By Carol McIntire
Movie fans from the 1990s likely remember a scene from the 1994 blockbuster movie “Forrest Gump” in which Tom Hanks, who plays Forrest Gump, is sitting on a bench telling his story of running to a an elderly woman.
Hanks tells the woman that, for no particular reason, he decided to go for a run one day and, for no particular reason, he kept on going until he journeyed across the country four times.
Like Forrest Gump, Dellroy resident Larry Rutledge began running in 1994 (in the Boston Marathon). Also like Forrest Gump, Larry has probably run enough miles to cross the country four times. Unlike Forrest Gump, Rutledge is running for a reason. His goal: to complete his 25th consecutive Boston Marathon and become a member of the very elite Quarter Century Club. The club only has about 76 members.
This weekend Rutledge and his wife, Anita, will pack their bags and head to Boston for the 122nd marathon on what is known as around the world as “Marathon Monday” (this year it’s April 16).
Is he excited?
“Oh yes!” he says. “I really didn’t think about it until after I’d run in my 10th Boston Marathon and someone said to me, ‘if you make it 25 years, you get to be in the Quarter Century Club’. I remember saying, ahhh!”
That’s all it took for Rutledge to set his sights on that goal and Monday, at the age of 63, he is looking forward to achieving it.
“It’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Anita. “Larry is one of those who makes running look easy, when its not. He is dedicated to his training schedule.”
Larry admits he’s been lucky in his quest for the Quarter Century Club.
“I haven’t had any injuries that kept me from returning year after year,” he said, adding he has been fortunate to qualify for the next year’s marathon each year he’s competed.
“The first year was the hardest,” he said recalling his quest to qualify for his first Boston Marathon.
“I started running road races in 1988 with Bill Stoneman,” he said. “At that time, we’d just show up and run. Then in 1990, I decided I wanted to run the Boston Marathon so I began training.”
It took three years of trial and error to get his training regime perfected. In 1992, he set out to qualify by running in the Columbus Marathon and was three minutes shy of the required time.
“That was tough,” he said.
Larry returned home and began training again. In 1993 he ran in the Cleveland Marathon and qualified.
“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!” he said, his facial expression conveying the excitement of that day. “I was over the top happy!”
When he finished the race in 1994, he was hooked.
“I fell in love with Boston the first year and said I’ve got to come back,” he recalled. Each year he’s met the qualifying time for the next year. “Every five years, you get little time added to the qualifying time. Right now, mine is three hours and 55 minutes. Once you get in the Quarter Century Club, it increases to six hours to encourage people to continue to come back.”
Things have changed a lot since his first Boston Marathon.
In 1994, there were about 10,000 runners allowed because that was the number the race could handle.
In 1998, the 100th anniversary, race officials increased the number to 40,000. Today, there are about 25,000 runners from across the globe.
In the early days, runners wore paper bibs with their number and a chip laced on their shoestring to track their time and finish.
Today, runners wear bibs with electronic devices imbedded in them to record time and finish.
“They track the runners along the race route and you can get updates from an app on your phone,” said Anita. “It’s come a long way.”
He was there in 2013 during the terrorist attack. He’d crossed the finish line and was in the runners tent when the bombs went off.
“We didn’t have any idea what was happening,” he said. Police shut down the subway, which was his normal mode of transportation back to the hotel to meet Anita, so he walked back.
Anita said cell phone reception was sketchy at best and she was terribly worried until she met up with him at the hotel.
“That was a scary ordeal,” she said.
For Larry, training begins at Christmas time each year. Initially, workouts are in the basement of the couple’s home in Dellroy. As the days get longer, he heads outside to the bike lane along SR 542 west of Dellroy. Initially, his distances are five to six miles per day, which increase to six to 10 miles per day on weekdays. Sundays are reserved for a 20-mile run.
“Anita knows not to make plans for me on Sunday,” he said, a grin crossing his face.
“I also know that when he comes home from work, he puts on his tennis shoes and hits the road,” Anita said, “so supper has to be planned according to his schedule.”
Two weeks prior to the race, he trades in the daily run for a short easy run and stretching to allow his body to heal and prepare for the 26-mile marathon.
“I couldn’t do it without my number one coach, Anita,” he said. “She keeps me going and works around my schedule.”
Anita says she’s his “voice of reason”.
Running a 26-mile marathon may be a daunting task for many, Larry doesn’t see it that way. In fact, 26 miles isn’t his longest race.
He’s run two 50-mile races and a 100-mile race, as well as several 30-mile races.
In 2004, he was ranked 423rd out of 1,500 ultra male runners in the world by Ultra Running magazine.
He is appreciative of all the support he receives from the community and his employer, Lauren Manufacturing.
The company has sponsored him with a financial donation every year, and this year increased their donation to cover his entire hotel stay and race fees.
“They’re very generous,” he said.
When asked what his plans are after his 25th Boston Marathon, Larry said he has no intention of slowing down.
“I’m running the Pro Football Hall of Fame marathon April 29 and the Columbus marathon in October. I also plan to go back to Boston every year I’m able,” he said. “I enjoy running. It’s what propels me.”
Asked if he and Anita have any special plans to celebrate his anticipated entry into the Quarter Century Club after the race, a big smile crossed Larry’s face, he raised his arm and said, “It’ll be a beer at the Cheer’s Bar!”