What could be better than catching a plane tomorrow and heading off to Ireland with my girl friend Jane Hattemer and best buddy Harold Rachford to witness their respective debuts in the Dublin Marathon? It just can’t get any better than this. An unlikely duo to be training for their maiden voyage, I must say. A 53 year old chain-smoking horse trainer (’til last December, anyway, when he managed to quit), and a 48 year old drama teacher who plaintively announced, “I won’t ask you to be in one of my plays if you don’t expect me to become a runner!” when we first met a bit over a year ago.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Seeing Bob Eckerson recently complete the 100 Kilometer Chancellor Challenge in Boston, I was moved to note that his running schedule this year is as diverse as anyone who’s ever represented the CCAC. Eck’s already established himself as the star softballer in our inter-club tussles with Somerville, he’s run well this year at every distance from 5K to 100 miles, he’s done duathlons and triathlons of every description, he’s touched down on these athletic forays all over the globe (Switzerland, Ireland, Vermont, Florida, New York, New Hampshire, Boston to name a few off-Cape locales), and unlike yours truly, has an unblemished record when it comes to finishing what he starts, a sometimes under appreciated talent in itself.
Wonderful to see Carl Tourgee back running again, and running well, as attested by his qualifying time at Bay State. Likewise to see old friend Mike Sellars whipping the ol’ bod back in shape for one more go round. Both these guys have that irresistible “What? Me worry?” attitude that is so infectious and happy-go-lucky that it relaxes the rest of us.
Wilt Chamberlain dead at age 63. Perhaps the most prodigiously physically gifted athlete of them all, Wilt was that rare human being who actually preferred testing himself at pursuits where his size did not give him a natural advantage. A few know that he was the fastest 76er— quicker even in a full court dash than quick-silver guard Hal Greer; fewer yet know that Wilt once ran the 500 meters for Overbrook High School at the Penn Relays in 49.3, but almost no one realized that in his fifties Chamberlain grew interested in endurance running, completing three marathons and a fifty miler.
Sad to see that Rosie Ruiz-like episode at the famous Comrades in South Africa in June. Seems one of the leading runners had his look-alike brother waiting at the halfway point in one of the port-a-potties, where they hastily pinned the number on the fresh entrant, pony express style, and thought nobody would be the wiser. And maybe they would have got away with it, but not for some sharp eyed detector viewing video tape and noticing the culprit was wearing his runner’s watch on the opposite wrist after rejoining the pack….shows you just how far folks will go when there’s over $200,000 in the pot.
Running two other 100 milers four times did not prepare me for what I was in for at Western States. I don’t believe anything this side of the Mississippi could, which is why I understand how far greater runners than myself (try Ann Trason, Paul-Days Merrill, and John Geesler, just for a few) did not finish their initial attempts at the grand dame of hundred running, either. But take this to the bank: if fortuitous enough to be invited again, I shall complete this Sierra Nevada course. File under unfinished business.
A few weeks ago I sent away to the National Masters publishing company for their age graded book of tables. This is a fascinating look at equivalency charts whereby you can compare any race time with what would be produced at an optimum age. Besides competing against yourself and your old p.r.’s, it serves as a wonderful graph to decide actual worth of race times without the age barrier. This is particularly fun when you have a race with limited entry numbers and want to establish the chance to have an exciting and close finish by the use of a starting time handicap. Ron Lafreiere used to liven up some of the Famouth Running Club workouts by using this in road intervals when the track was being used. Thus, we all had the thrill of “beating” Kenny Gartner or Mel Gonsalves with the aid of Ron’s handy computer (and a little sneaky lying, of course).
I am going to lend it to age group runner extraordinaire Bill Lord while I’m over on the Emerald Isle, so if you want to see how well you match up with your peers, take a look. You can find Bill helping Kevin out at the Wednesday night jogging class at Barnstable High School on Wednesday nights.
See you on the trails,