Matthew Jaffe wears two watches, one on each wrist.
“It’s handy if I’m traveling,” the Rockville-based sole practitioner notes, explaining that he can “keep one on Rockville time” while setting the other to correspond with wherever he happens to be. But for Jaffe, the true significance of that second timepiece has less to do with the destination than the journey – or, in this case, run – along the way.
The Secret to a lot of this stuff is to get your training with the least amount of mileage as you can.
“They [also] gave us this special running jersey,” he notes. “I still wear mine when I run it.”
Jaffe had been running for conditioning purposes for nearly 15 years – beginning with a stint on the wrestling team at Bucknell University – when “a couple of other people at the Justice Department [who] were going to run [the MCM]” motivated Jaffe to give it a try.
“I just thought I ought to do it,” Jaffe says of that first MCM, which drew nearly 2,000 participants (by comparison, 34,000 took part in the 2006 MCM). “That was the first marathon I ever ran.”
The next year, Jaffe came back. Then, the year after that – and the year after that...
“After about three or four, I said, ‘Well, I have a streak going,’” he explains.
Over the years, articles profiling the Groundpounders appeared in places like The Washington Post; unfortunately, due to an oversight on the part of those keeping track, Jaffe’s ongoing involvement went unnoticed for a long time.
“They didn’t realize I was doing it for probably the first 25 years or so,” he chuckles. “So, I finally called up the Marine Corps Marathon people and said, ‘I’ve run every one of these things, also.’ They took down some information. I was afraid they wouldn’t have a record of it, although I have almost all of my certificates. About three or four weeks later, they called me back and said, ‘Yes, we’ve checked the records, and we have a record of it.’”
In the ensuing years, Jaffe branched out, competing in other races, from the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach to Ohio’s Columbus Marathon. His best finish time in the MCM – three hours, one minute, 50 seconds, in 1982 – qualified him to compete in the Boston Marathon. Jaffe has also participated several times in the Sun Run, which coincides with the MSBA Annual Meeting, each June in Ocean City, Maryland.
“One year, it was going to be a 5K and a 10K,” Jaffe recalls of the Sun Run. “At the end of the 5K, I was in third place. The top two people decided they were just going to do the 5K. I looked around [and thought], They’re out, I’m there, there’s a police [escort]. I said, ‘My god, this will never happen again.’ So I kept going. Once or twice it looked like somebody was gaining on me, but I managed to stay ahead.”
“It’s the only race I’ve ever really won,” he notes with a laugh.
But for Jaffe, running has never been about winning so much as keeping himself physically fit – an approach that he sees growing more common in those that take up the sport.
“[T]hey’re not as competitive [as in the past],” he explains. “A number of people are picking up a more-healthy lifestyle, and exercise – any kind – is good.”
To keep himself conditioned between races, Jaffe runs an average of “between 35 and 40 miles a week.” And while Jaffe has no plans to quit running, he acknowledges the realities imposed by aging.
“You can’t really be fast at this age,” he admits. “I ache a lot; I use more aspirin than I ever used before. You get a little bit better at knowing when to take a day off, when to stop, when not to hurt yourself. The secret to a lot of this stuff is to get your training with the least amount of mileage as you can. It takes a lot longer to recover.”
To this end, Jaffe has supplemented his running with more low-impact sports, such as swimming and, more recently, bicycling. Last year, he and his wife – a cycling enthusiast – took part in their first “century”: a hundred-mile ride.
“My wife was much stronger that I was on [that] – I almost didn’t make it,” he admits. “I’ll probably end up doing a lot more biking; it’s easier on the knees.”
But the Groundpounder is not about to kick his feet up any time soon, exemplified by his ambition to complete the first 50 Marine Corps Marathons.
“You’ve got to live that long,” Jaffe laughs. “I’d be 84 at the 50th. [But] it’s not impossible. There actually are people who are running it at 84.”
And by then, Jaffe would have the momentum of nearly 1,300 miles of MCM competition to help keep him going.
“I don’t want to let that streak go,” he adds. “[Besides,] what else would I do on a Sunday morning?”