Marathon notebook: A birthday and milestone for Duford native

ablondin@thesunnews.com, ryoung@thesunnews.comFebruary 16, 2013 

— Cleveland Allen had two good reasons to celebrate Saturday.

It was his 57th birthday, and his completion of the 26.2 miles in 5 hours, 55 minutes marked his 100th running of a marathon.

“This is fantastic,” Allen said. “It’s great to be out here and see the people out here and make new friends. I wouldn’t give it away for anything.”

He said he’s been driven to run 100 marathons by “the camaraderie I get being on the course. It’s really fun. Anyone that hasn’t tried it needs to try it. It’s as much fun as you make it.”

The Plantation, Fla., resident is a Duford native and still has several relatives in the Green Sea area. “This is a homecoming,” he said. “I get to come home and run a marathon on my birthday. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Allen’s best time is 4:26 in Chicago in just his second marathon. This past December he clocked 4:58 in Jacksonville, Fla. “I can get under 5 hours if I push it a little bit,” Allen said. “Today was a day for me to celebrate with everyone else out here.”

He commemorated the achievement with a sign on his back proclaiming his birthday and the 100 runs. He has no plans to stop running. “I’ll run until I can’t do it anymore,” he said. “I don’t have a goal set in mind.”

Approaching 1,000

While Allen hitting the century mark is impressive, he’s got nothing on Larry Macon of San Antonio. Macon completed 157 marathons – in 2012 alone.

That set the new world record, which beat his previous mark of 114 in 2011, which beat his previous mark of 106 in 2010.

The 2013 Myrtle Beach Marathon was Macon’s 998th marathon, and he’ll hit 1,000 next weekend in the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, Texas. He flew from Myrtle Beach to Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday to participate in Sunday’s Mercedes Marathon, which is No. 999.

Macon, 68, is a partner in a law firm and is a member of the Marathon Maniacs international network of runners, many of whom ran in Myrtle Beach and are headed to Birmingham for Sunday’s jaunt.

Macon ran his first marathon about 15 years ago and doesn’t set a torrid pace, but he finishes. His time was 6:33:35 Saturday.

More to come

For two participants, the marathon is near the start of a journey. Grant Berthiaume, a 51-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., and 28-year-old friend Aaron Roux are attempting to complete 50 marathons in 50 states over 50 weeks in hand-operated cycles to raise awareness for people with disabilities.

They started early last month in Mississippi and completed their fifth marathon Saturday before heading to Birmingham, Ala., for No. 6 on Sunday. Berthiaume said the idea spawned from a friend who had obligations preventing him from doing all 50 himself, so he and Roux committed to do their part.

“The Christopher Reeve Foundation is a great cause. It helps raise awareness for people with disabilities, so I said, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” said Berthiaume, who broke his back in a construction accident 25 years ago. He finished in 2:08:31 Saturday while Roux completed the course in 2:25:47.

Bouncing back

The Myrtle Beach Marathon will now be a race of triumph for Alan Gassel, and no longer just a race of near tragedy.

Gassel, a 62-year-old veterinarian from Farragut, Tenn., had a heart attack around Mile 17 during the 2012 race and said he had to be resuscitated twice in order to survive. John Somerindyke, 44, an officer with the Fayetteville (N.C.) Police Dept., was the first runner to come upon Gassel last year and helped give him CPR.

The two ran the half marathon together Saturday, finishing in 1:56:27.

“This feels great,” Gassel said. “You run this race for a celebration and a little bit to affirm to yourself that you’re moving on. Between the great time I had socially and great time I had race-wise … it certainly has accomplished that.”

The duo ran most of the way with occasional walks of 30 to 60 seconds. “He watched out for me during the race,” Gassel said. “We ran the whole thing together, walked together and enjoyed it together. I felt pretty darn strong most of the way. We were a little surprised with some of our mile splits. I asked him to kind of slow me down a little bit.”

Gassel had no recollection of the 2012 race prior to the start Saturday, but he recognized parts of Market Common and Ocean Boulevard during his run. “[Ocean Blvd.] was a vivid memory, which surprised me because I’ve been hard-pressed, despite my desire, to remember parts of the race,” said Gassel, who personally thanked the race’s medical staff for the role it played in saving his life.

