Photo courtesy of The Post-Crescent, Ron Page
FOND DU LAC, Wis. (SabreAthletics.com) – Former Marian University cross country standout, Jordan Williams, accomplished something few can claim as he won the Fox Cities Marathon this past weekend in just his second-ever marathon race. Williams competed on the Marian cross country team from 2008-11 and graduated with a degree in secondary education and mathematics last spring. He is now a math teacher at Oostburg High School.
Williams, a Sheboygan Falls native, was a two-time All-Northern Athletics Conference runner in his time at Marian. Before the Fox Cities Marathon, he had run just one other marathon race, which occurred last June in Duluth, Minn. Going into the September 22 race, his challenge was going to be supplanting the reigning three-time champion, Mike Heidke of Neenah.
His goal was to break two hours, 40 minutes. He did so, running in 2:38:02 and winning by more than two minutes.
"I really didn't expect to win," Williams said. "I thought if I hit my goal, I would end up placing in the teens."
Williams caught the three-time champion at the 21-mile marker and did not let up. Coasting to victory, he finished by more than two minutes ahead of second place finisher, Nick Seiske of Waukesha.
"It was such an amazing feeling, and to realize that all the hard work that I put in over the last few months, to finish first among 1,100-plus registrants was exciting."
The physical demand of running a marathon is relentless, but training for one has its own challenges, not only physically, but mentally as well. Williams wasn't unaccustomed to training alone. In fact, he was used to it from his time at Marian.
Due to his rigorous class schedule and other circumstances, Williams was forced to train alone more times than not.
"I think training at Marian helped me for training for my marathon," Williams said. "I already knew how to run by myself. I knew how to do speed workouts and maintain a good pace without anyone being there to help my pace. In the marathon, the leader took off and I stuck to my pace and ended up catching up to him at mile 21.
Williams was putting in 82-90 miles per week leading up the race. He would run twice a day and log a 20-mile run on the weekends.
It's a demanding training schedule for anyone, especially a high school teacher like Williams.
"Managing time, I think, was the key to train and teach at the same time," Williams said. "I would do 8-10 miles every day before school and another 4-5 miles after school."
Williams attributes a lot of his success to the education and preparation that was offered to him at Marian University.
He landed in Fond du Lac for the academics offered by the University and considered running cross country as an added bonus.
"The reason I went to Marian was the good people there," Williams said. "I didn't go to Marian just to run cross country. I went there because I knew the people that taught mathematics and secondary education were going to put me in a good position to be a math teacher."
His strategy worked according to plan, as does most of the goals he puts his mind to.
"Jordan was an excellent student, very conscientious," said Professor Deborah Watry, Chair of the Teacher Education Program at Marian and undergraduate advisor to Williams. "I knew he would have no problem getting a math position upon graduation. He is focused, hard-working and a great role model and I knew he was going to be a great teacher."
"Marian set me up for success and education," Williams said. "Throughout college, I worked hard to do well in class and be successful in cross country.
"Anything in life takes practice," Williams added. "Being at Marian, the habits at practice to rely on myself, to motivate myself and drive myself to do the best I could. I am definitely grateful for my experiences and where they have gotten me be where I am today."
Williams teaches geometry, as well as, function trig and stats at Oostburg. He's also a volunteer coach for the high school cross country team, which has given him a unique perspective in the sport of running.
"It's very different to be on the other side of the spectrum," Williams said. "Looking back at my high school years, how I could have ran better and then trying to explain that as a coach is different, but fun."
Williams' philosophy is simple and evident in the way he conducts himself.
"Determination and self-motivation," Williams said. "The ability to look into the future and know the harder I work now will make me more successful in the future, that's what drives me."
The future looks bright for the former Marian standout and winning the Fox Cities Marathon came as a surprise that escalated his expectations going forward. Williams said he would like to run in the Boston Marathon someday, maybe even as soon as 2014.