LEWISTON — The first doctor told Mike Brooks to quit running before it killed him, in 2013. He’s heard an earful since, heeded little and kept running even after open heart surgery, a stroke, a knee that needs to be replaced, terrible back pain and a big toe that doesn’t move anymore.

Instead, it’s been one foot in front of the other, slow and steady.

Next month, the 72-year-old retired firefighter is set to complete another marathon. When he does he will have run a marathon in all 50 states six times.

“My doctor thinks I have obsessive compulsive disorder,” Brooks writes in a new book about his unusual career. “Well, if I have to have OCD, let it be about running.”

Brooks, of Lewiston, ran his first marathon in October 1995 at age 49. Not much before that. “I weighed 235 pounds, I smoked two packs a day and drank all the time,” Brooks said. “One of my friends, his wife had multiple sclerosis. I tried to get in shape for a bike ride.”

Since then, he’s completed 415 marathons, 103 ultra-marathons (anything longer than 26.2 miles) and nearly 1,250 races total, with 5Ks and 10Ks added in.

Though he’s slowed with age, he insists there’s no giving it up.

Brooks ran his first marathon in 3 hours and 38 minutes.

“I’m doing them now in seven-and-a-half, eight hours,” he said on Monday.

In 2016, “I had a heart valve replaced, then I had a MRSA infection, I go into (atrial) fibrillation. I had a stroke last November,” Brooks said. “I’ve got spinal stenosis. (During a three-day race earlier this year), I had all I could do to do 101 miles because my back was bothering me so bad. The last day it was taking me an hour to do a mile.”

It’s too much of a social outlet to stop, he said.

Brooks has written “Badwater and Beyond: A thousand races, places & faces,” with essays from his running friends, his brother, Walter (who has driven Brooks 50,000 miles to get to races), and his wife, Denise.

The book starts with Brooks growing up in Massachusetts, touches on his career as an Auburn firefighter, including pranks like once filling a police officer’s cruiser with water, his injuries and his racing highlights, like running in a South African game reserve. 

He’s raised more than $60,000 for charity in the last two decades and is donating book proceeds to the Maine Special Olympics in honor of its many participants. (It’s available on Amazon and by messaging him on Facebook.

“They are just phenomenal athletes,” said Brooks.

He’s already decided that after the marathon in Arizona on Nov. 7, there will be no trying to run a marathon in each state for the seventh time. He choose that particular race to hit the milestone because there’s no time limit.

In the last year, Brooks has gotten three tattoos to commemorate his running. One one hand is a crow, the symbol of the Crow Athletics running club. On the other hand is a chickadee, the symbol of the Maine Track Club, and on one of his arms is a tortoise drinking a beer with the word “Phew” over his head. 

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Mike Brooks, 72, of Lewiston started running marathons more than 20 years ago. Once he finishes the Mainly Marathon in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Nov. 7, he will have run a marathon in all 50 states six times. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Proceeds from the sales of Mike Brooks’ book “Badwater and Beyond” support Special Olympics. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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