By Henry Howard
Steve Yee’s running passion started innocently enough. In 1983, Yee learned of the Seattle Mariners Fun Run, an 8-mile run that included four tickets to a ball game.
“With a few weeks training I was able to complete it without stopping so I got really excited, started training more and signed up for races every single weekend after that,” he says. “With each race more challenges emerged, I started running half marathons and finally took the plunge with my first marathon six months after the Mariners Fun Run.”
Turn the clock ahead 20 years and many marathons later, Yee was having lunch with Chris Warren, Tony Phillippi, Sue Fauerbach and Terry Watanabe after — of course — a marathon. The runners talked about how many marathons they ran throughout the year. Friendly oneupsmanship took over as the runners started throwing out race after race that they would do.
At one point, Yee said,
“I feel like I’m amongst a bunch of Marathon Maniacs.”
The name stuck, and Yee, Warren and Phillippi became the original founders and co-presidents of the most popular marathon group active today.
Call him Mr. Marathon Maniac
Now approaching its 12th birthday, Marathon Maniacs has grown and changed since its creation. “Actually in the beginning the criteria for the highest level (gold-level 3) was rather easy to attain so we had to change the criteria to 10 levels to offer a challenge to our members,” Yee says. “I achieved level 10 back in 2005 by running 57 marathons that year. It was a whirlwind year and having to run back-to-back marathons (two marathons in two days) nine times was a challenge. Plus living in Seattle presented many challenges flying since we are so isolated from the rest of the country.”
Socializing in Yellow
Go to any decent-sized marathon today and it’s hard not to spot Marathon Maniacs, clad in their signature yellow gear, socializing before, during and after races. Some are longtime friends, while others seek out fellow Maniacs at races for the social aspect. While their PRs can vary, the social benefits are well worth the annual fee to be a Maniac.
“From what I’ve gathered from members in the club, it’s the social aspect of the club(s) that’s most beneficial to members,” says Yee. “Meeting new friends doesn’t have a price tag. When members wear their gear at races they are easily identifiable and easier to banter with. Many members have ended up being the best of friends, going on trips together and splitting costs so there is a financial benefit for all
involved. Our discount guy does a good job in contacting race directors in
offering discounts in entry fees.”
For Yee, it’s the camaraderie that makes the club special. “It’s really an indescribable feeling, especially at reunion races when over 300 members show up and getting ready for the group photo.”
Club members show their gratitude when they meet Yee or another founder at a race. “Lots of members have come up to us and personally thanked us for forming the groups as they have met so many new friends through it. And that’s probably our proudest achievement and reward about forming the clubs,” he says.
Over 300 Marathons
Out of his more than 300 marathons, Yee’s proudest achievement as a runner is the conquest of the Great Wall Marathon in China in 2001. “Since I’m of Chinese descent it was an honor going back to my ancestral homeland and get immersed in the culture. And it was a very tough race as it remains my personal worst time at 6:20. But I will always cherish the memories and scenery. It was so awesome!”
Yee finds inspiration in the stories and tributes left on the Marathon Maniacs social media sites. And not all the stories revolve around 26.2-mile times.
“There have been so many instances where runners have joined our Facebook group page (you don’t have to be a member to join the Facebook group page) and posting that while they have run short races like 5K and 10Ks, they see what our members have been accomplishing that they too become so inspired that they want to become Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics. Some have overcome physical disabilities, excess weight and personal tragedies to become members and we applaud their efforts.”
For Yee, Warren and Phillippi, it’s a labor of love. All three are considered presidents though Yee “drew the short straw” and is considered the president, only on paper. They all have their specific duties and plan to keep running marathons and the club itself. They are also grateful not only for the club members but also the race directors who make the participants welcome.
Looking ahead, Yee sees adding more benefits for members.
“We continue to try to add benefits to members, whether it be to find more discount at races, creating pace teams for certain races that offer our members the chance to help other meet their goal times (free race and singlet for pacers), discounts on other items,” he says. “We are in the process of forming a ‘double agent’ club, meaning members have complimentary membership to those current members that are both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics.”
Name: Steven Yee, co-founder of Marathon Maniacs
Number of years running: 32+
How many miles a week do you typically run: 40+
Point of pride: Being able to run as long as I have and no signs of slowing down
Favorite race distance: Marathon
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Pasta of all kind, sushi
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Theme from Rocky
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: You can do it!!
Where can other runners connect or follow Marathon Maniacs: