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                Distance-Running, 1979-2005:
Choices May Take You to 'Countries of Anywhere'

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View from Mount Tamalpais, Marin County, California, thanks to Muir Press and featured in a section on poets and Mount Tam and my 'Running on the Mountain' July 2020.

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Distance-Running, you may know, can be of very hard work that brings very good luck.

My time-span with the sport extends from 1979 to 2005. That first year, I qualified  for the U.S. Men's Olympic Marathon Trial
after four months of training. The last year, both my team, the Excelsior Running Club of San Francisco, and I won our Age-Group in the USATF National Road 10-K Championships.

Moments of revelation and wonder came throughout that span of a quarter-century-or-so. Distance-running offers, you may know, too, encounters with what we may call the godly. Highs and lows arrive through competing with yourself and with others. John Coffey writes below in his 1999 piece for UltraRunning: 'The story of Don Paul is ... about crushing failures and phenomenal breakthroughs.'

What I can offer in return for the gifts Distance-Running has brought me are appreciations,  evocations and some perhaps useful tips about red-lining and other cruxes of training.  The uplifting moments and friendships delivered to me thought Distance-Running and Track & Field are literally numberless. 112 friends from the sport are listed below. 100s more are actual. Likewise the moments of exhilarated-unto-transcendent feeling and of absurd mistakes and predicaments are numberless.

Please see some writing from years ago that remembers friends. They're over on my 'Stands the Human Being' Substack. Bill Rodgers and Fred Lebow 

Views from and on Mount Tamalpais (above)--those sudden sights accompanied by nostrils-lifting smells--exhilaration and communion with "the Mountain"--composed, oh, 20 years + of wonders. Laps around the Reservoir in middle Central Park, Manhattan,  where I'd tied pennants of orange plastic at 100-pace intervals to mark "the splits" I wanted to "hit" in uptempo work-outs, were another form of digging into revelations. An early-morning hangover-clearer with Bill Rodgers on the mind-bending walkway of black-and-white stone swirls that borders Beaches of Leme, Copacabana, and Ipanema after that first night with Hortencia. Climbing to the turn-around height on Mount Ashland with Ric Sayre and then pounding down that dirt road to the welcome fountains of Siskiyou Park. Striding in sweatpants with Adkins Chun along the Embarcadero as we caught the 
aroma of Folgers Coffee roasting past the Ferry Building. Struggling to keep pace with John Campbell on trails of Golden Gate Park, roads by the River through Flint, Michigan,  and Bridges hazarded by hungover, unpredictably wayward, bowler-wearing pedestrians. Sharing satisfaction with Steve Spence when his long, hard, careful training and big efforts won in Columbus, Ohio.
The splendid, native hospitality of Jimmy and Maureen Nicholson in "the Sunset" of San Francisco and same with Kathy and Leo of the College Point Track Club of Queens,  New York and the same with Leighton and Raoul Couvilloun of Lafayete, Louisiana.

Moments literally beyond counting. Moments "there" forever. Moments of competing and camaraderie, of revelations and wonder, every distance-runner knows.


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Mark Winitz in California Track & Running News, March/April 2006. 

'I can't remember the first time that I met Don Paul. It was, most likely, sometime in the early 1980s when he was running 130-mile weeks and tearing up distance from 5Ks to ultramarathons. I know it was after 1982, the year Paul ran a 50K in New York's Central Park in a sizzling 2:50:55. quite possibly the fastest 50K ever run by an American on the roads....

I roomed with Don at the 1992 Houston Marathon. I was there to cover the U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Trails.
Don was there to compete. ln fact, he ran superbly, topping the men's masters race in 2:26:56. In Houston, my appreciation of Paul's immense multi-talents as a writer, musician and an advocate for change grew.'

