We LIVE for stories of perseverance, grittiness, and determination. We hear them all the time from racers in our community, but we also love to report on inspirational, badass stories from OUTSIDE the Spartan Universe — stories that we can learn from, that can help us become even more unbreakable. In Tough News, we share what we're hearing, why it's important, and why Spartans need to pay attention.
"You will fail. You're going to feel what it feels like to lose."
That's what 29-year-old Silver Spring, Maryland resident Jordan Tropf was once told as a Naval Academy student. And as he revealed in his behind-the-scenes interview with Believe in the Run, he did fail: Tropf missed out on his chance to become an accomplished college runner and, as a result, took an approach to running that was rooted in failure.
Despite learning to anticipate defeat, the orthopedic surgery resident was never derailed from pursuing running as a "fun hobby," according to Canadian Running Magazine.
That hobby has since led to actual success. In 2017, Tropf won the Baltimore Marathon on his first try, defeating the second-place finisher by more than three minutes, according to Hub. Then in early 2019, Tropf finished just outside of the top 50 at the Boston Marathon, and three weeks later he took first place at the Big Sur International Marathon — a race that is notorious for its relentless hills — with a personal record of 2:25:22. Also having placed competitively in several Ironmans, the 29-year-old has a long bucket list of endurance events that he plans to cross off using his failure-first mentality.
“I tend to do better in conditions that slow other people down," he told Believe in the Run. "My whole mentality, how I’ve been trained — I just don’t care, and make the best of it.”
Going for the 'American Trifecta'
On that bucket list this year was the 250-kilometer, 7-day Marathon des Sables in Morocco, which he had planned to complete this fall, according to The Boston Globe. That was, however, until the Boston Athletic Association — having canceled the previous year's race due to COVID concerns — rescheduled the 2021 event for Oct. 11.
This change placed the Boston Marathon within the same 72-hour time frame as another one of the six World Marathon Majors, the Oct. 10 Chicago Marathon, along with the orthopedic surgeon's previous conquest, the Baltimore Marathon — slated for Oct. 9.
Tropf's wife, Hannah — Under Armour's senior sports marketing specialist for running — told The Boston Globe that when she asked him if he was up for the challenge, she already knew the answer.
“Nothing ever surprises me anymore with Jordan,” she said. “He’s always up for a good challenge.”
By mid-July, it was decided: He would run all three marathons in three days. And what's more, the former "failure" would attempt to complete each of them with an average time of 2:30:00.
“We realized that, really, there’s the perfect storm this fall," Tropf told The Boston Globe. "That’s kind of what set this whole thing in motion. This is like the American trifecta. I couldn’t imagine a better series of races. Boston, mostly because it’s personal, but Chicago and Boston back to back is unreal."
Getting to the Finish Line
The prospective record holder began building a hefty milage logbook, recording more than 100 miles of running weekly (including trips to and from his work at Walter Reed National Medical Military Hospital, according to Believe in the Run). And with just over two full months to prepare, Tropf trained heavily with the Under Armour Human Performance Science and Research Center's Director of Athlete Performance, Michael Watts.
From there, the focus was mostly on the logistics of flying from one city to the next after completing each race, while still fitting recovery and fueling into the mix.
On Oct. 9, the Naval Academy alumnus finished the Baltimore Marathon in second place with a time of 2:27:23. He then flew to Chicago and completed the Sunday race in 2:31:54, earning 63rd place. With just one final race standing between Tropf and his goal, a canceled flight from Chicago to Boston required a direct drive to Detroit to board a different flight to Boston. Nevertheless, Tropf was at the starting line when the race began, and at the finish line when the clock hit 2:32:13.
At an average race time of 2:30:30 — or 5:44 per mile — Tropf reached his benchmark. But further, with a cumulative racing time of 7:31:30, he also set the unofficial record for the fastest time to complete three marathons in three days, edging out the previous best time of 8:11:08 by 40 minutes, according to Canadian Running Magazine.
"Think I'll take tomorrow off," Tropf wrote in an Instagram post.