52 Marathons In 52 Weeks? Ex-Smoker Sets Ambitious Running Goal | NBC Bay Area
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52 Marathons In 52 Weeks? Ex-Smoker Sets Ambitious Running Goal

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(Published Friday, Feb. 17, 2017)

By the end of 2017, Greg McQuaid will have run a total of 1,362.4 miles.

That may sound like a lot, but McQuaid just thinks of it as running 26.2 miles every week for 52 weeks.

On second thought, that still sounds like a lot.

"Why don't I do a marathon every week?" McQuaid said. "Everybody thought I was crazy and Sam, my wife, thought I was crazy and perhaps I am crazy."

It may be crazy, but it's crazy with a purpose.

Marking the 10th anniversary of when he quit smoking, the 47-year-old San Francisco man is running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise $100,000 for Breathe California Golden Gate.

“I always like to have a goal and a challenge,” McQuaid said. “I’m pretty confident that it can be done.”

Raised in Dublin, Ireland, McQuaid came to the U.S. in the 1990s to pursue a career as a drummer in a rock n’ roll band. Though that particular dream was short-lived, his love of music prevailed.

McQuaid, better known to listeners as "Irish Greg," had been a fixture on Bay Area radio as a host and producer for the past three decades until his departure from KFOG in 2016.

It was while searching for a new way to fill his time, that he stumbled onto his 52 marathon idea.

McQuaid had recently been invited to join the board of directors of Breathe California Golden Gate, a nonprofit whose mission is focused on reducing lung disease.

McQuaid believed, as an ex-smoker and asthmatic, he was in a unique position to make a point about living a healthy post-smoking life.

McQuaid began smoking at the age of 15. For Irish teens in the 80s, he said this was not uncommon.

“It's almost like a rite of passage,” McQuaid said. “My lungs took a terrible beating in Ireland.”

He smoked a pack-a-day for the next twenty years. But in 2007, after stewing on some advice his mom gave him a few years prior, he turned in his cigarettes and lighter for a pair of running shoes.

“I replaced smoking with another addiction, which was exercise,” McQuaid said. “I (needed) to make some changes. I (needed) to do positive things.”

Shortly before quitting, McQuaid had begun to incorporate walking and jogging into his regular routine. But after making the official decision to stop smoking, he really began to hit the ground running.

Just like the radio bug bit him all those years ago, now it was the exercise bug. He entered the Ride to End AIDS and shortly after, the San Francisco Half Marathon. After surprising himself by completing the 13.1 mile trek, he even took a trip back home to run the Dublin Marathon.

The hardest, though, were the treadmill marathons he ran while at KFOG to raise money for chairities.

“Four hours on a treadmill in a hot radio studio,” McQuaid said. “I swear that that is more daunting to me than running 52 marathons in 52 weeks.”

In addition to hosting and producing a live audience music podcast, McQuaid is a music researcher at the music startup Louder. The typical 9-to-5 schedule is a change of pace for the former radio host who now has to carve out time to train during the week.

While the fundraising aspect of the endeavor is important to McQuaid, his overarching goal is to show other smokers that they too can put down the cigarettes for good.

“It's not as hard as they think,” McQuaid said. “You can lead a healthy lifestyle.”

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