By Mike Kirner
Senior Communications Specialist
Jason “Marathon Man” Karbelk Finishes 101 out of 43,000 Runners
in Berlin, Germany; Places 7th out of 2000 Americans
During the week, Jason Karbelk is a mild-mannered Cushman & Wakefield Millennial Research Analyst working at the company’s NorCal Headquarters right smack in the middle of the City’s bustling Central Business District. His work regimen and sustenance consists of spreadsheets, pie charts, commercial real estate transaction data, economic analysis, graphs and of course, coffee. He is there to support the brokers, staff and the research team.
On the weekends and in the evenings, Jason’s laser focus and precision are dedicated to something that very few people in San Francisco do better than he does: Long distance running. He has been running and competing for nearly 20 of his 30 years.
We sat down with him in San Francisco to chat about his recent personal record breaking (2:29:12) marathon in Berlin on September 24th, his quest to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan and his unique diet.
Jason, when did you start running and what inspired you as a youth?
Karbelk: I started in Middle School and won my first ever cross country race. After my victory, the towering and imposing figure of Carl Lewis, the former track and field athlete approached me. Lewis had won nine Olympic gold medals, was named Olympian of the Century and is among the most celebrated US Olympic runners of all time. Wearing a broad grin, he handed me my first place medal. I was hooked ever since.
You finished number 101 out of 43,000 runners, which is among the top 1% and is really quite remarkable considering the amount of international competitors. Was that your goal when you started?
Karbelk: My goal was to beat my personal best, which I did by 35 seconds. And since I work in research, I also feel it’s my job to be precise and correct your data; If you do the math, I was actually among the top .232 %.
Besides being precise, what other qualities do you think a person must have to withstand a marathon? It’s clearly not for everyone; and does all that running and training not harm ones body?
Karbelk: A runner should possess three key qualities: Confidence, Endurance, Grit. These critical traits will make you believe the impossible is achievable. Preparation and proper training will allow a runner to push their physical limits and overcome lactic acid and self-doubt.
I also believe that with the correct running program, diet, shoes and focus, your body will not be harmed by long distance running. Once you cross the finish line, you feel your legs tighten up, many refer to “marathon legs”. This is only temporary and only lasts about a week or so.
Out of the 43,000 that competed in Berlin, how many top or elite runners were there? Which countries were represented?
Karbelk: I would guess their were approximately 2000 elite runners who competed at this marathon. One of the world’s top ranked Kenyan and one very elite Ethiopian runner dropped out during the race due to physical issues. The 3 hour mark is a great barrier for many runners and 1,700 were able to do so.
Those I raced against were from virtually every continent: Australia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Belgium, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.
Describe the marathon experience in Berlin? Were there ideal race conditions for the 26.2 mile race?
Karbelk: It rained the night before and woke up to grey skies, fog, and slick roads. I enjoyed a quiet breakfast with my teammates, and at 7:30am we took the train to the start. With 30 seconds to go, everyone started synchronized clapping, that’s when my adrenaline shot up.
The first few miles I ran smart , maintaining an ideal speed and tracking my time with my watch. I stayed out of trouble and maintained a very fast pace ( We actually call it “wicked fast”).
Heavy rain started at miles 3-5 causing some discomfort and definitely not ideal conditions for running. However, somehow it made the race more interesting, challenging and memorable.
Moving up through the field, I made pacts with similar paced runners to work with each other. The course included running through the famous Brandenburger Gate, pictured above. I covered miles 7 & 8 in 10:45 seconds to catch up to a large group. This group of international runners stayed together through 20 miles averaging 5:30 miles. For me, this felt really comfortable and allowed me to save energy till the end. With 4 miles to go, I experienced muscle spasms in my hamstring and calves along with shortened breathing. I knew this was end of the race, this is a defining moment how much I can push through it and want it. My finishing time was 2 hours 29 minutes and 12 seconds, a personal best.
Talk about your experience in Berlin and the city itself? What are the people like and describe the ambiance?
