Veteran marathoner goes extra mile for sport

Parkville entrant donates time as coach, volunteer

Running

October 18, 2001|By Michael Reeb | By Michael Reeb,SUN STAFF

Chris Sinclair's success in marathon longevity can be reduced to a simple formula: a little speed work, about 70 miles of weekly training, six or seven monthly races and a bit of a helping hand.

Sinclair, a 34-year-old insurance salesman from Parkville who is entered in Saturday's Comcast Baltimore Marathon, is an accomplished runner who has competed in 36 marathons, including three at his personal-record time of 2 hours, 49 minutes.

He also has been instrumental in making it possible for others to run, acting as coach, serving in a variety of offices for the Baltimore Road Runners Club and volunteering his time at area races.

Bob Feldman, a longtime Baltimore Road Runners Club member and tireless volunteer, says of Sinclair: "He gets a lot out of running, but he puts a lot back into it. He's a rare bird."

"I always want to run," Sinclair says. "But sometimes, you just have to realize that it's not fair to run all the time. You have to give back sometimes so others can run."

To that end, he works the sidelines at about a half-dozen races a year, serving as a timer. But as important as that service is to the smooth operation of a race, his service as coach is just as important in getting runners to the race.

"I've helped six or seven people train to get to the Boston Marathon," says Sinclair, who has traveled to qualifying races with several of his trainees. "That's been inspirational to me, seeing the looks on their faces when they finally make it."

They are not necessarily first-time marathons, but first-timers to qualify for Boston. And the Boston Marathon is a race that is near and dear to Sinclair.

"Boston is the Olympics for the average guy," he says. "I know I'll never qualify for the Olympics, but at least I'll qualify for Boston, and not everyone can get into Boston."

Sinclair got his start to Boston when, shortly after graduating from college, he began running with a group that gathers at Johns Hopkins University every Wednesday.

"They basically said you're ready to run a marathon and I gave it a shot to see if I could qualify for Boston," he says.

Sinclair needed a 3:10 to qualify for his first marathon, in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1992, and he did it with a 2:57. "I was well under it [qualifying time] and feeling good," he says.

He followed that by running in the Charlotte Marathon in January 1993 before going to Boston in April.

"In the third marathon, the wheels completely came off," he says. "I ran only a 3:15. It was a hot day. I probably was not used to running a marathon at noon in the midst of the heat. Boston being downhill in the first half, I went out at a too fast a pace, which caused me to overextend my abilities."

That didn't stop him from running that fall in the New York Marathon, a race that tested him in a different way.

"I had a bad start. The first mile was 10 minutes because of the crowd," he says. "But I was passing friends at the end. I was talking; of course, they weren't. No matter how tired I get, it never stops me from talking."

His last marathon was the Vermont City race this summer in Burlington, where he recorded a 3:03. He hopes to do 2:55 in the Baltimore race. However he finishes, it won't be for a lack of effort.

"I try to get in at least seven races in a month's time," he says. "For speed work, I tend to do the summer track series that the [Baltimore Road Runners] club puts on. Whenever I find a race that's greater than 10 miles, I try to get into it."

That is, whenever he's not helping someone else get into it.

Marathon facts

What: Baltimore Marathon Festival

When: Saturday. Marathon and marathon team relay start at 8:30 a.m. A 5K (3.1-mile) race starts at 9 a.m.

Where: Start and finish outside PSINet Stadium. The 26.2-mile course takes a counterclockwise route through Baltimore.

Marathon entrants: More than 6,300

Information: 410-377-8006 or 800-487-0670, or visit thebaltimoremarathon.com on the Web

Sinclair file

Runner: Chris Sinclair

Age: 34

Hometown: Parkville

First marathon: 1992 Harrisburg Marathon

Personal record: 1994, 1997 Chicago Marathon, 1995 Seattle Marathon, 2:49

On Baltimore: "I'd like to see Baltimore pull the marathon off well."

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