In early June, Joseph Seeley (’94) completed the San Diego 100, an endurance trail run in Lake Cuyamaca, clocking in at just under 31 hours — marking his tenth 100-miler in 10 years. The achievement is all the more impressive since he is a relative latecomer to following the footsteps of Pheidippides.
“I got into the software industry back when the dotcom era was just taking off,” recalls Mr. Seeley, the Owner of Seeley Solutions, LLC, who previously worked for eight years as an enterprise solutions architect at Amazon Web Services. Between the stresses of his job and raising a young family, his health gradually declined. “I got up to about 230 pounds,” he remembers grimly.
Things changed when his boss began inviting him on a lunch-hour run. “I finally took him up on it, and we did a two-mile run on the beach — and after a mile he dusted me,” Mr. Seeley laughs. “It was humiliating!” But it was also the motivation he needed. “When something like that happens, we either tend to give up and say, ‘No, this isn’t for me,’ or ‘Okay, I’ve got to figure this out.’ I decided to double down and figure it out.”
“We either tend to give up and say, ‘No, this isn’t for me,’ or ‘Okay, I’ve got to figure this out.’ I decided to double down and figure it out.”
Through aggressive practice over six months, Mr. Seeley gradually moved from lagging behind fellow runners to keeping up with them. “I realized that I may not have been the fastest person, but I could hang with them for whatever distance,” he says. But redeeming his earlier humiliation was far from his only motive. “Running had a lot of positive effects. I didn’t do it for weight loss, but I noticed it helped!”
What began as a hobby grew into a stabler habit. Mr. Seeley eventually competed in half and full marathons across Southern California. For the ambitious runner, however, even that was not enough. “Another buddy at work said, ‘We always get out of shape in the summer, because spring and winter are the running seasons,’” he remembers. The two friends decided to challenge themselves by signing up for a nearby 50k trail run.
And a challenge it was. “It was in August, and it was hot,” laughs Mr. Seeley. “We didn’t have the right shoes or the right equipment and totally got thrashed. For that run, you wanted to pull in at four or five hours, but we barely got in at eight!” As before, the humiliation forced him to challenge himself still further. “I doubled down and started trail running from there on.”
As it happens, trail running became a favorite outlet, for numerous reasons. “Instead of being with a lot of people on the trail, you spend a lot of time by yourself in God’s creation,” he says. “It’s reflective and meditative.” For an endurance runner like Mr. Seeley, the longer distances also made him more competitive. “Not as many people can hang,” he explains. “If I do a 50k, I’m all right; but if I do a 100-miler, all of a sudden I’m in the front of the middle pack!”
Even more importantly, the vast distances allowed Mr. Seeley more fully to involve his wife, Monica (Heithaus ’96), and six children in his hobby. “They allow you to have a pacer to run with you in the second half of a race like a 100-miler, when you get tired and fuzzy-headed. The pacer can’t help you, but can go in front and lead you, so you can go on autopilot for 10 to 20 miles,” he says. “I’ve had all my kids come out and pace me through certain segments. It’s really a beautiful thing.”
Mr. Seeley’s tenth 100-miler adds to his record of nearly 30 marathons, not to mention other races: no mean feat for a man who took up running at the age of 30. “Aristotle says virtue is in the mean, and that’s true,” he laughs. “But some of us don’t understand what the middle is!” He plans to keep looking — and running— until he finds it.