Tuesday, March 23, 2010

5 Decades of Sub 3:00 Marathons

That is me and Runner's World editor Amby Burfoot before the 2000 Boston Marathon (long story here). That is a picture of him in the background winning the 1968 Boston Marathon.

So Amby Burfoot and Gary Allen have recently created a Facebook page called "5 Decades of Sub 3:00 Marathons." If you are on Facebook check it out. The premise behind the page is to find marathoners with the speed and longevity to have run a sub 3 hour marathon in five straight decades. Amby wrote about Gary Allen and added a  few names of runners who he knows have achieved this feat here. I would assume hundreds if not thousands have accomplished this (and maybe they have) but there are only a few names on the list so far. The names include Derek Turnbull, the late Larry Olsen and a few others. A few name runners are also ready to achieve this feat at the start of this coming decade. Interestingly enough, even the great Johhny Kelley did not quite achieve the 5 decades of sub 3 hours. He missed it by 3 minutes in his fifth decade.

I had already thought about the fact that I am approaching the running of a marathon in my fifth decade (post -see the last paragraph).

So I got to wondering if I could place on this list. I lost the list of marathons I was trying to keep over 10 years ago due to a hard drive crash and I have never tried to start the list going again. I know I have done about 40-50 of them, I just have to do some research and get all the times and dates correct. At first I thought that I would just miss being on the list (if I could run a fast marathon this decade-by less than 5 minutes, but I am thinking the last 10 years went by too quickly and times I thought I ran a few years ago where much further back in time).

This is the list I can come up with for now.

1970's November 25 1979 Philadelphia Marathon 3:03:57 (close!)
1980's April 26, 1981 Lake County Heart Fund Marathon (Illinois) 2:48:36
1990's September 28,1997 Clarence Demar Marathon 2:56:11
2000's Octber 15, 2006 Bay State Marathon 3:09:30

So unless I find a missing faster marathon. I can join the sub 3:10 club as soon as I go sub 3:10 this decade.

Another way to look at decades of running is to go by teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and if needed sixties. This is probably a more fair way to count decades as it relates to personal decades and not just a point on the calendar. According to this way of counting races. I have come up with this list showing that I have already accomplished 5 decades of marathon running.

Teens: Dec. 3, 1977 (18 years old) White Rock Marathon (Dallas) 3:25:44
Twenties: April 26, 1981 (21 years old) Lake County Heart Fund Marathon 2:48:36
Thirties: September 28,1997 (38 years old) Clarence Demar Marathon 2:56:11
Forties: Octber 15, 2006 (47 years old) Bay State Marathon 3:09:30
Fifties: October 25, 2009 (50 years old) Cape Cod Marathon 3:22:44

Well I got in five decades, but I am not that close to a sub 3 hour club. According to this list, I am in a sub 3:25 hour club for 5 decades).

I wish I thought of going for such a feat in the previous years. For example I didn't decide to run the Bay State Marathon (fastest in my 40's) until a spur of the moment decision the night before. I took it easy the first half and lost about 3 minutes waiting for port-a-john halfway through. I ddn't race and recovered nicely enough to run 8 miles the next day and a marathon (only 12 seconds slower the next week). I did no training run over 16 miles before that race either. In fact, I have never truly trained for a marathon by following a marathon training plan in all my years of running. I never did any runs over 16 miles training for marathons until 10-15 years ago, although I often ran back-to-back marathons throughout the years.

So, like most things running related with me, I get close to achieving something, but never close enough. It reminds me of a great song by The Alarm called "Close." "I've been close, closer than close, so close, not close enough."


I started thinking about decades. There is some debate about when a decade officially begins and ends. According to the experts, a decade really begins on the first year of the decade such as 2001 or 2011.
"The new decade will start on January 1st, 2011! There was no year 0 (our calendar went from 1 BC to 1 AD with no 0 inbetween). So the first decade started with the year 1, the second decade with the year 11, the third decade with the year 21, and so on.
If the calendar didn't start in the year 0 how can you say it ends in 9? This decade and century started on January 1, 2001 and ends December 31, 2010.
If we use this as our criteria, I actually have a chance to run five decades of sub 3 hour marathons. Can I do it? It might be close, but will I be close enough?

Here is a picture of the 1980 Gill Dodds Marathon  listed below. Back in 1980, you had to run a sub 2:50 to qualify for Boston (see a Runner's World daily news article from last year referencing my blog) . I missed it by 7 seconds. I did run into a parked car with less than one mile to go, stopping me for a few seconds and then after running onto the track for the finish in the stadium, I assumed we were to do a full lap like in the Olympics. No, as I went to finish the lap, I didn't notice that at the top of the track you were supposed to run onto the infield and finish on the football field. I lost a few more seconds turning around to finish correctly. Close, but not close enough to run Boston the next year. Oh yeah, I finished 11th. The top ten got awards. Always close!

Take a look now at my results according to this "mathematic" definition of a decade:

Decade starting in and ending in...
1971-1981 June 1980 Gill Dodds Marathon (Ill.) 2:50:07
1981-1991 April 26, 1981 Lake County Heart Fund Marathon (Illinois) 2:48:36
1991-2001 September 28,1997 Clarence Demar Marathon 2:56:11
2001-2011 Octber 15, 2006 (47 years old) Bay State Marathon 3:09:30

BUT, I still have until the end of this year to go sub 3:00 in my fourth decade. Someone explain to me if I have my math wrong. Can I do it? There is a good possibility. I am finding the balance in my muscles that have been missing for years. If I can train without getting injured, I believe by the fall, I could go sub 3:00 with effort and dedication. In fact, if I decide this is a worthy goal and my math is correct, then maybe I will have to follow a marathon training plan for the first time in my life! Then I would have to do a sub 3 hour one more time after the "new" decade begins in 2011. It sounds like I might just be developing a running goal in my mind. This could get fun, but would probably be noteworthy to no one else but me. It is a goal, however,  and this old runner could really use one. If not. I am keeping fit until my 60's and going for 6 decades of marathons, but I really do not want to think about that just yet!

And I might add, I may not have been very fast, but I guess I have had longevity in the sport!

No comments: