California State University, Long Beach
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Carbuto Marks Personal Milestone by Running 100th Marathon

Published: December 1, 2009

For Dr. Michael Carbuto, director of Student Health Services at CSULB, running in the 25th annual Long Beach Marathon was more about a part of his life coming full circle than it was about completing another race.

It was 25 years ago that Carbuto ran his very first marathon, the first-ever Long Beach Marathon. And, when he crossed the finish line of the Long Beach race this Oct. 11, it marked the completion of his 100th marathon.

“I remember that first race. I was a first-year medical student, and a friend of mine mentioned while we were studying for an anatomy final that he was planning on running in the Long Beach Marathon. He asked if I would be interested, and I said sure,” the 56-year-old Carbuto recalled. “There were three of us from that first-year medical school class that ran it. I don’t know if they continued running, but I definitely did.”

And it was no accident that he completed his 100th marathon in the same race where he ran his first.

“I wanted Long Beach to be my 100th. My first one was here and it just seemed right that my 100th be here, too,” Carbuto explained. “The course came right past the Student Health Center, up Merriam Way making a left on Beach Drive. It also went past where I live twice. You know, I live in Long Beach, I work in Long Beach and I train in Long Beach. It’s like my race.”

Carbuto has been running since 1977, and while it didn’t start out that way, he readily admits that the physical activity has proven to be a sort of refuge for him, a chance to get away and find some solitude.

“I love (running). It’s quiet time, a time for me,” he said. “When it comes to distance, I can work out issues. I’ve used running as a way to cope with many things. Going through different milestones and events in my life, running has always been there for me.”

As far as the marathons, Carbuto estimates that he has run in at least 12 different race locations, including New York, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Honolulu, Catalina, Lake Tahoe, Palos Verdes and Big Sur, and that’s just what he could think of off the top of his head.

But, he has two favorite races – New York and Catalina.

“New York is my favorite as far as big city. The crowd is wonderful. In fact, on a beautiful day, you can have over a million people on the sidelines. It is absolutely astonishing,” Carbuto pointed out. “Coming off the Queensboro Bridge, from Queens into Manhattan, you turn the corner to First Avenue and there is this roar of the crowd. First Avenue is just lined with four, five and six people deep, and everyone is holding their hand out, and you slap their hands as you run by. The energy is just amazing.”

He has run the New York race at least eight times. At one point, Carbuto was doing it nearly every year because he has family that lives in the area. It was a way to visit family and do the race at the same time. His brother joined him in the race a couple of times.

“My other favorite marathon is Catalina because, with the exception of a few miles, it is all dirt. It is beautiful. Through most of the race, you are in sight of the ocean,” he noted. “It’s a small marathon and it is all up and down. You start out at Two Harbors and you end in Avalon. It is a tough marathon, probably one of the tougher ones, but its setting really is unique.”

Not surprisingly, Carbuto remembers a lot of his marathons, but there are a couple of individual races that stand out in his mind.

Photo by David J. Nelson
Dr. Michael Carbuto

“I ran one in Catalina where it rained two inches during the marathon, and it was just comical. You are looking at each other, the people running with you, and you think to yourself, ‘Do your parents have any normal children?’ The mud and how much you were covered with it was just absurd,” he said. “In the early years, the Long Beach Marathon was held in February. One year, I seem to remember that it was 39 at the start of the race. So, I’ve run in all kinds of weather.”

Even before he started running his 100 marathons, Carbuto remembers his very first race – a 10K on a 4th of July in Alamogordo, N.M.

“I came in dead last, I mean to the point where they were breaking down the water stations. My family was there and they thought that I had died in the desert,” he recalled with a laugh. “I have come a long way since then. So when people say they can’t do it, I just tell them that story and let them know they can do it. A lot of it is just physical training, but a lot of it is mental as well.”

He doesn’t worry about his time as much as he used to, but he estimates that his finishing times are usually between four and five hours. His best-ever finish was 3 hours, 27 minutes in the Los Angeles Marathon, but he quickly pointed out that he turned that time in about 15 years ago. He also recorded a 3:55 in San Francisco in 2001.

Injuries, however, have taken their toll over the last few years. Carbuto has had two back surgeries, and last year, he had to have surgery on his leg. Each time, he has had to take a leave from his normal running routine, but each time he has managed to work himself back into it.

“You know, it’s funny. I planned on running my 100th last year, but I broke my leg on the way to my 99th marathon,” Carbuto said. “I literally was driving up to my 99th marathon, which was going to be in Big Bear the next day, but I broke my leg in a motorcycle accident on the way up there and had to have surgery on it.”

Carbuto says he will keep running as long as he can. In fact, he hopes to be the oldest person out in the field in another 20 or 30 years. In the meantime, he will just keep plugging away, running in the marathons that appeal to him and training along the streets of Long Beach or whatever city he happens to find himself in when he is away on business or visiting or whatever.

“I run everywhere I go,” Carbuto stated. “Whatever city I am visiting, I try to run there.”

There is, however, one upcoming run he is looking forward to, and he admitted that he was very surprised when he found out who is running partner would be.

“My son started running around his 30th birthday, which really surprised me. I mean, the only time my son would normally run was when he was being chased. It just wasn’t something he would do,” Carbuto said. “Now, we’re going to run the Austin Marathon together on Valentine’s Day. I’m really looking very forward to it. It will be a nice thing to do together.”