

Dave and Linda Major have set a Guinness World Record for the most marathon finishes by a married couple; the Majors are set to run in Sunday’s SLO marathon on Linda’s 50th birthday

jscroggin@thetribunenews.comApril 24, 2014 

Dave Major has been a chronic asthmatic his whole life. Wife Linda was born with a hole in her heart.
A breath-stealing lung disorder and a congenital circulatory defect aren’t ideal ways to start a record-breaking running career, but then again, the Majors didn’t set out to break any records.
That came merely as a byproduct of a will to live a healthier lifestyle combined with inspiration to use the marathon circuit as a unique way to travel the world.
“Running really saved my life,” said Dave from the couple’s Northampton, United Kingdom, home this week, “and it may have turned Linda’s life around. I don’t think I’d be talking to you now if I didn’t take that direction.
“We never set out to break any record. We never set out to do anything other than to keep fit and enjoy ourselves.”
Owners of the Guinness World Record for most marathons completed by a married couple, the Majors are signed up to run the SLO Marathon on Sunday, Linda’s 50th birthday and the well-traveled couple’s first race in California.
It will be the third straight running of the event after a 26-year hiatus. The 26.2-mile race starts at 6 a.m. and covers an eight-hour closed course that opens at San Luis Obispo High and ends at Madonna Inn with detours through downtown, Edna Valley and wine country.
A concurrent half marathon starts at 6:30 a.m. Sunday with a 5K and two children’s races scheduled for Saturday.
The Majors are listed by Guinness as record-holders with 751 marathons completed between them during their marriage, a union that began in 2004. Since that mark was verified more than a year ago, they count nearly 200 more races they’ve completed.
With Sunday’s run and the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in Humboldt the following weekend, the Majors will claim 980 finishes and plan to pass 1,000 before year’s end as Dave, 49, nears his 600th marathon and Linda closes in on her 400th.
It all began one night after a 29-year-old Dave was told by doctors that his destructive, unhealthy lifestyle consumed by drinking and smoking would have him on oxygen or dead in six years.
That was all the motivation he needed to lose weight, and after the popularization of asthma inhalers in the early 1970s, the condition that kept Dave from playing soccer and other sports in his youth was under control.
“In 1974, I went out at 10 at night,” Dave said. “I was so embarrassed because I was so big. I wanted to go out when it was dark. I ran just under two miles in 30 minutes.”
A year later, Dave was running back-to-back six-minute miles.
Co-workers at a Kodak office outside of London, the couple began dating, and soon after, Dave was encouraging Linda, who’d never run a race before, to join him in his hobby.
Long since recovered from her infant heart defect, Linda’s first event was an emotionally charged New York Marathon directly following the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
That first run was also so physically demanding for Linda, she swore she’d never enter another marathon. But after a year off from running, she got back into it when Dave decided to run a race in Las Vegas.
Now, the couple runs a marathon each week, sometimes two each.
The Majors have run in South Africa, Dubai, Thailand, Jamaica, Hawaii, Arizona, Florida and all across Europe.
They’re far from the fastest runners in any field. Sometimes pacing together, other times mingling to make new friends, Dave and Linda will finish the course in four or five hours. Last year’s SLO Marathon winner, former Texas All-America cross country runner Joe Thorne, crossed the line in just under 2 hours, 38 minutes. 
But the Majors are healthy and happy, and their chosen form of tourism gets them unique access.
For example, part of the marathon course set in Belfast, an area of longtime conflict in Northern Ireland, leads through territory normally closed off to the public.
The marathon in Italy’s capital takes runners past the Vatican to thousand-year-old Roman ruins.
“The most enjoyment is to actually see places where a tourist wouldn’t get to see,” Linda said.
“As a tourist, you wouldn’t get to see the backstreets. When a marathon happens, you open up the gates and you meet people. There are some buildings you can go through you normally wouldn’t be allowed to pass through.
“It gives you a different outlook on the world. We’ll get to see beautiful places. We’re going to come down to San Luis Obispo, which some people have never heard of before.”
Fortunate timing is what leads the Majors to the Central Coast. An Internet search for races, coinciding with Linda’s birthday revealed the SLO Marathon, and the couple decided to make a West Coast swing out of it.
For the Majors, individual races are as much a cultural event providing backdrop for their social lives as they are about health, which they never would have found out without the motivation to start and the commitment to a routine.
“You get over the fact that I’m not necessarily the fittest person in the world,” Dave said. “My lungs don’t work. I take steroids to lead a normal life. You need to do the best you can with what you’ve got.
“You might not win the race. You might even come in last, but you can still participate and enjoy.”

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