The year is 1955. PS 72, Indianapolis, Indiana. Event: Field Day. That’s what we used to call a track meet for grade schoolers back in the mid 20th century. Even though I started school late, because of my birthday being in January, I was still one of the smallest kids in the 3rd-grade class. There was one other kid, Kenneth Wilde, who was also of diminutive stature and we ended up being the only 2 kids who were eligible to participate in Class “C” of the “A”, “B” , “C” categorization of kids. So my running career started out by me being a winner…...first place in the 50-yard dash and maybe a couple of other events. And of course, the ones I didn’t win, I got a 2nd place ribbon.
The next time in my life that I ran intentionally, other than Hide ‘n Seek, kickball in the alley and pick up baseball games in the Garfield Park was when I was in basic training, in 1966. And ya know, I didn’t much care for the forced running of distances farther than I thought I should have to run. Plus, wearing army fatigues, combat boots, a metal helmet and carrying an M14 rifle did not add one iota of fun to the ordeal. I ran when I was told to….had no choice…..and left the military 3 years later not wanting to ever one again. It was not until the winter of 1975 that I would run again.
In the interim, I had been married and divorced; I used my G. I. Bill benefits to get within 1 semester of graduating college; worked as a waiter/bartender at a hip restaurant in Indianapolis; packed up my life and moved to Sarasota, Florida to build and manage a sister restaurant to the one back in Indianapolis. This move was the beginning of a pattern of moving more frequently than most of you probably have ever even thought about.
But it was during these 10 years of living near one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Siesta Key Beach, that I began what is now 42-year running life. It’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Well, my journey has covered more than 50,000 miles of running steps and it all began with just a ½ mile, barefoot run on the beach.
It went somethng like this. Since the restaurant business required that I spend 6 nights a week working, that meant that my days were free. My girlfriend, who by the way, aslo worked at The Sawmill Inn, spent many of our days at the beach. Her brother, just happened to be the head life guard at Siesta Key. He had his lifeguard staff on a physical fitness program that included daily runs. He was determined to get me to run with them. I related my “running in the army” story to Johnny and told him how much I hated running. He was persistent. “You’ve got the body of a runner…..You should give it a try…...You’ll love it”. Every day, the same pep talk. This went on to the point me saying; “Okay if running a ½ mile on the beach will get you outta my face, I’ll do it.
What happened during that brief jaunt beside the Gulf of Mexico redirected my life trajectory. I had no idea at the time that I would morph into America’s Marathon Man twenty years later. You couldn’t have convinced me that I would be running a marathon in Siberia 28 years later. Getting married at the 2nd Annual Disney World Marathon, live on the NBC Today show….never in my wildest dreams. Those are but a few of the highlight reels plucked from my 42 years of lacing up my running shoes and heading out the door.
Nor did i see myself creating the 4 largest running events in South Dakota and thus making a living from my addiction/passion for running.
Moving from indy to spearfish would NEVER have happened if it weren’t for my 93 IN ‘93
My life for the last 43 years, both personally and professionally, has been……..running.
I’ve shaken hands with presidents; had lunch in Beverly Hills with syndicated sportswriter; been greeted by Governors; brought close to a hundred million dollars in tourist revenue to SD; inspired a number of people to become runners; created a few jobs for people; and most importantly, met thousands of other runners and had the opportunity to be inspired by their stories.