Long Beach marathoners get the gold
BY BILL WASSERZIEHER
The first marathon runner, the Greek warrior Phidippides, is said to have dropped dead from exhaustion after dashing 26.2 miles to Athens with word that a marauding Persian army was headed toward the city.
He had also run to Sparta and back, a distance of 280 miles (with warning), and then fought a pitched battle in full armor that week, so perhaps his death was a case of too much rather than too little.
The modern marathoner retraces that 26.2-mile run, and some 25,000 athletes with overwhelming desire to cover that distance participated in the mammoth Los Angeles Marathon in March. Many didn't finish, but among those who did were Gwen Payne, a Boeing Long Beach Security Services officer, and Bill Ross, her colleague from Boeing Fire Services. For them the hefty event medals they received came as a fitting conclusion to two long years of training and one very long morning of pain, thirst and lung-busting exertion.
"I started to blister after about 11 miles, so I was limping for the last 15. But I felt good otherwise and knew that I could bring it on home," said Payne.
For her and Ross, it was also unusual to be running during daylight. Each works second shift and trains after 10 p.m. Ross runs some 50 - 60 miles a week, while Payne settles for five to six miles and spends more time on a gym treadmill.
"I like the natural high that running gives me," said Ross, a 24-year veteran who worked for both North American and Douglas before their mergers with Boeing. Running the marathon also provided him with a means of inspiring his son, Billy Jr.
"I reminded him afterward that he'd said I couldn't do this, but now I've shown him that when you set your mind to something you can do anything."
For Payne marathon running is a means to physical well being. She suffered a stroke a few years ago. "We live in a time when it's easy not to take proper care of ourselves. I want to live my life to the fullest," she said. She has been with the company for 15 years.
Both Ross and Payne completed the grueling course over the asphalt streets of downtown Los Angeles in less than nine hours. The top five finishers, internationally respected competitors, crossed the line in 2:10:27 to 2:17:38.
"But it's not really about time," said Ross. "It's about doing what you've
set out to do. That's the real reward."
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