Local duo have Boston on '06 calendar

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A few years of training, several 5-kilometer races and a couple half-marathons later, Ron Duff and Susan Richmond will finally get the chance to run in the Boston Marathon.

But not before another 363 days of training.

The running buddies were too late to meet this year's deadline, but the two will pack their bags and head to Boston for one of the world's most prestigious road racing events in April 2006.

Duff and Richmond, both Cape Girardeau residents and members of the Cape Girardeau Road Runners organization, qualified for the 110th annual Boston Marathon after meeting the required times in the Spirit of St. Louis Marathon on April 10.

Duff, 60, finished first in the 60-64 men's age group and 210th out of more than 1,800 runners with a time of 3 hours and 43 minutes. Richmond, 42, placed second in her age division and 246th overall at 3:47.

In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, Duff had to finish the 26.2-mile race in 4 hours, and Richmond had to finish in 3:50.

The race marked the first marathon for the two training partners.

"I had no idea the St. Louis Marathon had so many hills," Richmond said. "If I would've known that, I would've chosen a lighter race. The farther the race went along, around every corner there was another hill. I was a little worried around 22 miles. In our training, we stop at 20 miles, so it was a whole new experience.

"The main thing was that you weren't alone," she added, referring to the thousands of people lining the St. Louis streets. "There were people telling you the whole time that you're looking great, even when you felt like you weren't."

Duff overcame an ailing ankle in the first eight miles and a few "silly mistakes" to finish in plenty of time to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but the rookie said he had hoped for a better outcome.

"I was told to run your own pace, and don't let anyone interfere with it," he said, "so I broke away from Susan's pace group because I thought it would slow me down. When I got to about the 14th or 15th mile, I could feel that we were climbing some hills, and I wasn't prepared for those kinds of hills.

"The only thing I was scared of was hitting the wall," he added. "But I knew at mile 18 that I was going to make it."

Duff, who won the over-60 age division in the Charleston Dogwood-Azalea Festival 5-kilometer run Sunday, and Richmond will take a brief timeout from long-distance running before pounding the pavement again for the next stage of training. Their plan is to run a few half-marathons (13.1 miles), and then start training hard again around November.

"I'm ready to decrease the miles for a while," Richmond said. "It's hard on you. We need a little breather, then we'll hit it hard."

Duff, whose time would have earned him 13th place in his age group in last year's Boston Marathon, hopes to finish in the top 15 of his division come next April. For Richmond, on the other hand, crossing the finish line in the world's oldest annual marathon will be just fine.

"I would, of course, like to improve on my time," Richmond said. "Other than that, I don't have any goals except to say I completed Boston. I think the excitement and adrenaline of running in Boston carry you through. The crowds and everything that goes along with the race give you that extra rush."

Duff and Richmond certainly don't mind extending credit to each other for the determination and diligence they've needed to travel the road to Boston.

"I wouldn't be as enthusiastic about doing any of this if it wasn't for her," said Duff, whose policy since he met Richmond a couple years ago has been to go back and run the last part of races with her after he finishes. "She's so strong, and it's great to be around somebody whose personality is always up. She's just a great gal to be around."

Richmond said that running with Duff is inspiring in that he's 18 years older but can still outrun her.

"It kind of burns me a little bit," she laughed. "I'm happy for him that he can compete so well. He beats guys half his age.

"We've become really good friends," she added. "It's a lot more fun running with him, and we pull each other through. When I've felt I couldn't do it, he's always there to pick me up."

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