By Lee Davis
There was a time when John Mark Goodman absolutely hated running.
As a young teenager in the Vestavia Hills school system, he participated in cross-country until deciding that enough was enough.
“I reached the point where I didn’t like running at all,” he recalled. “So I gave it up to play basketball.”
What a difference the years have made.
Now a lawyer with one of Birmingham’s top law firms, Goodman, who lives in Mountain Brook, is one of the area’s most dedicated marathon runners. He just competed in the prestigious New York Marathon. Goodman completed the 26-mile course in a time of 247 minutes, finishing 225th among male runners and 245th overall.
“I was pleased with my time,” he said last week. “New York is a really tough course. It’s very hilly for a marathon. Most people don’t think of New York City as being hilly, but going on the bridges is just like running uphill.”
Specifically, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn, and the Queensboro Bridge, which connects Queens to Manhattan, are particularly difficult, according to Goodman.
“And anyone who has ever been to Central Park knows how many hills it has,” he added.
Goodman’s New York run wasn’t his first marathon success. He was Alabama’s top male runner in the 2015 Chicago Marathon and was fifth overall in Birmingham’s Mercedes Marathon earlier this year.
“Once you get marathon running in your blood, it doesn’t go away,” he said.
Goodman’s training regimen is planned to the last detail and not for the faint of heart.
“I ran up to 110 miles per week with an average of about 90 miles per week in the 10 weeks before I began tapering off for the race,” he explained. “My longest run in preparation for the race was a 26-miler that crossed Red Mountain twice – once over Niazuma Avenue and once over the Green Springs Highway. My hardest track workout was a set of 10×1 mile intervals with a minute rest where I averaged 5:42 per mile.”
To ease the monotony, Goodman often trains with John Neiman, a fellow lawyer and close friend.
“I consider Neiman to be one of my best friends even though he went to Mountain Brook,” Goodman said, laughing.
One of Goodman’s most treasured moments was participating in the Boston Marathon in 2014, just one year after the devastating terrorist attack that shocked the world.
“It was an incredible experience,” he said. “There was so much emotion, and the people of Boston are amazing. From a running standpoint, the first 16 miles are downhill until you get to a series of hills in Newton. Later you get to Heartbreak Hill, which is very tricky – but it was an amazing race. I hope to go back.”
A graduate of Georgia Tech and the University of Virginia law school, Goodman’s renewed interest in running came once he entered the work force.
“I hadn’t run in 10 years,” he recalled. “And then I started running with some guys during lunch hour just for fun. After about two miles, I thought I was going to die – it seemed like my heart was about to explode. Then I started running every day, and I grew to enjoy it.”
In 2007, Goodman ran in the Mercedes Half Marathon for the first time. In 2009, he ran in the full marathon.
“At that point I had fallen in love with marathon running,” he said.
Goodman said he isn’t sure if he’ll run in the New York Marathon again.
“It’s kind of hard to get to from a logistical standpoint,” he explained. “You have to get up and ride the subway to a point and then take a ferry on Staten Island to get to the starting point. At Chicago, you basically just walk up to the starting line.”
But Goodman doesn’t see his marathon career ending anytime soon.
“It’s hard and a lot of work, but there’s just something about doing it that I enjoy. I have a job that can be stressful, and running is a great stress reliever,” he said. “So much of it is a part of me now.”