Wearing a long-sleeve shirt and running shorts, Astros general manager Ed Wade emerges from Minute Maid Park in stride shortly before noon and appears as about unaffected by the chilly weather as you would expect from a man who grew up shoveling snow in Pennsylvania.
Wade cuts a swath through the warehouses that sit just south of the ballpark and soon disappears out of sight. His lunch break on this day consists of a 45-minute training run on the outskirts of downtown Houston. Not even the weather can get in the way of his preparation at this point.
Wade has been training this offseason to run in the Houston Marathon on Jan. 30, just two weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Kissimmee, Fla., for the start of Spring Training. This will be Wade's first marathon since completing his inaugural 26.2-mile run at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in 2007.
"My 55th birthday is the next day [Jan. 31] and my goal is to finish before I turn 55," Wade joked. "I should be alright."
Shortly after he was hired by the Astros more than three years ago, Wade finished the Marine Corps Marathon in 4:49.25 and hasn't been able to run another because of the demands of the job. The timing of the Houston Marathon is perfect, because Wade can do all of his training in the offseason, even if that means running in frigid temperatures at his south New Jersey home during the holidays.
"During the season, it gets a little bit challenging," Wade said. "It's usually easier to run when I'm on the road with the club. But it's sporadic, irregular when you're in the midst of a two-week homestand. It's hard to find the time to go out to discipline yourself to find the time to do that."
At this point in his training, Wade is running four times per week, usually with a long run on the weekend. He ran about 22 miles just before leaving for the Winter Meetings last month, and on Saturday completed his final 20-mile-plus run prior to the start of the marathon.
"It's a program, and theoretically, it gets you ready for race day," Wade said. "I'm training to finish. That's the goal. I enjoy getting out there. I like to run. It's nice to take off a couple of those pounds you gain during the season and just a fun thing to do."
Wade has been running since he began his baseball career as a public relations intern with the Astros in 1977. While many in his position took up golf as a hobby, Wade could never justify spending five hours on the links on an off-day with three kids at home. He began running instead and soon grew to love it.
"So running and reading and occasionally skydiving -- which I haven't done in three years -- those are probably pretty much my hobbies," Wade said.
Wade's inspiration to run his first marathon was the memory of Travis Manion, a Marine who died in the line of duty. Manion, whom Wade met through a mutual friend a year earlier, was killed during a firefight in Iraq in April 2007. Manion graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy two years before Wade's son, Ryan, graduated from Annapolis.
"Friends and family of Travis were going to run the Marine Corps Marathon in his honor," Wade said. "I told my friend, 'I've never done a marathon before, but sign me up.' I used that as motivation to do the training to run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2007."
Training for a marathon not only helps keep Wade in shape, but it gives him a brief respite from his office, his iPhone and the demands of being a Major League general manager. Wade has loaded his iPod with hours of country music and temporarily forgets any troubles he might have while he's pounding the pavement.
"If I had enough endurance, I could run for four days with country music -- and I've got classic and stuff in there, but it's mostly country I listen to," he said.
Of course, Wade can't totally escape from baseball. It's not uncommon for him to pore over the roster and even make some hypothetical player moves in his head while he's running the streets of Houston, by the rivers in Pittsburgh or along the lakefront in Chicago.
"The job comes first," Wade said. "I've thought about stuff. You think about roster moves and different things on long runs. You solve all kinds of problems and different sorts of scenarios run through your head when you're going that far."
The mental grind of a 162-game baseball schedule has put Wade in a good frame of mind to be able to train for marathons. Wade, like countless others in baseball through the years, has compared the baseball season to a marathon. Those comparisons are more than old adage, Wade says.
"It's a good analogy because of the mental part of it," he said. "When you talk to players and you go through that speech -- 'marathon, not a sprint' -- it really is, because if you expend all your energy in one shape or form at the beginning of the race or the beginning of the season, you may not have enough to finish. But at the same time, you can't approach the beginning of letting the pack drift away from you and expect to be there at the finish line.
"Look at our season in 2010. You get off to an 0-8 start and 17-34, and then you really hit your stride and you start playing better, but it's pretty much too late at that point. Although you want to pace yourself, you also don't want to be in the mindset that the first steps you take in April aren't as important as the steps you're going to take at the end of September. Because if you don't pay attention to what you do in April, you're not going to get the chance to still be in the running in October."
And while simply finishing is the goal for Wade when he runs the marathon, finishing in first place is his goal for the Astros this year.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.