It’s easy to run for 20 miles on a spring afternoon in the outskirts of Bath, New York, without seeing more than one car along the way. Bryan Morseman would know: The 32-year-old has been blazing these Amish dirt roads, which offer panoramic views of scenic Steuben County, for more than half his life. Whenever he heads out on a long run, he has them all to himself—except, of course, for that single car cruising in the lane beside him every time.
Sarah Morseman has tailed her husband like this for years, first following Bryan on a bike, and then recruiting their son, Alden, to tag along in a buggy. Once baby brother Leeim joined the family in 2014, however, Sarah decided it was easiest for the boys to keep Dad company from the backseat of her car. And with a daughter on the way any day now, the cheering section is about to grow by one.
But most weekends, the members of this clan aren’t logging miles together in Bath—they’re traveling the country to watch Morseman compete in races in cities like Little Rock, Louisville, and Sioux Falls. In fact, the family has the routine down to a science: On Saturday night they’ll hang around their hotel room and carb-load together. (“My kids are addicted to pizza and breadsticks now,” Morseman jokes.) On Sunday afternoon, Morseman will run a marathon—and a few hours later, more often than not, win it. Then it’s onto the next town.
“I may not be the fastest man in the world, but there aren’t many people who can run 17 marathons in a year and average 2:27.’
By his estimation, Morseman has entered approximately 800 races in his lifetime, breaking the tape at so many 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons that he lost track along the way. But as a long-distance runner, it’s the 26.2-milers that really count, and he’s won a whole lot of those, too: 54 first-place finishes in 87 tries, with a personal best of 2:19:57.
And here’s the kicker: Most of those victories have come on back-to-back weekends, including a 2015 stint where he won three marathons in the span of eight days. “Not many people are crazy enough to attempt what I do,” Morseman says. No kidding.
So how did he become one of the most impressive endurance athletes in the country? Start with an inner fire that’s been kindling since he was a kid and add two more crucial elements: recovery and family. Steal Morseman’s three success secrets to crush your own crazy goals.
Success Secret #1: Live Without Limits
From the moment Morseman laced up his running sneakers in sixth-grade gym class, it was love at first stride. “I’ve run almost every single day since,” he says. The students were tasked with completing a mile-long “fun run,” but Morseman had no intentions of goofing around. “I just wanted to beat everyone else,” he says.
Though he can’t remember the results of that first race, it’s a fair bet that he smoked his competitors, just as he went on to do at middle- and high-school track meets in Addison (just up the hill from Bath) and at Mansfield College in Pennsylvania. Truth be told, competing in shorter-distance runs didn’t satisfy him. “Most of the time, I didn’t even break a sweat,” says Morseman. He knew he wanted something more. “I wanted marathons.”
“The Olympics are still my ultimate goal. I don’t want to put any limits on what I can do.’
The 10,000-meter run is the longest track event at the collegiate level, so Morseman had to wait until after graduation to run his first 26.2. “That was pretty sucky for me, because I don’t like to wait on anything,” Morseman says. “Not even a server at a restaurant. I want my food now.”
He got his first taste at the 2008 Wineglass Marathon in nearby Corning, New York, where he posted a 2:27:45 time and finished second. (The loss still eats at him—“I was 20 seconds behind!”—but he has since won the event four times.) After that, it was off to the races, with dominating first-place finishes at marathons all over the country, most of which he enters on a few days’ notice. “It’s simple,” he says. “I look at a list of marathons online, see if they have enough prize money, and if it fits our schedule that weekend, I’ll sign up and we’ll drive.”
Morseman reached the pinnacle of his profession in 2016, when he won the gold medal for Team USA at the International Association of Ultrarunners 50-kilometer World Championships in Doha, Qatar. He placed ninth overall, but third on his team, which crucially clinched the gold for the Americans. “If it wasn’t for me, we would’ve gotten the silver,” he says. “Everyone who plays some kind of sport looks forward to the chance to represent his or her own country, so it was an honor. And a lot of people would be happy to get the gold and call it a day.”
Not Morseman. Next on his agenda is the Boston Marathon in April, where he’s gunning for a top-20 finish and a crack at 2:19:00, the qualifying standard for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. “That’s still the ultimate goal,” he says. “I don’t want to put any limits on what I can do.”
Success Secret #2: Take Care of Your Muscles
Morseman’s wildest feat isn’t that he can run back-to-back marathons—it’s that he can run back-to-back marathons without sacrificing any speed. For example, when he won the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in March 2015, he clocked in at 2:24:10—a full 30 seconds faster than his finish at the Montgomery Marathon in Alabama just eight days prior. (For good measure, in between he won North Carolina’s Tobacco Road Marathon in 2:32:39.)
“I may not be the fastest man in the world,” he says, “but there aren’t many people who can run 17 marathons in a year and average 2:27. And even if I have an off day, I’m not 2 hours off. I’m only a few minutes behind.”
His ability to fully recover between races is astonishing. “If I ever get a little sore during a run, the next day I can pound out 5:20 miles with no problem,” he says with a hint of a boast. (You’d brag, too.) And while he chalks up some of his recovery to being a “freak of nature,” he points to one secret weapon that has helped his body feel even better after a marathon: nuBound.
Morseman heard about the sports recovery supplement from long-distance legend Dick Beardsley, who won the inaugural London Marathon in 1981, among other career highlights. “I thought, ‘What more of a reliable source than one of the best marathoners in our history?’” Morseman says. “I knew I had to give it a try.”
“What more of a reliable source than one of the best marathoners in our history? I knew I had to give nuBound a try.‘
He saw results instantly. “One of the first times I took it, I ran a 2:24 marathon,” he says. “When I woke up the next day, I felt like I didn’t even race the night before. Up until then, sometimes I wasn’t able to walk the day after a race.”
Now Morseman won’t run a race without nuBound. “Whenever I take it, I feel more energized and recover so much faster than when I don’t,” he says. “In my experience, recovery is the most critical component to any kind of athlete’s ability. Without the right recovery, you’re not going to perform the way you want. And you won’t be able to proceed to the top.”
Success Secret #3: Fight for Your Family
Morseman became a runner to fuel his competitive instincts, but his motivations changed once his kids entered the picture. “These days when I cross that finish line, I get more out of what my family will think of my success,” he says. “I want them to be excited and happy and enjoy the moment more than I do. Whenever you hurt during a race, you’re supposed to concentrate on something else. Well, I think about my family.”
He’s often thinking about Leeim, who was born with spina bifida and walks with a walker. Though Morseman says his 3-year-old son “smiles all the time and has that 3-year-old attitude,” his medical bills can be costly. “So a lot of the prize money has gone to help him out.”
Leeim’s condition has given Morseman a healthy dose of perspective. “I was blessed with something, and that’s being able to run fast,” he says. “But my son might never be able to run, and sometimes that makes me want to sit down and cry. People who can do normal things—walk, run, jump, or swim—can’t truly grasp what it is to not be able to do those things. I wish they could realize how precious life is.”
Morseman does. And that’s why he won’t travel to a race, pound those Amish dirt roads, or heck, even hit the treadmill in his basement without his family right next to him. “They feed me into being the best I can be.”