DeWitt hopes new training will pay off in the long run

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

By BOB LABBE

For the Madison Spirit bob0873@yahoo.com

Middle-distance expert seeks strong finish in marathon

George DeWitt, winner of the Huntsville Track Club's 2006 Male Performance Award, said he is looking forward to competing in Saturday's Rocket City Marathon. This is the 30th anniversary of the race held in downtown Huntsville.

"This will be my third Rocket City Marathon, and I'm looking forward to the challenge a marathon race presents me," he said.

He broke four Alabama age-group records at 47 and two state records after celebrating his 48th birthday in October.

"I always thought I was better in long distances, but my best races now are middle-distance races," he said.

He grew up in New Jersey and Maryland and took up running after watching the 1968 Summer Olympics on TV. The decathlon interested him. He bought an 8-pound shot put and discus, made a makeshift high jump with a mattress and obtained a pedometer from Wheaties to measure how far he ran. His affection for the decathlon soon ended.

When he started high school, he was a drummer in the band. A friend suggested that he try running again. That decision forever changed his life. DeWitt's history teacher and track coach was Mr. White. White lost an arm and part of his eyesight in a wreck. Despite the accident, White remained dedicated to his student-athletes and led the cross country team to a state championship in DeWitt's senior year.

"Mr. White knew how to encourage you to be the best you could be with his pep talks," DeWitt said. "He is the one person who influenced me to become the runner I am today."

DeWitt earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Duke University. He is now an engineer at Adtran. After graduation, he married Kathryn; they've been married 26 years. They have raised five children, one of whom, Nathan, 21, is in Baghdad serving in the Army.

He stopped running competitively for nearly two decades. The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta triggered his desire to compete again. While living in Indianapolis in 2003, he traveled to North Alabama to run in the Rocket City Marathon and fell in love with the area. Upon hearing of a job opening at Adtran in 2005, he decided to move.

While racing in the 2005 Rocket City Marathon, DeWitt won first place in the masters division with a time of 2 hours, 41 minutes. He said he will look for a pack of runners to match his pace in Saturday's marathon. He wants to take his time and then push his pace the second half of the 26-mile race. He said he feels he hasn't conquered the end of the race.

"Hitting the runner's wall and falling off has been a problem for me," DeWitt said. "I plan on using some nutritional items such as Powergels along the way. Plus, I changed my training regime by adding more long runs, including a 20-mile run through Monte Sano State Park every other week and some water workouts at the Huntsville Natatorium. I'll eat light the day of the race and take to the course that most long-distance runners like because it's flat and fast."