Got Maier?

Frank Maier said, “Juneau needs a marathon.”


Frank, who didn’t need a reason to run, was quoted as saying it was the only race he gave a damn about and, according to his widow Judith, “If runners are smiling at some point at the end of this race I think Frank would have liked that.”

I know Frank Maier would not have said, or liked, what I over heard recently.

While covering one of the wonderful triumphs of athletic competition in my new adopted home, a competitor asked a final finisher, “Weren’t you embarrassed.”

The question asker had competed in the long portion of a short race. The question receiver competed in the shortest portion and finished last out of two participants.

(I wasn’t competing, I was just hoping to capture a sight or sound that might appeal to someone and inspire them to get out there).

I definitely didn’t want to uninspire someone.

Yet, remarkably, the un-crestfallen runner let the afore-mentioned comment roll away like endless miles of unimportant blacktop.

So I thought, “Why?”

Why do you say something like that when you have obviously been running a bit more than another. Was it malicious, or misguided, nervousness or just a social faux pas?

As for the “red lantern (last place)” runner... was it her first race? It was.

Was she nervous about the competition? She was.

Was it her fastest time at that distance? It was.

Was she excited? She was, it was a PR.

We run for different reasons.

With just a few days left before the 21st Annual Frank Maier Marathon and Douglas Island Half-Marathon, and the assorted other semi-marathonic half, quarter and fishtail swaggering events on Saturday... a question is looming.


Why do you run?

I know why I run. At least I think I know why I run and my answer is that... it varies.

I run for multiple reasons at different times.

On Saturday Larry Hughes, 63, a retired engineer from Chicago, Illinois, will run his 33rd marathon of the year on his way to 80 before the calendar turns to 2013.

“More than I had intended,” Hughes said. “But you get obsessive compulsive and then you get competitive or you like the endorphins.”

His wife Donna has ran just one and that was all she wanted to do. She finished and she is proud to say she was a marathoner.

Hughes missed 25 years because of arthritis (had it since his 20’s), until drugs were developed so he could run..

“I have always loved to run, even when I was in elementary school,” Hughes said.

Hughes is one of the fewer than 50 people in US history who have run more than 100 marathons since age 60 (only 5 have run 100 marathons since turning age 70).

In September he will complete a marathon in all 50 states for the third time.

“You have to work up to it,” Hughes said. “You can’t just show up and go for 26-miles. My cardio is in great shape but my joints are shot. At some point you are just grateful that you can do what you can.”

On Sunday, a day after the Frank Maier, many of the runners in town will do what they can at the “For The Fun Of The Run” on Treadwell Trail at Sandy Beach, running the 5k course over and over and over until another marathon distance has been crossed off their list.

Still others will travel to Wrangell for their Bear Fest marathon.

San Antonio, Texan Larry Macon, 67, ran 113 marathons last year, including the Frank Maier (for the 10th time).

“That is the craziest question I have ever heard,” Macon said. “If a guy had any sense he wouldn’t run. But a marathon is pretty easy to what you guys do in these mountains around here. I am a so-called lawyer. Lawyers sit around and bull---- and brag a lot. One day I got caught in a lie about training for a marathon and the rest is history.”

That history makes this Macon’s 898th marathon. He has run a marathon in all 50 states numerous times.

“This is one of my absolute favorites,” Macon said. “The people are nice, the surroundings are beautiful. They don’t care if a fat slow guy like me takes forever to finish. If you do a marathon you will have a wonderful time. It will be painful but you will have a real feeling of accomplishment. If you are a slug like me you will have a great time in that you will be talking to interesting people. The jerk factor among marathoners is far below what it is among lawyers, let me tell you.”

San Antonio, Texas’ Dan Shuff, 77, is the oldest marathon entrant and running his 300th, Wrangell’s Stephanie McIntyre is the youngest.

Indianapolis, Indiana’s Ryan Betz, 16, and Juneau’s Heather Shaw, 19, are in the half-marathon.

Huntington Beach, California’s Jim Simpson, 70, will be in his 900th marathon; Woodinville, Washington’s Cheri Pompeo, 60, her 350th; Angela Tortorice, 44, from Dallas, Texas (300 marathons); Vincent Ma, 42, San Jose, Calf. (200 marathons); Kevin Brosi, 57, Flower Mound, TX (200 marathons and Juneau will be his first time around the 50-states circuit); Diane Bolton, 51, Nashville, TN (130); Carol Earles, 42, Ravenden Springs, ARK (125); Julie Marsden, 54, Goldsborough, NC (50); Jeff Schiller, 56, Nampa, ID (50).

Twenty-two year-olds Patrick McMahon from Sitka and Mary Wikander from Fairbanks are running; Sitka’s Cameron Cullen, 23, is running; a trio of 24 year-olds - Gregory Kolwicz (JNU), Josh Pertal (Cambridge, MA), and Shane Young (Douglas) are running.

A number of my first Klondike teammates are running.

A slew of other Klondike runners are signed up.

Many runners I don’t know are in the field.

Twenty-five states will be represented, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico.

Juneau’s John Bursell will be trying to top citizen Shawn Miller’s men’s open record of 2:31:30 (2003) or Jim Douglas’ master’s record of 2:45:56 (1993).

“We are trying to make sure our timers are prepared for him,” race official Brian Bezenek said.

Bezenek, an employee at the national weather service, started running because it was free exercise, it was nice to get outside, and it could be done in spare time here and there.

“It is supposed to be cloudy with scattered showers,” Bezenek said. “With a high of 61 and a low of 53.”

The Frank Maier women’s record best time is 3:12:23 by Juneau’s Garrette McIntire (2009) and the masters is controlled by Maple Valley, WA. resident Mary Hanna (3:25:04). Other records are listed on the Southeast Road Runners website.

Runners are encouraged to run out and back in the race on the mountain side of the Douglas Highway, to not wear head phones so they can hear traffic, watch where they are running, drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated.

I myself recommend wearing shorts instead of longer leggings, wear a running belt with your favorite race fixings, and consume chocolate milk at the end... (has the correct healing dosages of ingredients and tastes pretty darn good).

More improtantly, run like no one is watching.

More than 70 entrants have preregistered in this years Frank Maier Marathon and more than 100 or so in the Douglas Island Half-Marathon (another 40 or so are expected to sign up at the site).

Record numbers in a race named in honor of 1950 JDHS grad Frank Maier.

Frank, an Oregon Duck track man.

Frank, who always wanted Juneau to have a marathon.

Frank, who helped organize the Juneau Parks & Recreation marathon event from 1971-88, which started at the Mendenhall Glacier and has now evolved to begin and end at Savikko Park in Douglas.

Frank, who didn’t need a reason to run, except that he liked to run.

“It is nice that so many people like to do this,” Judith Maier said. “I just hope that they have fun.”

And we all hope no one is embarrassed at why they are running.

Because each of us has their own reason to run.

Some of us run farther and faster than others, some of us run slower or less far.

That doesn’t make either achievement greater than the other.

And nothing to be embarrassed about.


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