On Thursday, October 9th, I flew to Akron, Ohio for the First Road Runner Akron Marathon hosted by two long time runners and community supporters, Jeanine and Steve Marx. Steve runs Gourmet Baked Goods and with Jeanine's organizational help they put together a superb highly organized event. I came to this marathon party via Denver event organizer Creigh Kelley. My job was to be involved with the development of the TV spots building marathon/event awareness for Ohio residents, to inform local media of the event's goals via phone and at press conferences and pre and post-race. Also, I would join former Wesleyan track and cross country teammate, Jeff Galloway, doing a talk at the pre-race Expo. And we would be preceded by John "The Penguin" Bingham. John is a funny guy and his wit and sense of fun are always needed in our sport as the only serious side of the sport can be overwhelming, especially for the beginner. After all running your first 26 miles is enough to get you nervous, attitude adjustment is helpful when under such circumstances! Race day featured a spectacular start from a famous Blimp Airship Terminal, sunny dry weather, the Mayor and sponsor attendance, and 2500 relay racers and marathoners. The event's finish line was in a downtown stadium and as I watched the runners pass through downtown and on to the stadium, I regretted not being able to run with them. I was still in a hard cast and using crutches to walk and occasionally a wheelchair to move faster. The race was special for its three country (US, Canada, and Mexico) relay Marathon. Team USA coached by Jim Ester ran strongly finishing just behind the Mexican Team. Seeing American and foreign competitors race in team uniform brought a special excitement to the race and I hope we can see more of this at other marathons. Also, the media can become aware of our young American road racers and track athletes. After the awards dinner hundreds of us were treated to a Jay Leno performance and Steve and Jeanine and their Team and the City of Akron began organizing for the October 2, 2004 Road Runner Akron Marathon.
The following weekend I was to run a new 5k the day before the Anthem Bay Bridge Marathon, itself just two years old. I fired the starter gun since I could not run. This marathon was a point to point jaunt over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which finished at the Boardwalk of Virginia Beach. Difficult winds slowed times, so the organizers consoled runners with a superb post race barbeque with band and beer at the awards site by the Ocean. Substantial age group awards and prize money led to a competitive race enhanced by the fact that this area of Virginia is a already a hotbed of running clubs and races. Race organizer, Whit Collins, and his team have crafted a unique new marathon event that only needs a tail wind year to really put it on the runner map.
November used to mean a visit to the New York City Marathon for me but for the second year in a row I watched the race on TV at home. It was a hard day for the Americans; except for P.Diddy, who ran well. Nowadays, November means The Runners Classic 5k and 10k races at Sea World in Orlando, Florida. I won the Masters and Seniors 10k there in 2003. This year I walked some of the race alongside 2000 of my friends. Despite a winding "slow" course through Sea World, there were several internationals representing New Zealand, Great Britain and what was that other country registered? Oh yeah, Kenya! Olympic gold metalist Frank Shorter ran as he often does and spoke at the pre-race dinner at Sea World about trends he foresees for the sport. As probably the most eloquent speaker in our sport, Frank preaches what he practices quite well! Most of all though this is a community event with lots of family, meaning kids, and participation/races and a bumper crop of prizes for age group aces.
CBS televised the race and did a fine job of it too. Reason one, Tony Reavis. I take back what I said about Frank being the sport's most eloquent speaker. Tony has been writing, researching and commentating on the sport for 25 years. He is just not as fast as Frank on foot.
I am walking an hour every day in a walking boot and using the exercise bike and light weights. None of these activities is it for me. It is all about running!
Early December I flew to Salt Lake City to meet Scott Kerr, event organizer for the inaugural Salt Lake City Marathon to be held April 26-27. He introduces me to event organizers and sponsors and we meet the media. Some of the media are runners and get it. Most do not. Scott is patient (as befits a one-time four flat miler!). I cannot run with the 50 or so folks who start early before my talk at noon. A hundred and twenty people come. Hey I am not Jeff Galloway or The Penguin! Maybe I can impersonate those fine fellows--I do my best. People are friendly and very excited about the Marathon. I guess that is why they came. I meet a runner overcoming cancer and running his first marathon. My broken leg does not hurt so bad. I meet Guy Perry and his wife, proprietor of the Salt Lake Running Company Specialty Store. Guy had conquered cancer a few years back. Running the Marathon is a small fear. Guy is a champion. Maybe I will run this Marathon one day. I like Salt Lake City. The people are super and the beauty of the surrounding Wasatch Mountains something special.
I flew to San Francisco and on to the Honolulu Marathon where my duties include sitting between Joan Benoit Samuelsom and Frank Shorter and signing authgraphs with them. This is a tough experience, like the 23rd mile of the Marathon. Frank is hyper but controlled; Joanie always steady but ready to do things with husband Scott, her children and friends. Longtime friends Greg Meyer, Rob DeCastello, and Patti Dillon, four-time Honolulu finisher and first American woman to crack 2:30 in the Marathon, complete our "legends of running" lineup. Does that mean we are old(er)? No, just accomplished. I like to think. Let us see how old I am by trying to run on the grass in the park. I do thirty seconds, one minute, three minutes, and I max out at five minutes. The fracture hurts but I am a runner again. I am so happy to join you again! This Marathon is so much fun! Yet, despite all this I am sad to be here without my fiancee, Mary, who cannot come due to her job. Like running, travel is something you do a lot with those you care about. On that note, let us aim high for 2004!
See you on the roads!