Somerindyke ran a 100k four weeks ago and has two marathons scheduled next month. “I thought it would be a nice leisurely run for me, a good recovery run,” Somerindyke said. “He gave me a run for my money. He did not let up at all. We took a few walk breaks, but not as many as I thought.”

Running for Emmi

Richard Barbaro of Fayetteville, N.C., didn’t have the heart to run in the marathon a couple months ago, but he was compelled to run by an outpouring of support from his community.

In December, his 10-year-old daughter, Emerson “Emmi,” died in a sledding accident at her grandparents’ home in Minnesota.

Emmi was a triathlete and runner, and the Fayetteville Area Tri Warriors organized a large group to run Saturday’s races in her honor. There were about 50 runners in the half marathon, others in the full marathon and a number of spectators. The entire group sported pink “Run for Emmi” T-shirts with her likeness on them.

“I wasn’t going to run it but so many people were doing it that I decided to go ahead and run it,” Barbaro said.

His wife, Heather, and their five sons and a fiancee joined Barbaro at Mile 23 and they ran the remaining 3.2 miles together as a family. “It was emotional,” he said.

Through donations in Emmi’s’ name following her passing, she raised $30,000 for the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart initiative. She had raised $150 before her death.

Shoeless Keith

Keith Garris of Sumter pounded the pavement for 26.2 miles without the benefit of shoes. The 31-year-old ran the race barefoot, and said he came out none the worse for wear.

“Everything else is sore; my feet are okay,” Garris said.

He became accustomed to running and exercising without shoes when he trained in Taekwondo beginning at the age of 10, and became interested in running races sans shoes a few years ago after researching barefoot running on the Internet.

He ran the 2011 Myrtle Beach Marathon – his only other marathon – with minimalist shoes. “I didn’t really like it,” said Garris, who is nicknamed Spiderman. “They were so thin I figured the next time I tried it I’d go all the way. So I was successful in that.”

He’s found running barefoot is also fiscally beneficial. He was spending between $50 and $100 on sneakers every few months. “You wear them out in three months and have to go for another $100,” Garris said. “It’s too much money, you know.”

Sweet 16s

Michael Abbott of Wise, Va., is one of at least 16 runners who have participated in all 16 Myrtle Beach Marathons, and his pace may have been slowed by his sharing of that information on the course.

Abbott ran with a heavy necklace of medals from each of the first 15 marathons.

“This is my 68th marathon at age 68, and I’ve run Boston and all the big ones, and there’s nothing better than this,” Abbott said. “People treat you so great, the hospitality, the beach, the shopping and the bars. All that combined you can’t beat it.

“I hope I’ll be back next year.”

Safe and sound

After a 2012 race in which a runner suffered a heart attack on the course and had to be revived, and several runners had to be transported to the hospital on an unseasonably warm day, Saturday’s race had no serious medical issues.

“We probably had one of the quietest days we ever had,” race medical director Dr. Mark Schecker said. “As far as I know, everybody is safe and sound. Everything went as good as could be expected. We couldn’t have hoped for a better day.

“I guess we made up for last year.”

Schecker said 31 runners were tended to at the finish line field hospital, and paramedics at a medical station in the race’s food and entertainment area saw a number of people for common issues such as blisters, knee pain, etc.

No one was transported to a hospital. “There was nothing on the course of any significance,” Schecker said.

Styling and profiling

A number of runners jazz up the event and their experience by wearing eye-catching outfits.

Saturday’s race included a woman dressed as a smiley-faced sun, man in a kilt, man with bunny ears, man with a pink goatee and man with a “Buff Daddy” shirt.

Three women ran the half marathon in bright, multi-colored tutus. Jennifer White of Wilmington, N.C., Pamela Hall of Sanford, N.C., and her daughter Cherokee Hall, a student at the Sanford School of Classical Ballet, turned some heads with their ensemble.

“It’s just to have some fun,” Pamela Hall said. “Otherwise it’s torture. It does make it more fun. We had people tell us we looked good coming and going.”

Next year they’re thinking tiaras and boas.

Two if by sea

Two members of the 25-person Naval Academy Marathon Team made the trip from Annapolis, Md., and Jackie Chimiak and Meghan Connor celebrated Chimiak’s 21st birthday with the race.

They had more celebrating planned later. “This will make me feel less guilty about drinking later,” said Chimiak, one of eight women on the Naval Academy team. “I can be like, ‘I got 26 miles in earlier so the calories don’t count.’”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284 and RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.

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