Justin Schweitzer, DO, Optometrist and Marathon Man
Sioux Falls Optometrist Justin Schweitzer started running in 7th grade, long before he had any idea how far his passion would take him. Within a few years, the Jamestown, North Dakota native claimed the high school state cross country championship, and went on to win state titles in the mile and 2-mile runs in his senior year.
While he loves the competitive nature of the sport, Schweitzer says, for him, running is about what it does for his own body and soul. “It is just such a wonderful stress reliever,” says Schweitzer. “I can think clearly when I’m out there running. Those are the times I can be by myself and think.”
And those times are at a premium these days for the father of a six-month-old and a preschooler. Except for a brief hiatus during optometry training, Schweitzer has continued to run almost daily. To fit it in between an increasingly busy work and family life, Schweitzer is up and running by 5:15 every day, usually outside. Yes, even in the winter.
“I do have a treadmill in the basement for when the weather is really severe,” says Schweitzer. “But most of the time, I go outside. Thankfully, running gear is so much better than it used to be. There are thermal tights and tops and of course I wear a face mask.” He also tracks his miles and pace with a GPS watch that syncs with the computer. And, like a miner headed to work in the pitch dark, he’s outfitted with a head lamp.
Good gear, strategic training and serious determination are now driving Schwetizer to his next big goal: The Boston Marathon on April 15th. Schweitzer ran the Portland marathon back in 2003 and last year qualified for Boston at the Twin Cities Marathon with a run time of 2:39:08.
“One of the reasons I wanted to do Boston is that it is one of the ones you have to qualify for,” says Schweitzer. “This history is legendary. If you are a runner – or even if you’re not – you have heard of the Boston Marathon. It’s something that a lot of serious runners want to do at least once in their life.”
Determined to beat his Twin Cities time, Schweitzer is in the midst of an 18-week marathon buildup, which includes both speed training and pace training. Those early morning runs are adding up; he’s now averaging 70 miles a week and will peak, just before the marathon at 75 miles in a week. But even when he’s not training for a marathon, Schweitzer is no slacker, averaging 35 to 40 miles a week and burning through a new pair of running shoes every 3 months or so.
“Running keeps me grounded,” he says. “Exercise definitely gives a person more energy. But it also keeps me in a routine, which is helpful for me. I know that I’m going to get to bed early and I’m going to get up and run. I am going to be the best I can be throughout and the day and then do the same thing again. There is something about a healthy routine that makes life easier.”
Schweitzer’s young family will be cheering him on in Boston this month, where he hopes to set a personal record. As for what’s next, he says it will depend on support on their support and the support of his “work family” at Vance Thompson Vision.
“It’s a serious commitment and I couldn’t do it without a lot of support. I would love to do more because I do think that, when you can be a less stressed-out person, you can be better at everything you do.”