By Ben Rodgers
GREEN BAY – After 17 months of hard work and training, Will Kocken reached his goal and in more than one way.
The Hobart native set the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon while carrying 100 pounds on his back Sunday, May 20, at The Green Bay Cellcom Marathon.
Kocken ran an official time of 6 hours, 27 minutes, 59 seconds, which beat the previous record of 6:47:03.
Kocken averaged 14:48 per mile, well below his targeted pace of 15:32 per mile that he trained for.
“It feels pretty amazing, it feels unreal, actually, to put it simply, it doesn’t feel like it actually finally happened,” Kocken said the day after the race.
Kocken set out to beat the record, but in doing so he wanted to raise awareness and funds for HOOAH (Helping Out Our American Heroes), an organization where he currently serves as state president.
“It was complete awe as to how many people were there to support this attempt,” Kocken said. “Then the next thing that went through my mind was I really did it, 17 months of training and it finally happened.”
Online and mailed-in donations topped his $10,000 goal for the 4th HOOAH Wisconsin.
He said with those funds his group will be able to take more veterans skydiving through the Freedom Freefall. The event aims to reduce issues that led to depression in veterans.
The funds will also be used to set up another scuba training class for veterans. With that program, veterans receive scuba certification, a mask, snorkel and fins to provide them with another activity they can do with other veterans.
Just as HOOAH wants to support veterans, Kocken completed his record-breaking run with the support of four friends who had his six during the marathon.
“Those dudes had me covered,” he said. “It was the main reason it happened, it’s not possible without a support group like that.”
As for the run itself, Kocken said things were going fine until the inevitable happened. That’s when his friends and his 17 months of preparation helped him finish.
“Everything went as planned until about mile 18,” Kocken said. “Then the wheels kind of started to fall off. Once that happened it was just a struggle fest, it was ‘Suck it up and put one foot in front of the other, keep grinding and find a way to get to the finish.’ As I approached the last couple of miles I knew I had the record, I just had to find a way to keep grinding.”
Kocken also completed the run in service boots, which made things more difficult, but he wanted to honor all veterans past and present for their service.
“Definitely not an easy task by any means in boots,” he said. “Fortunately they make some high-quality boots these days.”
As for what’s next, Kocken said he will rest a little before he attempts the Ironman Triathlon in September.
He also wouldn’t rule out any more lofty record attempts, but he did say they take time.
“This one took me 17 months from the moment it was an idea to when it was actually executed,” Kocken said. “It won’t be a near-future thing. Big goals like this take a lot of time, hard work and preparation.”