Tuesday, May 21, 2013

100 marathons

This is the infamous Jim Tucker (and me, celebrating after a TNT 1/2 marathon a couple years ago).

Last week I met up with some friends to celebrate this great friend who was about to run his 100th marathon.  We brought him things like 100 ibuprofen, 100 band-aids, 100 bags of M & Ms.  And lots of wine (well, none for me). ;)

Then there was another crew of us who decided to trek up to Cleveland to witness the legend actually run.  Some went up the night before with plans to run the race with him while another group got up at the crack of dawn to make the 2.5 hour drive to Cleveland on race morning.  I was part of the early morning crew that drove up on race day.

We spectated, we rang our cow bells, waved our signs and our "Jim on a Stick."  We had a great time being able to support the coach who has supported so many of us through our marathon adventures. 
I got an awful lot of smiles....

While this person wasn't one of our spectating gang, I enjoyed this sign:

Jim was like the Forrest Gump of the Cleveland Marathon.  He kept picking up additional members of the entourage as he ran.  There were a couple that started with him, some of our gang joined in the full at the half way point and then a few others joined in in the last miles.  It was SO much fun seeing him come down the finish shoot with his running party.

What was more fun was that the finish line announcers knew Jim and gave him lots of fan fare at the finish....

I asked Jim a couple questions about his marathon adventures (of course with my commentary in red):

Why/how did you end up doing your first full marathon?      I tried a full marathon my freshman year at Ohio University (a fellow Bobcat!) in 1971 but dropped out at mile 18 of the Athens Marathon.  I had no idea what I was doing and was very, very under-trained.  In 1983, I lost my job to the recession so I had time to actually train.  I still had no idea how to train.  My longest training run was 8 miles, however, I ran 8 miles every day for three months so I had a solid 56 miles/week base. That, and being a young 31 years old, got me to the finish in 3:28.  (One, I don't think I could ever do 8 miles per day for 3 months without injury or hating walking/running.   Two, a 3:28 first marathon?! Holy fast, Batman!)

Tell me a little about your first full (the 1983 Cleveland Marathon)?     I picked Cleveland for my first marathon mostly because of timing.  I lost my job in February and the race was in May.  It was close to Columbus and I had a former college roommate from OU that lived in Cleveland to stay with that weekend. (I don't think Jim found it as amusing as I did when I told him-respectfully- that in 1983 I was 2 years old and probably still mastering the art of walking.)

Do you have a favorite race?       Boston will always be my favorite marathon because of the tradition and because you have to qualify to get in.  The crowd support there is amazing with close to a million people lining the entire 26.2 mile course.  It has become a "Rite of Spring" to go there to either run or spectate every April.  I have been there every year for the past 24 years.  I have run the race 15 times.  Being in the first corral at the 100th running of it was special (each corral has 1,000 runners based on qualifying time and there were 38 corrals that year ).  The last time I actually ran Boston was in 2006.  Having another chance to run at Boston might be one of the reasons for un-retiring from marathoning.  Since I'm so slow now I would probably have to get in through a charity that doesn't require qualifying times or by special invitation through some of the connections I have.  The bombings at Boston this year will NOT keep me from being there next year (I assumed this to be the case but I asked for the sake of journalism...'cause blogging is straight up legit).  Just the opposite, it might inspire me to do #101 instead of spectating if I can get in.

Do you have a favorite marathon story?     Well, my favorite marathon story was about doing my 50th marathon on my 50th birthday at the Virginia Creeper Trail Marathon where it took me forever to finish because of injury during the race.  However, after all the support I had at Cleveland for my 100th marathon that will now be my favorite story.  (Personally, my favorite Jim Tucker marathon stories was from the Cap City 1/2 marathon a couple years ago.  We were coaching together.  The conditions were awful.  It was cold, raining and windy for the entire race.  We found each other in the last 1/2 mile where we were waiting for our last participants.  We asked how each other were holding up when he pulled something out of his running shorts-from where I didn't want to know.  A White Castle slider.  A cold, soggy slider.  He asked if I wanted it.  WTF, Jim??  He ran passed a White Castle along the course and thought it would be funny to buy one and offer it to our athletes as they ran by to get a laugh out them.  I'm certain it worked.  That's the kind of coach he is.  If you want to BQ, he'll get you there.  If you want to survive, he'll help with that too.  If you want to survive and have a little fun along the way, that's his specialty.  That story is the reason I made the sign below for his race on Sunday.)
When did you realize you would be able to reach 100 marathons on the 30th anniversary of your first?  Lately I've been doing 2 - 3 marathons a year so when I was in the low 90s about three years ago I started planning to get to 99 marathons prior to this year's Cleveland (the 30th anniversary of his first marathon)  I had a setback on my plan a year ago when I was severely bitten in the leg by a dog while training on the bike path in my neighborhood but I managed to ramp things up last Fall, Winter and this Spring to make this happen.

What do you think has made you such a successful marathoner?  (friend support/coaching/love of the sport, etc).     All those things come into play.  A lot of my early training and marathons were on my own.  But surrounding myself with others really helped tremendously.  For success as far as speed is concerned, hiring a private coach that was a former Olympian ( Benji Durden in Boulder, Colorado ) paid huge dividends and led to me to PR of 2:49.  For success as far as number of marathons is concerned, training smart and avoiding injury (only one serious injury in 45 years of running ) was the key.  Becoming a Team in Training Coach and learning from experts like Dr. Jack Daniels proved beneficial.  Getting certified by my friends Patti & Warren Finke as an RRCA Run Coach also added to my knowledge of the sport.  But all that means nothing if you don't love the sport.  (I'm also going to add that he has a super supportive partner in crime, Karen, who tolerates him being gone a lot while training, coaching, racing and other antics.  Behind every crazy endurance athlete are friends and family who put up with it for sure!)

I had to ask a follow up question on this one because I was curious as to what his one serious injury was...
The one major injury I had was in 1996 a month after running the 100th Boston Marathon.  I was entered in a small 5K race in New Albany and because I was so fit from training for Boston, I was trying, at age 44, to actually win the race.  To gain every second I needed to do that, I wore racing flats which offer little protection.  I ended up tearing a small muscle in my foot as a result and was in a boot for what seemed like forever.

Tell me a little about what you thought about #100?    It was a lot of pressure.  You have to finish but it was so much fun!  Race conditions weren't ideal.... the older I get the less I can tolerate heat.  But it was so great to go back to where it started 30 years ago!  The support and well wishes from everyone meant so much!

You've run 100 marathons, now what?  (Are you going to Disney World?!? )    (The Disney World reference is because despite that being my favorite race, it is NOT towards the top of Jim's list.) Believe it or not, I am doing the Ogden Half Marathon in Wheeling, WV this weekend.  My friend Charlie was there every step of the way in the Cleveland Marathon for my 100th marathon so it's my turn to support him there for his 30th consecutive year of doing that race near his hometown. As far as the next marathon is concerned, I think after 100 marathons there is not much more to prove so this would be a good time to retire from that distance, but who knows.......... that just means I can "un-retire" some day if I so choose.  I don't plan to retire from running and plan to concentrate on half marathons and other shorter distances.   (It's only been 7 years (and 4 fulls) since my first full marathon and I've already shifted my concentration to 1/2 marathons.  Not that I don't plan to do more full marathons at some point in the future, it's just that 1/2 marathons seem to fit into my schedule better!)

 Congrats Jim!  We are so proud of you!


  1. YAY JIM!!!! Thanks for the race report Amber....I have tears in my eyes....what a great guy that Tucker is!