I was asked by a magazine to write a story about myself; however, the magazine decided to not publish it. As a result I decided to publish it in my blog. How I Became The Southernmost Walker I did not always race walk. I played baseball in high school and did not enjoy the running part of training. When I entered the University of Cincinnati in 1963, my freshman education course required me to volunteer at some local organization. I picked the Powell Crosley YWCA and helped as a leader for an elementary school club. The following summer I was hired to work in the basket room of the outdoor swimming pool. I could only swim a little distance with very poor style. In the mornings while I was working, a man by the name of Whitey Davis, who was about 55 years old and was the varsity swimming coach at Walnut Hills High School, taught swim lessons over the PA with the lifeguards in the pool helping the learners. I thought that being a lifeguard would be a better job than working in the basket room. Of course I would have to become a much better swimmer and pass a lifesaving course which began in four weeks. After work each day I had been practicing what I was hearing over the PA. I was actually becoming a very good swimmer who could properly swim the four basic strokes that I would need for the lifesaving course – freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and sidestroke. I just needed to increase my endurance. I decided to swim a mile and a half every day, no matter how long it took. I wanted to be able to swim a mile nonstop in each stroke before the lifesaving course began and through a lot of hard work and determination I achieved my goal. As a result I passed the lifesaving course very easily. For the next three and a quarter years while I was finishing my two Bachelor Degrees, I worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the YMCA. In the second winter I was approached by a coach named, Charlie Casuto, and asked if I would allow him to bring an eight year old girl named, Barbara Weinstein, into the indoor pool and practice diving on the one meter springboard. Since very few people utilized the pool at that time of night, I said sure. This was the first time I had seen an elite athlete in person. At eight years old Barbie was doing most of the same dives at almost the same level as I could watch on television on the Wide World of Sports. I learned so much about coaching and diving from watching her training as I let them practice daily the rest of that winter and all of the next winter. I earned my Bachelor of Mathematics with Honors Degree in 1967 and did my student teaching at Woodward High School in the fall of 1967 which completed my Bachelor of Education Degree. I was hired full time at Woodward High School in December of 1967 where I taught math and helped with the swim team. At the beginning of the next school year the Athletic Director asked me if I would coach the junior high cross country team since I was doing such a nice job working with the swimming team. I said I did not know much about cross country. He said if I do not coach it, there would be no team. I agreed to coach and began to learn about running and how to coach it. I have always been able to teach myself how to do things. I had been learning a lot about competitive swimming and coaching from a book entitled “The Science of Swimming” by James ‘Doc’ Counsilman who coached Swimming at Indiana University and the Olympic Team. Much of what I have been learning about training for swimming could be applied to running. I at least had a starting point. The first day of practice I told the team what I wanted them to do, then watched them do as I asked. It was a good first practice, but it was kind of boring for me. As a result the second day I ran with the team which made the team happy. From then on my coaching included working out with the team. I now actually enjoyed running which was something that I hated in high school. By 1970 Woodward High School became only grades 9-12 and in addition to being a full time math teacher I was head varsity cross country coach, head varsity swimming coach, and distance track coach. One of my cross country runners, named Larry Norquist, asked me to take him to an event sponsored by the Ohio River Roadrunners Club where I met Wayne Yarko who was president and race director for most of the events. He was about 60 years old and ran in the races. I joined the club and participated in the 5K races. I learned quickly that this old man could run fairly fast. I took me probably eight races before I could beat him. I entered my first marathon. It was quite an experience. By mile sixteen I was feeling very good so I picked up my pace. That was a big mistake as by mile twenty-one I was exhausted. I began walking and I promised myself that if I could just finish, I would never do another marathon. I finished and earned the first medal of my running career. I also broken my promise to myself as I did the marathon the next year but ran a much smarter race. In 1972 I got a wonderful opportunity as I was asked to be an official at the Ohio State High School Swimming and Diving Competition and