Updated October 4, 2015
On January 3, 2008, I fell from a ladder onto concrete and suffered injuries to my face, rib cage, right hand, right wrist and left knee, where my knee cap was severely dislocated. My orthopedic surgeon stated to me in mid-February 2008, “Jim, you will probably walk without a limp after physical therapy, but your career as a Marathon runner is over.” He meant the Marathon part as a joke because I had never run farther than a half-Marathon. Still, he planted the seed in my mind. I walked without a limp by April 2008, rested and built up the knee while gaining weight in the remainder of 2008 and then began my Marathon training program.
Using a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch that my wife Dee Dee gave me for Christmas 2008, I walked nearly daily in 2009. My goal was to walk a minimum of 100 miles a month as suggested by Tim Chambers. That’s what Tim had done for the past six years. He joined me in a trail hike once a week, after which we had breakfast at a different locally owned restaurant (usually “Mom and Pop”). With Tim’s help, I walked 1,286 miles in 2009. In early 2009 after I had gained weight rehabilitating my left knee, my doctor reminded me that I had a heart condition called “left bundle branch block.” He told me that it could be a minor fact if I stayed fit, but it could be a major fact if I gained weight and was not fit. Since hearing that, I have walked or run over 100 miles a month for 81 consecutive months (January 2009 through September 2015). What’s amazing to me is that’s it’s so good for my health that I haven’t been ill enough or injured enough to miss enough days so that I couldn’t make a hundred miles in a month. So I continue to average 3.29 miles a day every single day of the year. Not too shabby for a guy who is 69 years old.
At a 2009 Thanksgiving get-together, my daughter Angela agreed to run the 2010 Los Angeles Marathon with me. That course appealed to me because the race began at Dodger Stadium and ended at the Santa Monica Pier. Thus it had a ballparks connection. We formed a team and I was in charge of pace, since my heart was the most likely to fail, and under-30 team member morale. Angela was in charge of course management and over-60 team member morale. I added jogging periods to my walks and by March 21, 2010, was ready to try my first Marathon.
My runs near or through ballparks is chronicled in the remainder of this section.
1. Los Angeles Marathon on March 21, 2010. Here’s the e-mail I sent to family and friends the day after the race:
Good Morning Everyone,
Thanks for the congratulatory e-mail messages yesterday. I feel pretty good this morning. Angela and I made a great team. She could do about a 4:30 Marathon on her own, so her job was to get me safely to the finish line. In fact, she had a done a Marathon twice before when in the Air Force. Those were with a full pack at White Sands Missile Range and the event is called “The Bataan Memorial Death March.”
At about 18 miles, Angela claimed that I was walking in an odd manner after I kept assuring her I was OK. Finally she said, “Are you being truthful with me? Dee Dee will kill me if you get hurt.” She made a lot more stops than I made (since I made zero stops until the finish line), such as going to the restroom, stretching, and trying every free pain reliever like spray and patches offered along the course. At times she even ran backwards. Meanwhile I plodded along on the right side of the street so that she could find me when catching up. I was easy to spot since we had matching “Team D&D Los Angeles Marathon” tee shirts with a logo designed by Angela. The only difference was that mine said “Dad” on the back and hers said “Daughter.” They were my birthday present from Angela. Thus, everyone knew my name and kept yelling out, “Way to go, Dad. You too, Daughter.”
Our code words were pretty simple. I said “uphill” when I needed to walk and “downhill” when I wanted to jog. I kept track of the pace on my GPS watch and at 24 miles I could see that we might not make the 6-hour goal if we kept walking, so I said, “Downhill to the barn (my name for the finish line).” In the last half-mile the cheers of the six-deep crowd lining Ocean Avenue caused my adrenaline and afterburners to kick in. Angela noticed that and said, “We’re accelerating.” I said, “Yep, I feel great.” Her left hand and my right hand locked and we raised them above our heads for the last 50 feet as we finished in a sprint. We finished in 5:53:20.
After the medal ceremony, Dee Dee, my sister Jan and brother-in-law Frank joined us for a post-race celebration at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company on the Santa Monica Pier (compliments of Frank). They were initially shocked to see how swollen my hands happened to be and how I could barely walk. When I went inside to get a beer, I was lucky enough to order two Bud Lights while standing next to a Bud Light distributor and she bought the first round.
