Last year, I ran in the inaugural 5K Saluki Pride Dawg Jog with my son Stephen, an SIU alum, who flew in from Los Angeles for the event. Even though it rained that morning, we had a great time running around SIU’s Campus Lake and crossing the finish line together inside Saluki Stadium.
Stephen wasn’t able to come to Carbondale for the second Dawg Jog, but I was all set to run again until I saw this year’s May 5 start date. Unfortunately, it was the day before I’d be running in my hometown’s Pittsburgh Marathon with my daughter, Anne.
A few weeks after running with Stephen in last year’s Dawg Jog, I’d joined Anne in the “Run, Forrest, Run” 5K in Charleston S.C. After the race, Anne decided to start a training program and, by the end of the year, had run in her first half-marathon.
On New Year’s Day, she told me her top resolution was to run with me in the Pittsburgh Marathon.
Two years ago, I ran in the Pittsburgh Marathon after putting it at the top of my bucket list when I turned 70. I managed to complete the marathon, but at the finish line, I was in so much pain that I thought I’d never run in a marathon again.
Besides the challenge of my advancing old age and getting myself back in marathon shape, which included hernia surgery and lowering my bad cholesterol count, I knew I’d also have to overcome two other major obstacles — my wife, Anita, and the Pittsburgh Pirates
When I staggered across the finish line two years ago, Anita hugged me and said, “Don’t you ever do this to me again.”
To run in the marathon again, I knew I’d have to convince Anita not to knee-cap me, but I got some help from Anne. When Anne told her mother that the grandkids wanted to run in the Kids Marathon that preceded the Pittsburgh Marathon, Anita agreed, but only if Anne and I ran the half marathon rather than a full marathon.
My other problem was my revised bucket list. After I ran in the Pittsburgh Marathon, I moved “watching the Pirates win another World Series before I die” to the top of the list. The Pirates have had 19 consecutive losing seasons, a professional sports record, so the move just about guaranteed that I would live forever.
I finally solved my bucket list problem by combining running in the Pittsburgh Marathon with the Pirates winning a World Series championship. I decided to run in the Pittsburgh Marathon every year until the Pirates win the World Series. Of course, that likely guaranteed that I’d live forever, and, in the bargain, become the oldest runner in marathon history (the current record holder completed a marathon at the age of 100).
So a day after I could have been taking a Dawg Jog, I was pounding the streets of Pittsburgh trying to become a “Runner of Steel.” Instead of jogging around campus lake and happily watching myself cross the finish line on the Jumbotron at Saluki Stadium, I had to weave my way with Anne and nearly 20,000 other runners over Pittsburgh’s bridges and hills to reach an understated banner that declared, “You made it.”
But Anne and I did make it and had a good, if exhausting, run along the way. We finished the half marathon in two hours and twenty-three minutes, which put us ahead of more than 4,800 runners in the race. In my 70 to “until death do us part” age category, I finished third out of 16 runners, and only 18 seconds behind the second-place finisher. The top runner, a former triathlon champion, finished 20 minutes ahead of me, but, at the risk of sounding like a sore loser, I’m assuming he’s on steroids.
As for my Pirates, I saw them play while I was in Pittsburgh. They lost, of course, and were under .500, but 20 straight losing seasons has a nice ring to it. So, I’d as much as I’d like to run in next year’s Dawg Jog, thanks to the Pirates, I’d better start training for the next Pittsburgh Marathon.
RICHARD “PETE” PETERSON is the editor of The St. Louis Baseball Reader and the author of Growing Up With Clemente. His essays have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and his hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.