While the grind is tough, Matthew Leonard savors the payoff.
“It feels really good,” said the Johnson City, Tennessee, athlete moments after crossing the finish line at the Pelicans Ballpark, winning this year’s Myrtle Beach Marathon.
"I had a really good race today and good training, which makes it sweeter.”
The 29-year-old is no stranger to the Grand Strand race, finishing second in 2016.
His victory on Saturday with a time of 2 hours, 36 minutes, 14 seconds notched his third marathon win in just nine races.
For Leonard, finishing first in the 26.2-mile race is the culmination of six months of preparation, mixing tempo and long runs as well as dashing at a faster rate, as he worked to keep a pace of roughly two workouts per week.
A longtime runner, he took part in the pastime as a student at Missouri Valley College.
Though he’s participated in events in the South, Leonard’s experience racing has even included running in the Berlin Marathon last year.
The runner said having the chance to reach new personal accomplishments is especially gratifying.
“The process to get there, it means a lot,” he said. “But at the end of the day, seeing everything pay off is sweet.”
His advice for marathon newcomers?
“The best thing is just to be consistent with training,” he said. “Really, consistency is everything. You don’t have to go out and do … insane workouts, especially if you’re [looking] to run one and finish the race.
“Just get some good long runs in and be consistent. Don’t get injured.”
Despite being fresh off a marathon win, Leonard hopes to continue with speed training and working on his mile time, possibly running another race in December.
Eyeing the Rocket City Marathon that month in Alabama, Leonard has no plans to slow down any time soon.