This was my one and only Marathon. I never plan to do another event where I have to eat “Gu” (an energy gel that tastes like molasses and is squeezed from a tube into the mouth) or energy bars. The stuff does work though because energy never was an issue. Oh, by the way, the L.A. Marathon is calling us “legacy” runners since we finished the first Stadium to the Ocean Marathon. If I return next year they’d give me a legacy tag. Not enough inducement.
Postscript on the Web Site (not in the original message). Angela reminded me that at the 24-mile point, she added “Dad, it hurts as much to walk as it does to run, so we might as well run.”
2. Bay to Breakers in San Francisco on May 16, 2010. Here’s the e-mail message I sent to family and friends two days later.
On Sunday I went to AT&T park to see the Giants and Astros play. I had some time in the morning so I ran in the Bay to Breakers Race. This time I really mean “run” since I did not walk during any part of the course. I finished in 1:19:57 (unofficial) with a pace of 10:34 minutes per mile, which is three minutes per mile faster than my Los Angeles Marathon pace. Of course it was only about 7.5 miles instead of 26.2 in the Marathon. My goal was 12 minutes per mile, so I was pleased at the finish line. My early pace was 10:18 but that rose to 11:20 by the top of the Polk Street hill. That’s where everyone cheered because we realized that we would be going downhill from there to the Pacific Ocean. Thus my pace quickened. I ran next to big blue guys who were characters in Avatar. So I pretty much went unnoticed this time after everyone knew my name, Dad, in the Marathon.
I adhered to the rule that one should stick as closely as possible to his normal routine in pre-race preparations, so on Saturday night I started with a great North Beach Italian dinner with super Giants fans Art Dikas (Joe DiMaggio’s 1935 bat boy), Alice Lucia, Nadja and Mel Fechter, Frances and Jim Maunder, Lorraine Bellesi, Tony Roman, Juanita Bailey, and my brothers Larry and Ron (White Sox fan). After carb loading, I closed out my training session by drinking vodka rocks with my brothers until Midnight. It worked. I felt great during the race after being pelted in the face a couple of times before the race by flying corn tortillas. That’s become a Bay to Breakers tradition. They’re thrown like frisbees. At 64, I just don’t duck as fast as in the old days.
Below is a link to Fan Fotos (Note: not on this web site) of me during the race. Please don’t go past Page 4 if you are offended by frontal nudity. And as a primer for those whose athletic prowess is limited to watching sports from a recliner, I was running. Long-distance running is not conducive to pumping arms high like Bengie Molina or Pablo Sandoval hustling from home plate to first base. I used them as examples because I think I could beat both in a foot race. Hope to see you at a game soon.
3. Westlake Love Run on June 6, 2010. With all proceeds going to Seniors Meals on Wheels, I decided to run in the 10K race in Westlake, California. Dee Dee and I spent the night before the race at the Hyatt near the starting line. That was a good idea until I realized in the middle of the night that I hadn’t packed my running shoes. At first I figured it was a sign that I wasn’t meant to be running this race. That thought was fleeting, so I got up extra early to make the 50-minute roundtrip drive home to get my darned shoes. I’m glad I did because I ended up winning a bronze medal for the men’s age 60-to-64 age group. As you can read in the next story, the medal made up for my disappointing pace. I also had a problem with the medal ceremony. The presentation order was cattywampus. They began by giving medals to the racers under the age of 10 and then proceeded through five-year increments (10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79 and over 80) for the presentation of three medals in each category. Did it make sense to have an 83-year-old man stand through the entire ceremony for both the 5K and the 10K race before being given his gold medal as the only entrant over 80? Think about it. Ninety medals were awarded while that great guy stood in the hot California sun. Shouldn’t the contestant most likely to expire during the ceremony be given his medal first? You should have seen him standing there while the eight-year olds grabbed their medals and headed for shady regions and cold drinks early on. Pretty dumb.
4. Major League Baseball All-Star Game 5K Charity Run on June 11, 2010. Here’s the e-mail message I sent to family and friends a day later.
Yesterday I ran in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Charity 5K Race at Angel Stadium and was able to achieve some goals along the way. I felt like a male Annie Oakley at a carnival shooting gallery. Ping, ping, ping are sounds I heard as goals were hit dead-on.
