From time to time, I have been called crazy because I like to run long distances.
In 2017, I logged more than 1,300 miles, and I’m on pace for more this year. I’ve trained for five marathons and ran in four of them, including the 2009 New York Marathon.
I try to run more than 100 miles each month. I run because it makes me feel good, even when I’m running through an injury. I run so I can keep up my Mountain Dew habit and still weigh less than 200 pounds.
More importantly, I run because I have to. Running is an addiction, and my mental well-being depends on it. If I couldn’t run, I could seriously have a mental breakdown.
But if I am crazy because of my running, then Donald “Ozzie” Rosenleaf definitely flew over the cuckoo’s nest.
Of course, I’m referring to the great 1975 movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” when Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a marvel of modern science, gets transferred from a prison farm to a mental institution and meets his match in Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher).
Ozzie is my running hero and one of the best guys I know. He clearly doesn’t belong in such an institution, but his sanity is questioned all the time. He is called “crazy,” “nuts” or “bonkers” on a regular basis, and it is all because he is an extremely-dedicated runner.
“Oh jeez, it’s an everyday thing for sure,” Ozzie says.
These are not just the people who see Ozzie running the streets of Butte when it is well below zero, either. He gets it from fellow marathon runners.
Those are people that are usually accused of being a few bricks shy of a full load themselves.
“That’s the running joke on our long runs,” Ozzie says of running with his friends in “Butte’s Piss and Moan Runners,” a group of runners who have never been accused of being right in the head. “We’re done, and I have to go 10 more miles. It’s not normal.”
The 44-year-old Rosenleaf has taken running to a level only few can truly understand.
Last month, Ozzie ran three marathons in three states in three days, running 26.2-mile races in Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico. He ran all three marathons in about 3 and a half hours, qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:23 on the first day.
The trio of races means Ozzie has now run a marathon in 41 of the 50 states in the United States of America.
The three marathons also ranks fairly low on the Ozzie’s list of craziness, I mean accomplishments.
He has run six marathons in six states in six days. He’s done five in five once, and four in four a couple of times.
“When I did the six last year, it got pretty painful by the sixth day,” Ozzie said. “I questioned my own sanity.”
“I’d go to bed at night and think, ‘I’ve got to do it again tomorrow?’ By the morning, though, I felt good.”
Rosenleaf, a 1991 graduate of Anaconda High School, started running when he was 30. He quit drinking alcohol after being cited for drunk driving, and running helped his new lifestyle.
“I had gotten my DUI and needed something to transition to,” Ozzie says. “Running is the best medicine to quit drinking. It definitely clears your head more than drinking.”
At first, Ozzie was a treadmill runner. He even ran numerous marathons while watching movies on his treadmill, something that would make Nurse Ratched consider the use of electric shock therapy.
It took some prompting from the legendary “Wulfman” to get Rosenleaf to start pounding the streets.
“Johnny Wulf made me go outside,” Ozzie says. “He made me go to Bloomsday one year. He said, ‘You’ve got to go out and do some real running.’”
Soon, that real running led to a real marathon. Even though he says he didn’t train the right way for it, Ozzie finished the 2005 Mesa Falls Marathon in Ashton, Idaho, in 3:34.
Since that day, Ozzie has run another 54 marathons, and about 20 half marathons.
Montana turned out to be the fourth state in which he ran a marathon.
“I was just thinking of trying a marathon,” he says of first 26.2-mile race. “I ran fairly well in the first one, and I thought I could possibly run Boston.”
He went on to run Boston four times. His best time was 3:12 in 2009. He ran 3:17 last year.
This year, Ozzie has the rest of New England on his mind.
This summer he is heading to run marathons in New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont. Later in the summer, he’ll head to run in Nebraska and Missouri.
After a fall marathon in California, Ozzie plans to knock off his final state next summer.
A marathon in Juneau, Alaska, is set for July 26, 2019, which just so happens to be Ozzie’s 46th birthday.
Ozzie has also passed his love of running to his daughter, Joby, who is a freshman on the Montana State University track and cross country teams.
Judging by her third-place performance in the 1,500-meter race at the Montana Open Saturday in Missoula, it is safe to say the younger Rosenleaf, who had a stellar career as a Butte High Bulldog, is off to a great start.
In February of 2017, Joby Rosenleaf won the women’s overall title at the Snow Joke Half Marathon in Seeley Lake.
Her college career, however, prevents her from doing crazy things like run six marathons in six states in six days. For now.
Once Ozzie gets through this summer, though, those days will be over, or so he says. Then he’ll be able to focus on one marathon at a time, like normal crazy runners.
“I’ll be ready to start training for a single marathon,” Ozzie says. “It’s a lot easier on the body.”
That training will include running outside, no matter the elements. He no longer logs long miles on the treadmill.
“I only put about 15 miles on my treadmill all of last year,” Ozzie says. “I’ll go out and run at 20 below instead of run on my treadmill.”
Running on the treadmill has just become too boring even for the most die-hard of runners.
“They just don’t make movies like they used to,” Ozzie says.
If the weather gets bad enough, however, Ozzie could always watch “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” one more time while running on the treadmill.
That movie never gets old. Plus, it would probably do him some good.
— Bill Foley, who could use a few sessions with Nurse Ratched, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74