Joel Weber, MD- April 2021 Wellness University Success Story
Like many people in their midlife years, Joel Weber, MD, an anesthesiologist and APIC of Medical-Legal and Compliance at KP South Sacramento, knew he wasn’t in the best shape.
“I needed a fitness program in my mid-40s because I was out of shape, a little depressed, and burnt out,” he said.
Around that same time, Dr. Robbie Pearl took over as CEO of The Permanente Medical Group and started promoting running as an answer to dealing with the same issues Dr. Weber was facing. Hearing a leader of the organization promoting regular exercise to support overall wellness encouraged Dr. Weber to start running again.
Although he ran a lot during college, it had been 20-plus years since he ran with any regularity. He decided to incorporate more exercise into his life and, at age 45, he signed up for and ran a local 5K run.
“It was painful, I was breathing hard,” he admitted. Many would have given up on the idea of running, but Dr. Weber, along with the encouragement from many of his colleagues, kept going.
A year after his first 5K, Dr. Weber registered for his first half marathon in San Diego. After completing the race, it dawned on him that a marathon was possible, given “it would only be a roundtrip half marathon.” That was a turning point and, not long after, he registered for the 2007 San Francisco Marathon. In that race, he missed the Boston qualifying time by just 9 minutes.
He kept up his training, feeling lucky that he didn’t experience many injuries.
“When you run long distance, there are typically around 5 injuries one can get, such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis,” he said. “You can work through it.” He added that it’s important to gradually increase your distance when training and to take the time to add in strength training and flexibility into an exercise routine.
Today, he follows every training plan very closely and usually runs 5 days a week, two of them devoted to longer runs.
During his 20-year break from running, Dr. Weber did stay active by hiking, biking, and strength training. Staying active, even if not in a structured program, helps to establish a baseline strength needed to get a running program started – or restarted. One of his main recommendations for anyone interested in running is to switch out your shoes often.
“One of the main reasons people get injured is due to repetitive stress motion,” he said. “I routinely switch out my shoes while I am training because having different types of shoes helps to space out the weight and impact.”
His dedication to training eventually led him to qualify for the renowned Boston marathon, which he has since run 12 times.
Since he was fortunate to avoid injuries, he decided to keep going and made 100 marathons his goal. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he had completed 96 of the 26.2-mile competitions. Sadly, all the races were cancelled in 2020, but that didn’t stop him from reaching his goal.
“I started to make my own courses and asked my family and friends to help by setting up aid stations along the way,” he said.
Dr. Weber ran on the American River Parkway and around a 5 ½ mile loop several times to meet the full marathon distance. He wanted to do his 100th marathon in Greece, but had to cancel his trip due to the pandemic. Instead, he decided to return to where his marathon journey began and hit his 100th milestone marathon in San Francisco.
He gives credit to colleagues, family, friends, and KP leaders like Dr. Pearl — and now Dr. Isaacs — who encouraged him along his journey.
“This was the motivation I needed. Thirteen years later, 100 marathons!”