First, I finally got to return the favor to baseball players Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Paul Molitor, Bobby Grich, Tim Salmon and MC Harold Reynolds. Those men entertained me with their athletic prowess through the years. Well, yesterday I got to make them laugh while I performed athletically (so to speak). I waved at each and every one of them as I passed the viewing stand where they stood. It took me about 30 seconds to get to the starting line in the crowd of 10 thousand runners after Bobby Grich twice tooted an air horn as the signal to begin moving. As a bonus, Michael Milken, Jillian Michael and Gabrielle Union were also recipients of my waves. All spoke words about how all the race proceeds would go to fund cancer research.
Second, I finally got to perform athletically on the field at Angel Stadium. That is if you count running around the stadium on the warning track. Runners weren’t allowed on the grass, much like sailors in Norfolk in the 1940’s. Some competitors stopped to mug for cameras while on the field but not this runner. That might have prevented me from achieving my final goal.
Third, I achieved my pace goal for the third time in four races. It would be four for four but when I ran on the 66th D-Day Anniversary 10K race in Westlake, I failed to achieve my goal. I wanted to finish at a pace under 10 minutes a mile and might have except for the Westlake Police Department. I got isolated between packs at around the five-mile marker and was shocked when a police officer ordered me to stop so that cars could cross my path to take people home. It was as if the four o’clock factory whistle blew because my heart, lungs, muscles and joints decided it was quitting time. I looked at my GPS watch and saw the pace go from 9:58 to 10:02 while I stood idle, and I couldn’t talk all the team members to break into a run for the next quarter mile. I finished with a pace of 10:14 and was pretty bummed out until I discovered that it was good for a bronze medal in the Men’s 60-64 Age Group. I was beaten by two young whippersnappers: a 60- and a 61-year old. On the bright side, that means I’ll be big man on campus next year when I race the old geezers in the Men’s 65-69 Age Group. Anyway, when I ran out of the tunnel of Angel Stadium and turned right to hit the finish line, my pace of 8:49 minutes per mile beat my goal of under 9:00 per mile. Hallelujah.
At the finish line, the people from the viewing stand and other volunteers were there to give everyone a nice survival medal. I first called Dee Dee to arrange a time and pick-up point for me before our celebratory breakfast. Then I sent Angela, the other member of Team D&D (Dad and Daughter), a text message to tell her my pace. She responded, “Great job, Dad. I can’t keep up with you anymore.” She can still run circles around me. But, one of her responsibilities on our team is to bolster the morale of team members over 60. Ping. Next I met Yankees fan Jason Kao and Angels fan Kurt Oshiro while we stood in a long line for worthless free stuff. Photos of the three of us are attached.
Look for Tim Chambers and me at the All-Star Game tomorrow night. I’ll be under a “Ballparks Across America” cap and doing what I do better than running in races: drinking beer.
5. Angels 5K Fun Run on April 22, 2012 at Angel Stadium. Sunday I ran in the Slump Buster 5K in Anaheim. They call it the Angels 5K but for me it was a slump buster. OK, not in the way that Mark Grace would bust his team out of a slump but my version. Nagging injuries have kept me from entering a race for nearly two years. The longest-lasting was plantar faschiist in my left foot. By the time it had healed I had gained 10 pounds and was not ready for a competitive run. I began training in January, lost 15 pounds and yesterday ran my fastest 5K ever. Two years ago in the MLB All-Star 5K I ran at a pace of 8:49 per mile. My goal yesterday was to better that pace at age 66. I finished with a pace of 8:45 (actually 8:44.6 but why quibble?) on a course nearly identical to that used for the All-Star run with both being routed through Angel Stadium. Pre-run drink and diet were crucial to my success. So, I drank a lot of beer the night before that was served by my favorite bartender across America, Andrea “The Duffinator” Duff, at OC Sports Grill. I then watched an Angels win and chowed down on angel hair pasta. Now that I’m out of my slump, expect soon news on the release of my new book and on the repair of my web site that was put down by virusues. It’s great to be back. I finished second out of 26 in the male 65-69 age group and eighth out of 72 in the medal competition male age group 60-69. Over 5,000 runners signed up and 3,893 finished. I was #609 out the 3,893 to finish and #464 out of 1,701 adult men. I feel great about my finish, especially at age 66, and to finally be off the disabled list.
Postscript (not in the original message). I returned to Westlake in June2012 and was not stopped by the Westlake Police Department as I ran the 5K Race at a pace of 8:32 minutes per mile. At age 66 and considering that running is a mere sidelight to going to ballparks and drinking beer and vodka, I’m pretty proud of that pace. The only downer is that it only got me a bronze medal again. There really is “gold” in my future.