WHEELING - One doesn't simply get off the couch and run 13.1 miles - even if they've been doing it for decades, like the Ironmen preparing to compete in their 38th consecutive Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic this year.
It takes a great deal of preparation to withstand the challenges of the course's hilly terrain, often beneath a blistering late May sun. It's a commitment that doesn't get any easier with age, and no one understands that better than the Ironmen, a group of dedicated runners who have participated in the Wheeling distance race each year since its inception in 1977.
The group's ranks have thinned a bit over the past few years, but 11 men - David Claypool, Tim Cogan, Pat Cronin, Paul Exley, Dave Fiorilli, Steve Habursky, Dr. John Holloway, H. Lawrence Jones, Joe Kubik, Michael Lemaster and Mitch Toto - are preparing to keep their streaks intact. This year's race is set for May 24, with preliminary events the evening of May 23.
IRONMEN READY — The group of runners known as the Ironmen meet to discuss plans for the 38th annual Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic set for May 23-24 in Wheeling. The group includes those who have run the race every year since its 1977 inception. Pictured, seated from left, are Ironmen Dr. John Holloway, Pat Cronin and Steve Habursky, Race Director R. “Scat” Scatterday, Ironman Joe Kubik and retired Ironman Grant Marks. Standing, from left, are Ironman Tim Cogan, retired Ironman Bruce Kirby, and Ironmen H. Lawrence Jones, Dave Fiorilli, Paul Exley and Mitch Toto. -- Ian Hicks
During a recent meeting, Race Director R. "Scat" Scatterday told the group it's important they find their own personal motivation for running the race. After almost 40 years, he said, no one can take away the respect they've earned, whether or not they continue to run.
"I want to make this clear. ... You have earned for lifetime the honor and distinction of (being) Ironmen," Scatterday said. "You will be part of this group until you die."
Toto, who will turn 77 on May 28, a few days after the race, said it's about 50-50 whether he'll run this year. He's a veteran of numerous triathlons and has even bicycled the perimeter of the United States - and while his love of running remains, he acknowledged health issues have taken their toll of late.
"If you can't train enough to do it and you don't think you can finish, you don't do it," he said. "It's that simple."
For Exley, the concern is that expending so much effort to prepare for one event may one day prevent him from other activities he enjoys. And as a physician, Holloway doesn't want to see pride get in the way of his, or anyone else's, well being.
"Getting across the finish line against any circumstances - it shouldn't have to be that way," Holloway said.
Most of the Ironmen have long since stopped treating the Ogden race as a competition against others, and now view it more as one against time and their own limitations. According to Jones, it's a matter of adjusting one's expectations and realizing it's OK to pace yourself.
"In the old days, I ran for time," he said, adding that in recent years, he has chosen to slow down, sometimes even to a walk, when the fatigue begins to set in.
The Ironmen won't be totally on their own when it comes to preparation and recovery, however, as That's the Spot Massage in Moundsville once again will offer members of the group a free, half-hour massage once a week from the beginning of May through two weeks following the race, according to massage therapist Kristen Seamon.
For more information online about the Half Marathon and 5K events, go to www.ogdenhalfmarathonclassic.com or call (304) 233-0100, ext. 238. The deadline to enter the race is May 12.
Proceeds from this year's event will benefit the Wheeling Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 38's Shop with a Cop program.