Oak Parkers Arden Swanson and Perry Vietti have been running marathons for years, but in Chattanooga, Tennessee on October 20th they hit a special one. Swanson and Vietti like smaller events in other cities, combining their marathons with a road trip. This year it was the 7 Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga.
Amazingly, they finished with identical times of 3:20:46. Swanson dominated the 60-64 group, a full 26 minutes ahead of the next guy in his age bracket, while Vietti took second in the 50-54 group, over 15 minutes over third-place. These guys were literally miles ahead of their nearest competitors.
They are part of a small, dedicated running group who follow a program of three runs a week – speed work on the track, tempo run and long run -- plus cross-training on the other days. This program, described in an earlier column, is intended to provide effective distance training while minimizing injuries. Their workouts at the Concordia track are usually directed by fellow runner, Chris Sheean.
After Chattanooga Vietti wrote, "Arden and I ran together the whole time; I stuck to him like glue until Mile 24. He went ahead, but had some cramping on a nasty hill at Mile 25 where he stopped briefly and stretched. Trying to stay with Arden pushed me along."
"Temperature was perfect, about 41degrees at the start. Chattanooga is at the end of its time zone, so it was dark for the first 45 minutes. We both got in a groove and ran between 7:30 and 7:50 per mile, the most balanced and even marathon I have ever run. It was work, but the wheels never came off for either of us, and the best I have felt at the end of a marathon in years. It also is one of the most beautiful marathons I have ever run, crossing seven long bridges that provided incredible views."
Swanson added, "For me, it was so personally fulfilling, and felt like a quality training session. I only ran 3 times a week during training this year, but tried to hit it hard for each of them. I wanted this to be a good one since I turned 60 this year, and I wanted to celebrate the new age bracket by hitting 3:20 again, always a nice target goal for me. I had some good marathons recently, but the last time I was around 3:20 was 2009 when I got a 3:19:44 at New York City."
"During the first few miles there is always that tentativeness – 'it feels okay now, but can I hold up for the whole 26 miles?' For me, the turning point was Mile 15. I felt strong, didn't feel any muscle fatigue or tightness, feeling like I could take it in the last 11 miles. And it worked out. I struggled a little during a long uphill between Mile 24.5 and 25.4, and was frustrated by leg cramps the last 1.5 miles, but otherwise, really enjoyed the whole experience."
And 3:20 is a fine marathon time for anybody, but for ages 53 and 60 it's terrific!
Paul Oppenheim is a member of the Oak Park Runners Club