Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spokane Trail Run & Don Kardong

While I was in Spokane last weekend, I got to go for a trail run. I ran in the rain on Sunday morning on the trails in Riverside State Park, downriver from downtown a couple of miles.

I always gravitate to these trails when I'm in town. While running, I ended up hooking-up with Don Kardong and a father and son from Oregon...(John & Brian Sniffer???). Even though they were running in the opposite direction, I figured it would make me run farther than I wanted to, and it worked. It added 8 miles or so to my run, and I got to run with and talk to a legend.

Don Kardong is probably the best-known runner from Spokane. He and Gerry Lindgren, anyway. (Spokane is definitely a runner's town).

Don Kardong was the fourth-place finisher in the 1976 Olympic marathon. He's been a running journalist and helped found the annual Bloomsday Run (12K) in 1977. (I started running in it in 1978 and have run it at least 18 or 20 times). The Bloomsday Run now attracts more than 40,000 participants, and has had up to 60-thousand-plus runners. He has been everything from an elementary school teacher to a magazine writer, is now responsible for shepherding the event through the long months between its annual event time in May.

I really enjoy his writing style. One of my favorite books by him is Hills, Hawgs and Ho Chi Minh. Most recently, he has written for Runner's World and now for Marathon and Beyond.

Anyway, running with Don and two other experienced runners was a wonderful way to start-out my Sunday right. What's interesting: every other time that I'm in Spokane and run on those trails, I seem to run into Don. In fact, he doesn't remember me from when I lived there, but he seems to know me as the "guy from Kansas City who runs trails." Which, coincidentally, is about as apt as a description as I can come up with for myself.

Something many do not know about me:
My running lifestyle is all due to my grandfather and Don's Bloomsday Race. Back when I was 30 years younger, I used to be a "weekend runner" and wasn't in the best of shape. When Bloomsday would come around (every first Sunday in May), I would train hard for 2 to 6 weeks leading up to the race. I would then run the race, puke, and recover slowly over the next week.

By the end of my twenties and into my 30s, I was training less and puking more. My times got so slow, that when I'd look my "official" time up in the Spokesman Review the next morning, my 80-something Grandfather's time was closing-in on my time. (And sometimes he had pushed my Grandmother in a wheelchair through the entire course). In fact, my Grandfather placed well in his age group, all through his 70s and eighties. (He ended up running it until a few of years prior to his death at 96).

So staying in shape to stay ahead of my Grandpa was a HUGE goal, but I also wanted to get in good enough shape to be on my company's Corporate Cup Team, which would give me a better starting position in the well-attended race. I trained in earnest, and eventually finished the race in under an hour. I finally got onto the Corporate Cup Team, and had a few good years (until I moved away), with finishing times between 50 and 53 minutes. Which is fast for me, anyway.

Bloomsday led to other things. My first marathon was the CoeurD'Alene Marathon in 1990. And then Seattle. And then Portland (6 times), and many others to come. And then in 1999, I gave-up running on pavement (mostly), and now stick to mainly doing 50Ks, 50-milers, and 100s on trails. And now I shepherd my own running group and have my own set of races. My group is catching on, is expanding faster than I ever thought possible, and even has huge female following and subgroup.

So thank you, Don Kardong! You have inspired so many to take-up running and shuck the sedentary lifestyle. Even though I didn't want to say it while running with you (for fear of sounding corny or disingenuous), you are one of my heros.


Spokane Al said...

While you were running on the trails in the rain on Sunday, I was pounding the roads. If I wasn't so clumsy I might try the dirt and rocks instead of just gazing at the trails from the pavement.

I hope you enjoyed your time here.

Ben, aka BadBen said...

I always enjoy my visits to Spokane.

I had a good time with friends and relatives at Bluz at the Bend on Saturday night. As a founding member of the Inland Empire Blues Society, it was good to see a lot of familiar faces of patrons and musicians.

Spokane has a lot of folks with running/triathlon/climbing talent, but it also has an incredible amount of local musical talent that play regularly.