Paul Pusich hobbled through the runners' chute at the finish of the Frank Maier Memorial Marathon Saturday, gingerly walked over to a nearby bench, and sat down with a dazed expression on his face.
Pusich had just won his third straight Maier Marathon, but his 2 hour, 51 minute, 42 second finishing time was well off his course-record time of 2:40:23 set last year. The pavement of the 26.2-mile out-and-back course along Douglas Highway had taken its toll, and Pusich -- who much prefers to run trails -- said this is his last Maier Marathon.
``It's hard to get hungry for this thing,'' said Pusich, who is rarely tested in local running events. ``The road got the better of me. The pavement beats your legs up. I'm not gonna run this thing next year, and you can print that.''
For a runner of Pusich's caliber to say a race has gotten the better of him, even if he won it easily, says a lot about how tough a marathon can be. Pusich has placed as high as fourth in the arduous 28-mile Crow Pass Crossing from Girdwood to Eagle River, and plans on running the Angeles Crest 100-mile Ultra Marathon to Pasadena, Calif., Sept. 30. But he said a 26.2-mile run on pavement is tougher on the body than a 100-mile jaunt through mountains.
Shawn Miller, who won his second straight Douglas Island Half-Marathon Saturday, said he opted out of the full marathon because it'd take too long to recover in time for his cross country season at Division II Western Washington this fall.
``Twenty-six point two miles - that's a long way,'' Miller said. ``It'd take me three weeks to recover from that.''
Tom Casey, who placed second in the marathon in 2:55:13, said you can train after running in a marathon, but you can't push yourself.
``For a couple of weeks you're spent,'' Casey said. ``If you try to go to the well, you're spent.''
Casey, who ran middle distance races for Penn University and now attends graduate school at Yale, said good marathon runners have a short, efficient shuffle rather than an elongated stride.
``Everybody thinks you look good (striding) but it's not efficient,'' Casey said. ``I aspire to shuffle because it's nice and efficient.''
Jim Douglas, who holds the Maier Marathon masters' record of 2:46 set in 1992, agreed that marathons take a toll. ``It takes three weeks to a month to recover from,'' said Douglas, who placed eighth in the Half-Marathon Saturday. ``The marathoners today will pay the price - except for the Pusiches, they're used to it. But most of us can't do that.''
But for some, running marathons is a way of life. Women's winner Marit Schultz, 39, has run marathons in 15 other states, and plans on running one in each state. Schultz, who works as a waitress in Birchrun, Mich., ran with her mother Gunveig Janse (third, 5:10:34).
``It's not her goal (to run marathons in all 50 states),'' Schultz said. ``But I've been dragging her with me.''
Schultz said she used to be a competitive walker, but needed more of a challenge. She's qualified for the 2001 Boston Marathon in April, and plans to run a marathon in St. George, Utah, in October. Schultz said she enjoys the long distance of a marathon.
``I look at how pretty it is,'' Schultz said. ``It's no different than going out for a stroll.''
Paul Piplani, 50, has run marathons and ultra-endurance runs all over the world, and is an ultimate example of the tortoise beating the hare - or as the Energizer Bunny. Piplani, who placed 13th among men in 4:16:43, said he's run in 41 marathons this year, and is going for his fourth time running marathons in all 50 states. He planned to run in the Yukon River Trail Marathon in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, today.
``I've got five more states to go,'' said Piplani, an independent contractor with the aerospace industry. ``All I do is run and eat and sleep and fly.''
Pusich said all he wanted to do was rest.
``I've been sick all week,'' Pusich said. ``I'm just gonna take it easy and go get a massage, go get on some trails. No more pavement until Klondike.''