Friday, December 08, 2006
By BRUCE McLELLAN
Associate Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
A handstand almost ruined Garry Elkins' perfect streak of racing in every Rocket City Marathon.
His grandson, Morris Herman,
was inside Elkins' home in
"So I told him I'd show him how," Elkins said.
After getting in the proper three-point stance, Elkins slowly raised himself up, balanced perfectly.
"I fell over and there was a magazine rack and I broke my toe on it," Elkins said. "So I ran the race with my broken toe taped to my big toe."
But the pertinent fact is that he ran the marathon - just as he had in every one held before and has in every one held since. That makes him the only runner to have completed all 29 Rocket City Marathons, and he plans to make it an even 30 Saturday.
"Hey, I'm a lifer," said Elkins, 64.
The broken toe on Elkins' right foot wasn't his streak's only close call. In the early 1990s he and his wife, Becky, got involved in country and western dancing. But about four weeks before the 1993 marathon, he tried to boogie one direction and his left knee went in another.
"I twisted my
knee," he said. "It was the first time I ever had any knee problems.
I went to Dr. (Lawrence) Lemak and he said, 'I think
you'll be all right if you just stay off it.' And I said, 'Dr. Lemak, I've got a marathon to run in
And Elkins did run it, taking periodic walking breaks and ending up with his slowest finishing time of four hours, 40 minutes. His fastest time in the Rocket City Marathon is 2:53:37 in 1981 at age 39.
"I've never had knee trouble since," he said. "And I don't do any more country and western dancing.
"It really doesn't matter what your time is. The main thing is you ran it and you finished it."
He's expecting to run a decent time this year after training harder. He'll weigh about 145 pounds after usually being closer to 155 or 160. He doesn't want to disappoint his personal audience.
"My grandchildren are coming for the first time, and they're as old as my daughter was the first year I ran it."
Morris, 11, and his sister,
Rebecca, 9, will travel to the race from
Elkins, who now works for
the Department of Human Resources in
"I weighed about 190 pounds, smoked a couple of packs of cigarettes a day and just felt terrible," he said. "I was just getting fat."
He soon was running races in
"This race is just
special to me," he said. "I've got a lot of friends up there."
One of those is Dink Taylor, who was a teenager living in
He has run a marathon 23
other times, including the fabled Boston Marathon three times, and has even
completed a 50-mile race. But it's the
He said he's
been tempted to quit running during the
"I didn't have any of the high-tech running gear," he said. "By the time I got downtown (16 miles or so into the race), my sweat shirt had a block of ice around my neck where I had sweated. I was freezing.
"I'd have dropped out if my wife hadn't been standing down there with a dry shirt. Now, I have some of the better racing stuff that wicks sweat away from your body."
He said he has no doubt he'll extend his streak to a perfect 30 straight Rocket City Marathon finishes on Saturday.
"I definitely plan on finishing. My wife said, 'You'd finish if you had to crawl.'
"And I said, 'I'd have to try.' "