the following week at the Big Ten Swimming and Diving Championships at the pool on Ohio State’s Campus. Doc Counsilman’s Indiana University Team in person – the best of the best in an Olympic year, including Mark Spitz and John Kinsella who I got to meet. It was a wonderful experience to be in the presence of such great talent. It opened my eyes to just how good a well-trained athlete can be. In 1975 one of my runners, Terry Mullins, read an article in Sports Illustrated about a student who had traveled on foot from Canada to Mexico along the Pacific Coast. It got my cross country team talking about doing some kind of long trip the following summer. The idea blossomed into let go from Woodward High School in Cincinnati to Washington DC to Cape Kennedy to Disney World. We would begin training in January and start the journey the first Monday after school let out. We would have reservations at campgrounds along the way. Terry wanted to do it and it was okay with his parents. I wanted to do it and my wife agreed to go along as our support, driving our truck, pulling our camper. The rest of the team backed out. The trip took 79 days and covered 1656 miles doing 20-25 miles a day with 5 rest days. I covered the whole distance and Terry got sever blisters one day and had to ride for about three weeks until his blisters healed and then only did partial distances until he felt up to full days again. It was a wonderful summer for the three of us and it really changed both Terry and my performances. Terry went from not getting out of the districts as a junior to second overall in the big school division of the Ohio State High School Cross Country Championships and was given a four year free ride to Northern Kentucky University. My wife liked to read and knit and relax and did plenty of that. My speed increased significantly because of my muscles strengthening and great increase in endurance. At 30 years old I usually won my age group even when I travelled to other cities. When Terry and I did 5K races together he usually beat me by less than 30 seconds, In 1978 I quit coaching and competing and began concentrating on becoming an outstanding math teacher. My knees were bothering me – especially my left knee which I had injured greatly in about 1969. I walked every day for exercise. As a side note in 1979 a diver named, Barbara Weinstein, won the gold medal in the 10m woman’s platform diving in the Pan American Games and was favored to win the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. She did not get an opportunity to compete in the Olympics because President Carter did not let the USA team go to the Soviet Union for the Olympic Games. That was a very bad decision by President Carter. I knew Barbie was special. By 1983 I had been divorced, married again, and resumed running. Just before Christmas I slipped on the ice and broke a bone in my thumb, making it necessary to wear a cast for quite a while. I also decided to train for a marathon. I picked two – the first one in Columbus, Ohio on April 1, 1984 (April Fool’s Day no less) and the second a week later on April 8, 1984 in Athens, Ohio. In Columbus I finished fourth overall and set a new PR with at time of 2:57 – the first time I had ever been under 3 hours. In Athens on a very hilly course I averaged 6:30 miles for the entire 26.2 mile marathon, finishing in 2:50:24. This was the fastest and last running marathon that I ever did. I continued running into 1986 and once again stopped because my knees again bothered me. From then until 1998 I walked almost every day for exercise. In 1998 I got divorced again, retired from teaching in Ohio, and moved to Key West, Florida. One day in 1999 when I was walking South Roosevelt Blvd, I met a woman named Gerda. We hit it off well. I asked her to marry me at the stroke of midnight when the fireworks started marking the ending of 1999 and the beginning of 2000. Gerda and I were married on October 6, 2000. Gerda was a runner and a member of the Key West Southernmost Runners Club. Just after we met she had a 5K race and I went to watch. She was a good runner who won an age group award. Watching was fun but I knew that I would rather participate. Becoming a runner again did not seem to be a viable option with my history of knee problems. At that moment after years of walking and no current knee problems it was quite obvious that I should enter the race and walk. Would that be allowed? In those days races were not walker friendly as they are now. I reasoned, however, that if I could walk faster than the slowest runner there would be no valid reason to restrict me from participating in the event. I enter the next local 5k and beat about 30% of the participants. Soon other people were walking in the 5K races and local race directors and promoters such as Don Nelson and Barbara Wright began adding a walking division with overall awards. Near the end of 2001 Gerda and I decided to travel to other cities to do races. I would do a marathon and Gerda would do a half marathon. I wanted to have a special tee shirts to wear for these events so I had several made in various colors. I had joined the Key West Southernmost