Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Marathon Training

I'm 71 years old, and I've been in and out of running most of my life.

Mostly out, but I can remember when I was 16 I would run from Oakland Technical High School to downtown Oakland, a distance of about two miles, and try to beat the school bus going the same direction. The bus would pass me with jeering students catcalling out the windows, but then would slow in traffic or stop at a traffic light, and I would pass the bus. Sometime I beat the bus and sometimes it beat me, but it was always a fun challenge. I thought to myself, "Someday, I'll run a marathon!"

After a year of college I entered the Army as a draftee, and of course there was lots of running in training, both during Basic, and later in Germany as a member of the infantry. That wasn't fun, but I can remember thinking to myself, "With all this training, I'll bet I could run a marathon!"

I finished college, got a teaching degree, taught 6th grade in Monterey, California, and after a few years was offered a position as an elementary school principal with a big educational television project in American Samoa. My first assignment was to open a new school on the tiny, mile-wide island of Aunu'u. The school was built on newly cleared land about a mile from the only boat landing. All the school supplies were delivered once a week by motor launch from the harbor at Pago Pago, so on Wednesday mornings I would leave the school office, climb a low sand dune to get a clear view of the ocean to the east to look for supply boat. When I saw it in the distance I would get all the boys from the one eighth grade class, and together we would run along the soft sandy path around the island to the boat landing to offload and carry all the supplies back to the school. I was in wonderful shape, and thought to myself, "If I had more space, I bet I could run a marathon!"

Many years later I lived on another beach when I was working for the educational programs office of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I would run for miles in the sand along Cocoa Beach, and think to myself, "I'm strong enough to run a marathon!"

I moved to Richmond in 1984 to teach astronomy and space science at the Mathematics & Science Center, and often would run the four mile loop around the Central Gardens neighborhood during my lunch hour, thinking to myself, "Maybe one of these years I'll run the Richmond Marathon!"

I first ran the Monument Avenue 10k in 2002, and completed it in only 54 seconds over an hour. I thought to myself, "I bet if I trained I could do it in under an hour!"
The next year I was delighted when I finished in just over 58 minutes.
I became over confident. I didn't train as rigorously the next year. I finished four minutes slower. I thought to myself, "I'd never be able to run a marathon!"

The next year, I didn't even bother to enter the 10 k race.

In 2006 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and had a successful prostatectomy. Because I was incontinent as a result of the surgery I thought my days of running were over, but 7 weeks later I managed to run a 5k race while wearing a leg bag. With exercise the problem improved. I was able to get rid of the hardware, but running was still problematic.
The following year I had another surgical procedure which almost completely restored normal bladder function. I completed the the Monument Avenue 10k again, and I thought to myself, "Maybe I could run a marathon!"

I ran another 10k the following year, and although it took me more than an hour, I kept thinking, "I ought to see if I could run a marathon!"

As my 71st birthday approached, I thought to myself, "Good grief, I actually getting old, and I've been talking about running a marathon most of my life! It's time for me to either put up or shut up!"

Ignoring the incredulity of friends, I signed up for the Marathon Training Team. During our first meeting at The Diamond with over a thousand other registrants, I was surprised to hear announced that the youngest participant was 18, and the oldest was 71!....WHOA!...That's ME!

I'm a proud member of the Orange Team of novice runners, and have been doing the weekly runs on my own and the group runs on Saturday mornings since the beginning of June. This past Saturday I participated in a 16 mile group run, farther than I've ever run before, and when I huffed and puffed back to the starting point I thought to myself, "I really AM going to run a marathon!"

This week is a "slack-off" week: Four miles on Tuesday, eight miles on Wednesday, five miles on Thursday, and a group run on Saturday of 12 miles for a total of 29 miles for the week.

The week of November 5th will be more challenging: 4 miles, 9 miles, 5 miles, and a Saturday run of 18 miles! That will be followed by a slightly less demanding week, and then a week where the Saturday run is 20 miles!
The Richmond Marathon is scheduled for Saturday, November 14th. I WILL finish a marathon!


  1. George, you’re the MAN! My tale is a little like yours, often thought I could and often thought I couldn’t. I just turned 65 and when I finished the 16 miles last week I also felt like I could actually run a marathon.
    Buddy (Orange)

  2. This was great to read - GO ORANGE TEAM! Congrats on your accomplishments thus far and looking forward to seeing you at the finish line!
    -a fellow Orange runner

  3. Mike (Orange team)October 8, 2009 at 4:37 PM


    Absolutely an honor to be on your team and see you at the finish on November 14th!


  4. I am proud of everything about you. But particularly this Marathon of yours has taught me a good lesson too. Like it's never too late for anything. Especially when it comes to your dreams.

    How can I say you are inspirational? Like so much?

    I hope and pray that god gives all that strength to go get that Marathon done successfully.

    I hope that you will enjoy your marathon,

    Wish If I am there to cheer you!