The Lake Highlands man who lives and breathes the Dallas Marathon hasn’t mentioned his 20-year milestone to many people.
Darsi Grunewald, his wife of 32 years, brought it up.
“He has put his heart and soul into this race and has brought together many people in this community and throughout the country for many years,” Darsi says. “Marcus is a very humble person and doesn’t like to be in the spotlight but I believe he is due some recognition.”
The Grunewalds, now parents of two adult children, worked for the same company and fell for one another at a happy hour at Studebakers, the old dance club off Central Expressway, Darsi says.
Darsi, a teacher and a singer, thinks “runners are crazy.”
“Marcus is kind of competitive,” she says, so pursuing separate passions worked in their favor.
Grunewald ran his first marathon at White Rock in 1984, as kind of a bet.
“I was in an informal running group in college when I saw something about, and brought up, the Dallas White Rock Marathon, but a buddy said that I was crazy, that you had to train for years before running a marathon. And so it became a challenge. I ended up running it that year.”
Grunewald ran another nine times before an injury interrupted his streak. Then he became the race’s director, which, before 2007 was an unpaid volunteer job. Until then he was also working in finance.
“I really liked that job and the paychecks, but the people I enjoyed the most were my running friends. When the marathon needed a full-time employee, it didn’t pay what I had been making in the banking world, but I discovered that it was more important to be happy. And to this day, I thank my lucky stars. I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world.”
When he’s not at City Hall, meeting with the Dallas Marathon Board, presenting checks to Scottish Rite for Children (the marathon has donated $4 million since 1997) or hosting a pre-marathon event, you’ll find Grunewald running with a group of friends around the lake or a dirt trail. You’ll know him by his trademark yellow visor. (“We have a garage full of them,” Darsi says. “It’s just how people recognize him.”)
And among runners, he’s earned recognition.
“Marcus is not only the executive race director for BMW Dallas Marathon. He is also an ambassador for racing in Dallas in general, and one of the biggest supporters of the running scene,” says Julie Lanaux, a founding member of White Rock Running Co-op. “The best scenario for races is where the race gives as much back to the local running scene as the local runners contribute to the race, and Marcus is the living embodiment of that concept.”
To continue challenging himself as an athlete, Grunewald started running longer distances (getting older, you can’t keep getting faster, but you can go farther, he says), which is one of the reasons the Dallas Marathon added a 50k. “It’s unofficially Marcus’s Ultra Marathon,” he says.
Grunewald, who doesn’t share much about his personal life, does discuss a recent health scare, because he thinks it could help others.
A few years back, he says, he just “wasn’t feeling right,” and his running performance was suffering. So he saw a physician and wound up undergoing quintuple bypass surgery to treat blocked arteries.
“The doctor said if I had run another race, it probably would have been the last thing I did,” Grunewald says.
“As runners we tend to push through injuries because we just think that’s who we are,” he says. “But as an athlete, you are more attuned to your body, as part of your training, than even your doctor. You really need to pay attention to those injuries, those feelings.”