Not Running out of steam

Marathoners in their 60s, recently back from Boston, see no reason to slow down



Running out of steam? Not these over-60 marathoners Last Monday, Fred Carlson marshaled his energy and mental strength. Even though he felt spent, even though he kept drifting over to the right side of the road, he was not going to walk up Heartbreak Hill. The 62-year-old runner from Fallston was determined to run the entire length of the 110th Boston Marathon.

He did. And he finished in 3:59:33, good enough to qualify him for next year's race.

Karolynn Coleman approached the starting line recovering from a foot injury that affected her winter training. At 61, the Chevy Chase runner was hoping to complete her 20th marathon and her eighth Boston. Feeling better than "I had a right to expect," Coleman ran with exuberance, thinking how proud her late father would have been to see her do so well. Her finishing time - 4:10:54 - was good enough to requalify her for Boston with 20 minutes to spare.

New to the 60-plus age group, John D. Sullivan Jr. of Edgewood found his 15th Boston Marathon to be, as usual, "a 26.2-mile war" - which he won. By the end of the day, he had re-qualified for his 16th Boston with a time of 3:30:05.

These three Maryland marathoners are part of the growing wave of "seniors" runners who are creating new definitions of achievement at some of the world's major races.

In all, 788 runners 60 and older crossed the finish line in Boston. And according to Running USA, the sport's trade association, the marathon field is considerably larger, and grayer, than it used to be. Consider these statistics:

In 2005, 423,000 runners completed marathons, with 44 percent over age 40. This means there were 186,000 marathon finishers in the masters-plus category, roughly 1 1/2 times the total of 120,000 marathon finishers in 1980.

At the 100th Boston Marathon, a little more than 4 percent of the finishing field were 60-plus. The number of "seniors" marathoners is expected to rise with "the tsunami wave of marathoners tied to the baby boom," says Ryan Lamppa, a researcher for Running USA.

What follows are some thoughts from three of the 13 "seniors" Marylanders who completed the 2006 race. All ran fast enough to requalify.

John D. Sullivan Jr., 60, Edgewood. Retired scientist for Aberdeen Proving Ground. Number of Bostons run: 15.

"When I was young, I thought the human body was athletically finished after college. Running showed the whole country this wasn't so. My first Boston was 1991. I was 45. I felt so honored to be there. I resolved that I would run it as long as I qualified.

"The emotions of running Boston are huge. ... This year, I thought back for a moment to the first marathon I did there and the almost reverence I have for the place and the course. Then I stayed determined and grim. There was no elation for me in that race until I stepped on the last mat of the finish line. Now that's a moment of pure joy!"

Karolynn Coleman, 61. Chevy Chase. Counselor at Sidwell Friends School and clinical social worker. Number of Bostons run: eight.

"I ran my first Boston in 1978, after the birth of my first child. I didn't run my second until 1993, when my second child was 12 and I was 48. ... I grew up in Boston, and I used to look at the marathon as something a superhuman did. I was one of three girls, and although my dad had been an outstanding athlete, none of us did athletics. ... After I started running, doing this race was my most immediate goal while my dad was alive. He would take me to the race start, drive to various points to see me and always be at the finish line.

"For the last two miles, I had to dig deep. I kept reminding myself, `If you walk now, you're going to be disappointed later.' I concentrated on what it would feel like to be finished and pleased with my time. And I was just ecstatic with it!"

Fred Carlson: 62, Fallston. Retired plant superintendent for Crown Cork & Seal Co. Number of Bostons run: three.

"My first Boston was 1978, the year Bill Rodgers won it. My son Brian was 2. This year he's 30, and I ran the marathon with him. It felt like putting everything into full circle.

After eight miles, Brian said, `Do you mind if I go ahead?' He was going a little faster than I wanted to do. I felt pretty good until mile 15, then I started to fade.

"Marathons are getting more difficult - and I'm not sure how many more I want to do. But it's definitely possible I'll do Boston next year.

"Boston is the classic. It's history. That's the one the runners strive for."

Maryland Winners

Here's a list of all Marylanders aged 60-plus who finished the Boston marathon last Monday:Charles J. Hull II, 60, Darnestown, John D. Sullivan, Jr., 60, Edgewood, Fred Carlson, 62, Fallston, Willem Bier, 61, Chevy Chase, Miles J. Haven, 60, Potomac, Nick Keeling, 67, Bethesda, Tom Cowley, 68, Gaithersburg, Peter Oroszlan, 62, Baltimore, James Bitgood, 60, Laurel, William E. Schwartz, 67, Glen Arm, Chris A. Craun, 60, Bethesda, Karolynn Coleman, 61, Chevy Chase, Muffet S. Chatterton, 61, Crofton.

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