COLUMBIA — When more than 200 runners cross the starting line in the Heart of America Marathon on Labor Day, many of them will likely notice one of the runners wearing a blue jumpsuit, a red cape and an embroidered "M" across his chest. It's a man trying to break the record for running the most marathons in a year.
Trent Morrow, also known as "The Marathon Man," has been competing in marathons since 2006. He is aiming to run more than 160 marathons in 2013.
According to Guinness World Records, the current world record is 114 marathons in a year. However, in 2012 a man made an unverified claim that he ran 157. The Heart of America Marathon, which begins at Hearnes Center and ends in downtown Columbia, will be Morrow's 99th this year.
Morrow decided to become a marathon runner in 2006 after he saw a family photo of his niece's christening.
"I saw a picture of that day and didn't recognize myself," Morrow said.
Morrow was once a captain of the Australian National University rugby team, but his studies forced him to hang up his boots. The change in lifestyle caused him to gain more than 50 pounds. After seeing the photo, he decided it was time for change.
"This was not some New Year's resolution," Morrow said. "I decided that it was time to take action, to dedicate myself to a routine and get the weight down."
In 2007, Morrow competed in his first half-marathon, and by 2008 he was running six marathons in as many weeks. In 2011, he became the first runner to ever compete in every Australian territory. Now, two years later, he's trying to become a world-record holder.
Morrow decided to attempt to break the record to honor the 20th anniversary of his mother, Kay, dying from colon cancer. His journey started at the Texas Marathon in Houston, and he's since run in Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. In March, while competing in Phoenix, he got to visit his stepmother one last time before she died of lung cancer.
Morrow runs to honor his mother and stepmother and to inspire others to start running too.
"People think I'm doing this just for an achievement," Morrow said. "I'm doing this to show people what is possible. I'm no super athlete. I'm just trying to show that anyone can compete in a marathon. At the end of day, it's all about the psychology."
His drive to inspire others is also why he wears the "Marathon Man" outfit during marathons.
"It's to show people that can be their own superheroes," Morrow said. "They can tap into their own superpowers, whatever that might be."
During each race, Morrow enjoys running alongside first-timers to hear their stories.
"I've met people who are running for some pretty emotional and powerful reasons," Morrow said. "I've met people on general weight loss programs and alcoholics that said that running saved their lives. I met a girl that had been addicted to methamphetamine and had been living in her own world for years. I've met a 13-year-old in L.A. and a 77-year-old woman in Wisconsin. It's big to escape into other people's stories."
Morrow's greatest challenge to break the record does not come running 26.2 miles at least twice a week, but rather the financial challenge that comes with traveling the world.
"It's a real test since I'm my own travel agent," Morrow said. "It's a day to day battle. I don't know if I'll be able to go another week, let alone through September."
When the year is over, Morrow plans to go on a speaking tour and share his story with others. He also intends to write a book about his travels.
"To inspire others, I'm looking to take that to the next level," Morrow said.
The Heart of America Marathon starts 6 a.m. Monday at Hearnes Center.