Marathon memories run back to the start | Community Spirit
Thousands of runners will fill Fourth Street Downtown on Saturday, Dec. 1, for the eleventh running of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon.
The elite flat bellies will be checking their watches at the starting line on Beale Street after the Star Spangled Banner is sung.
Slow pokes like me will be a quarter mile back on the overflow section of participants that will stretch well up on to Union Avenue.
It's exactly where I belong!
This slow-footed newsman set out 11 years ago to try to beat Oprah Winfrey in her lone 26.2 mile effort in the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon.
At age 40, the Queen of Television Talk nailed an incredible time of 4:29:15.
I started running the distance at the inaugural St. Jude Memphis Marathon in 2002. In my first effort, I finished a solid hour behind Ms. Winfrey!
In my defense, I was 46-years-old and working full time with no personal trainer like the swifter Oprah.
I ran that inaugural event with some good friends, Paul Riddle and Dennis Paden.
Paul had been a champion high school runner and was the first member of the U.S. Military to cross the finish line at one of the Pikes Peak Marathons of the 1980s.
Paul apparently celebrated his ascent a little too enthusiastically and found himself in a Colorado clink the morning after that demanding run.
A buck private, Paul's commander learned that his young fleet footed soldier had been the first serviceman to finish the race and ordered an immediate promotion to corporal.
Paul stood at attention as the speedster earned a stripe---in his jail cell! He was a lot of fun but Paul had a foot injury in 2002 and was literally dragging the foot by mile 20 so we knew we wouldn't set any land speed records.
The irrepressible Dennis Paden had been doing training runs from Cordova in East Shelby County all the way to the Deliberate Literate, a now shuttered Midtown bookstore that sold more coffee than page turners.
Ironically, Breakaway Running shoe store occupies the space now.
The three of us laughed all the way through the 26.2 mile test back in 2002 and promised to do better the next time.
I was serious, running the full St. Jude Memphis Marathon five times: 2002, '04, '06, '08 and '10 and the half marathon in each of the years in-between.
It's been a blast participating in the first decade of this spectacular and well organized event.
I wish I had paid better attention and picked up my 2006 pace when I finished in 4 hours, 30 minutes, a mere 45 seconds behind Oprah!
But you can't cry over spilled Gatorade. 2006 stands as my marathon PR, or personal record.
I have no illusions about shattering this mark on Saturday, Dec. 1.
I signed up for the full marathon in May 2012 with no idea that I'd break my neck in two places in a Union Avenue traffic accident on July 17.
I spent eight weeks in a neck brace and my training came to a standstill.
Thanks to the prayers of many of you and the good doctors of Campbell Clinic, I am on the mend.
Slowly but surely, I have made a comeback and intend to try my best at the 2012 St. Jude Memphis Marathon but haven't the foggiest idea of how far I can go.
One thing's for sure, I may set a new standard for slowness!
So Oprah, relax. I won't threaten your remarkable time this year.
But I am most grateful to many generous people who have sponsored my runs in the full or half marathons in each of the first ten years of this splendid event.
You can sponsor a so-called St. Jude Hero by entering the participant's name at www.stjudeheroes.org.
My personal page is on this site here .
I have been blessed to serve as a fundraiser for the crown jewel of our community, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, each of the first ten years of the event's history.
While slower than ever, I have no intention of stopping now!