“I’ve always wanted to run a marathon in every state,” Nielsen said. “So far, I’ve gotten 27 states and every state east of the Mississippi except Michigan and Connecticut.”
Nielsen says his love for running started nine years ago when he was at the Erwin Apple Festival and walking down Elm Street when he saw the four-mile road race coming toward him and then turn.
He says that he also wanted to lose some weight and not be as bulky as he once was.
“It was the closest thing to God speaking to me that I have ever encountered,” he said. “The next Monday, I started running on the 200-meter track at the CPA. I decided I wanted to run the race for the Cure 5K in a month to honor my mother, who was a breast cancer survivor.”
He said that once he started running local 5K races, he upgraded to 10K and then to half-marathons and so on. He has even done a 100-miler at the Houston River Endurance Challenge.
“That was probably the hardest race I’ve done,” he said. “Later in the race, I would stop and ice my legs every three miles or so to drain the lactic acid. It wasn’t only draining physically, but it was draining mentally as well.”
Nielsen has completed 60 marathons in his fairly young running career and has just gotten into the grandmasters category for age awards.
Furthermore, Nielsen has paced several marathons and says pacing the right groups is almost harder than just racing a normal race.
“Other runners are depending on you to hit the pace,” he said. “I accomplish my goals in those kinds of races by helping others achieve their goals. That’s a satisfying feeling for me.”
Nielsen says the most memorable race for him was the 2014 Boston Marathon, which was the year after the terrorist bombings near the finish line.
“The atmosphere in that race is unmatched,” he said. “There were so many people and they were so enthusiastic. It was unbelievable. It will be hard to top that, for me.”
Nielsen’s remarks to new runners are to not compare yourself to others but instead do what only you can do with what you are given.
“New runners get discouraged sometimes because they are competitive and don’t want to lose,” he said. “I think new runners can just step back, slow down and take it one day at a time.”