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'The story of Don Paul is as much about near misses as it is about spectacular successes. It is about crushing failures and phenomenal breakthroughs. It is about always pushing the edge of what was possible. His was a rare talent that brushed the ultra scene between 1980 and 1992.... The Metropolitan Athletic Club's 50-mile held in Central Park was on 
the list [Autumn, 1980].... By the marathon he was still doing sub six-minute pace (2:35:56).... Considering that Paul had a 130-mile week going, it's amazing he had the bounce left to hammer out a most remarkable 5:09:58.... With the benefit of hindsight, it is interesting to note that he would go head to head with Barney Klecker [holder of the U.S. Record for 50 miles, 4:51:25, set in Chicago on October 1, 1980] on only a couple of occasions.... Klecker and Paul raced in February of 81 at the Mardi Gras Marathon into a horrendous wind of up to 40 miles an hour. Doug Kurtis  won, while Paul finished second [actually 3rd] ahead of Klecker. At Boston that spring, the two great 50-mile runners were side by side again, Klecker squeezing out a one-second advantage over Paul's lifetime best, 2:16:04. Paul ran 50:23 one week later at the Trevira Twosome 10 Mile. But soon it would be time to move up in distance--way up.... It was a warm a humid day aty Flushing Meadow Park in June of 1981. Thirty-eight starters trundled off the line into the torrid conditions. Despite this, Paul jumped off to another commanding lead of 12 minutes at 25 miles [actually 2:42 for the Marathon's 26.2]. Behind him were Stu MIttleman and Bill DeVoe, a Long Island runner with very fast times to his credit. By 50 miles, Paul was still well ahead of the field, turning 5:28:49. One mile later, he staggered into an aid station, said he was fine, then wobbled away in the wrong direction and collapsed. The New York Times reporter [Ira Berkow] who witnessed the scene never had it so good! Away he went in an ambulance, the victim of severe dehydration, Mittleman would go on once more to a convincing 13:00.11 victory.... Paul exemplfied an "all-out" attitude in his brief career an an ultrarunner. While his races weren't always successful, he never gave less than a total effort, and in those events that he ran, he showed what the possibilities were. He remains the second all-time American performer and both 50 miles and 50 kilometers almost two decades later.'

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Central Park, New York City, October 1980.

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Mardi Gras Marathon, February 1981, Causeway Bridge
across Lake Pontchartrain, running into wind around mile 23. Left to right: Pat Devaney, Barney Klecker, Raul from Argentina (2nd), winner Doug Kurtis, me.

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Houston Tenneco Marathon, January 1987, Geir Kvermo of Norway and I front pack around mile 5. Good friends Derrick May (1st. 2:11:51) and Ric Sayre (2:13:54, 7th and U.S. Champion in the race) sensibly draft toward tail of pack. I ran 2:18:27, 21st overall and 6th U.S.

Oakland, California, December 1, 1980.

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Humboldt Half-Marathon, 2000, around 2 miles into race. Excelsior won the Team 50-years-and-over (Senior) Championship and I was 1st over 50 and 3rd over 40 in what proved to be a race remindful of good Open competitions.

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With Tom Bennett of Excelsior as Race-Director at our Club's Zippy 5-K (thank you forever, Bill Griffiths) in Golden Gate Park, May 2005. Photo by Denise Attewell.
Excelsior that year won the 55-to-59 National Road 10-K Championship and I was 1st individual 55=59 in my last "serious" race before moving to New Orleans.


Because the friends I made through distance-running are so many, let me list them in rough chronology from 1966 onward.

Coach Robert Dorr
Dave Diehl
Greg Gustafson   
Jimmy Nicholson    
Maureen Nicholson
Kenny Moore
Hunt and Elaine   
Mike Fanelli    
Bill Sevald     
Marcy Schwam
Jackie Stack    
Don Choi    
Leighton Couvillion                 
Randy Melancon    

Marie Cordier    
Kathy Naughton    
Leo Nicholas
Frank Smith
Sal Vasquez
Eino Romppanen
Kathy Naughton


José Inácio Werneck
Barbara Paddock
Brian Maxwell
Tom Agosta
Gerry Agosta
Joe Veale
Carmello Rios
John Moreno
Ric Sayre
Bill Donakowski
Rich Govi
Gidamis Shahanga

Zak Barie
Danny Gonzalez
Brad Hawthorne
Derrick May
Lisa Moresco
Tim Muldoon
Jim Tracy

Coach James Rafferty  Fred Lebow
Michael Cleary
James Shapiro    
Tony Colon    
Amby Burfoot
Bill Rodgers   
Don Kardong
Domingo Tibaduiza
Roy Kissin    
Jane Denton
Jim Van Dine
Barney Klecker
Pat Devaney
Laura Leather
Ed Cavazos
Garry Bjorklund
Bob Bright
Dick Bogdan
Steve Palladino
Brock Hinzman


Jennifer Maxwell
Eve Pell
Marion Irvine
John Campbell
Steve Spence
Maria Trujillo
Phyllis Nabhan
Debbie Smith
Shelly Steely
Aaron Ramirez
Sue Lee
Richard Lee
Steve Taylor
Budd Coates
Bill Reifsnyder
Peter and Breda Maher

Jerry Lawson
Aaron Pierson
Carey Pinkowski
Guy Benjamin
David Meggyesy


Coach Henrique Viana
Eder Moreno
Christoph Kopf
David Rubien
John Coffey
Mark Winitz
Rex Wilson
Sean Wade
Olga Markova
Sergey Krasniko
Andrey Kuznetsov
Kim, Dan, Eric Lilot
Jim Gorman
Les Ong
Tyler Abbott
Bob Darling
Charlie Thompson
Lloyd Stephenson
Denise Attewell
Chris Lundstrom
Evan Christopher


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