Karbelk: It’s a city of stark contrasts that clearly combines the old and the new. What stood out to me was the incredibly efficient train system, the historic buildings and the art. Everyone there is very friendly and speaks English, making it an inviting place to visit! I noticed tours given in about 5 different languages.
My favorite thing about Berlin is that it appears that virtually everyone rides bikes. Naturally the beer gardens and a Berlin staple – bratwurst, topped with curry was also very appealing to me.
How can runners compete with some of the athletes who live in cities and countries where elevation is a factor? Do they not have a great advantage against people who train at sea level or lower altitudes?
Karbelk: Clearly runners who live, breathe, train and exist in places that have high altitudes have an advantage. If a runner in training wishes to simulate a high altitude existence, he has the option of sleeping in an altitude tent to simulate the conditions of Mt. Everest; but ones partner might not approve.
So the next best thing is to join a running club with a coach. I’m part of West Valley Track Club, we have over 100 members that meet regularly for workouts and group runs; we push each other to run further and faster. Knowing that you have support empowers your motivation to reach the next level.
Is it true that you regularly enjoy eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during the day? What do you think the ideal diet for an elite runner should be?
Karbelk: It is quite true. I have never really grown out of a college diet which is mostly PB&J, pasta and beer. An elite runner should always be eating throughout the day in order to rebuild muscles and replenish fuel during 100 mile weeks. To maintain healthy cell growth, I also consume plenty of greens, carbs and protein. You can get all this in a smoothie, just add fruits, kale, and protein powder.
Do you think you have a chance for a medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? Does the USA have a chance?
Karbelk: It is technically possible for anyone who qualifies and competes to have at least some mathematical chance of a medal; however small.
Speaking realistically, and based on race results that I have posted and those achieved by other Americans, we are presently not among those predicted to be on the winners podium in Tokyo. I say this only because the international competition today is formidable! But there’s always hope and we never give up; we always push and push and don’t ever stop dreaming.
Is marathon running regulated as far as enhancement drugs are concerned? Do they test like the cycling industry?
Karbelk: Professional runners and those representing their country are subject to their countries anti-doping testing. From what I have read, heard and experienced is that some countries are sophisticated while others are disorganized, suffer from lack of funding, or do not monitor testing properly. If you see an amazing performance, it’s considered suspicious. Therefore, prize money and records for elite races are usually only awarded once an athlete passes a regimented and approved drug test.
At work, you are a Research Analyst for Cushman & Wakefield, a world-class CRE company with offices across the globe. What amazes you about the San Francisco CRE market right now?
Karbelk: Another correction: I am now a Senior Research Analyst, as I was recently promoted.
There are so many things to marvel at presently. Who would have thought ten years ago, that a 1,070 foot, 1.4 million SF office building called Salesforce Tower would eclipse the famous Transamerica Pyramid by 200 feet and become the West Coast’s tallest office tower? Who would have predicted a decade ago that 181 Fremont, another prominent skyscraper would offer 436,000 SF of office space and Facebook would eventually snatch up every single square foot?
And – to top it all off, the Transbay Transit Center, which will be officially called the Salesforce Transit Center, is within a mere 300 feet of both projects….it’s really quite startling. There are literally incredible and unbelievable things happening here and I’m glad to be in the thick of it. Our offices are right next door and overlook all the action up close and personal.
I took a tour of the Salesforce Tower just yesterday; it’s overwhelming and the views from the top are jaw dropping!
A hypothetical question and a digression: If you and your office co-workers Derrick “Double D” Daniels and Mike Kirner had a race from this office, through the densely populated Financial District, past Salesforce Tower and up the steep California Street hill, past the Fairmont Hotel and the Pacific Union Club…….. and back, by how much would you beat them?
Karbelk: I’d feel comfortable giving them a 5 minute head start.
Are you quite certain……… that seems like a lot?
Karbelk: (Laughing) Ok, an 8 minute head start.
Jason, congratulations again for your achievement in Berlin. Thanks so much for your time and best of luck in Tokyo in 2020!
Karbelk: Danke Schoen!