Runners and I walked so it seem natural to have Key West Southernmost Walker printed on the front and my last name printed on the back. Our first race was the Disney World event on January 6, 2002. We had a very successful race. Gerda who was 55 won fifth place in her age group and I who was 56 received a second place walking age group award and was sixth overall in the walkers. This was one of the few years that Disney offered a walking division. It also became quite apparent why most big races do not have walking divisions. There are too many problems with people entering as walkers and not walking the entire distance – they would do some mixture of walking and running. Whenever I trained for a marathon, I usually enter more than one race. As a result I did the Clearwater Gulf Beaches Marathon on January 20, 2002 and the Key West Half Marathon on January 27, 2002. It was in Key West that I first met Bart Yasso from Runner’s World with whom I have over the years become very friendly. He spoke at the pasta dinner and showed slides of the many events he has done- Bad Water to Africa and seemingly everywhere and everything else. I have great respect and admiration for what he has done over the years for the sport of running and how he handled Lyme disease caused by a tick bite. He ignited a spark in me to go to other places besides Florida to do races. By the spring of 2004 I had completed 9 more Florida marathons. At my races I often saw a runner named Harry Hoffman from Stuart, Florida who was about 4 years older than I. He said that he was a member of the 50 States Marathon Club, which was founded by Steve and Paula Boone of Houston, Texas on March 30, 2001. The club had about 800 members who were people dedicated to completing a marathon in each of the 50 states. It did not matter how fast you completed the marathon. You had to have completed 10 states before you could join the club. I became intrigued with this club and felt that completing a marathon in all 50 states plus DC would be a very worthwhile goal and something of which I could be extremely proud. On March 20, 2004 Gerda and I headed to Virginia Beach, Virginia to complete the Shamrock Marathon and earn my second state. Gerda did a race that was shorter than a half marathon. The event had an early start for walkers which I opted to do. I learned that early starts were not a good idea for me as I walked to fast. I was soon out in front and reaching water stations before the volunteers had them open. I was past mile 11 before the lead runner from the main field, a Kenyan runner, caught up with me. Being a teacher my life was organized around school years. I taught two classes at Key West High School and between 5 and 7 classes at Florida Keys Community College. My high school classes ended each weekday by 10:30 AM and I was able the schedule all my college classes on Mondays through Thursdays between 11:30 AM and 9:00 PM. Thus doing marathons in states other than Florida became possible if I could find a Saturday race or a Sunday race on a three day weekend. I could also schedule races during the summer as long as they could fit into my summer school schedule at the college. On February 4, 2006 I completed the Tybee Island Marathon in Georgia. It was my tenth state and my total amount of completed marathons became 39. I joined the 50 States Marathon Club. I had also heard of another marathon club called the Marathon Maniacs, which was founded by Steven Yee, Chris Warren, and Tony Phillippi of Tacoma, Washington on May 25, 2003. It was also based on completing marathon without regard for how much time it took. The club has ten levels of recognition based on how many marathon are completed in a period of one year. With all the marathons I had been doing in Florida, I was already eligible to join which I did. I became member number 256 and was placed at level 4. In both clubs I registered as Chester “Southernmost Walker” Kalb. From then on I have only worn bright green shirts with red lettering. My moniker is on the front. My last name, club affiliations, and major achievements are listed on the back. On September 20, 2008 I completed marathon number 100, the Kroll’s Diner Marathon in Bismarck, North Dakota, and joined the 100 Marathon Club of North America which was created by Bob and Lenore Dolphin of Yakima, Washington. On October 26, 2008 I finished my quest to have finished a marathon in all fifty states plus DC when I completed the Dunkin Donuts Marathon in Falmouth on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It was very satisfying and I was extremely proud of myself. On July 4, 2009 the creators of the Marathon Maniacs created a similar club called the Half Fanatics. Finally there was a club for my wife, Gerda, to join and receive the recognition she deserved for completing 101 half marathons in 44 different states. I also discovered that I had met the minimum qualification for the club in January of 2006 when I completed a half as part of the Disney World Goofy Challenge and two weeks later a half marathon in Clearwater, Florida which replaced a marathon that I had entered and was cancelled. I guess the cancellation turn out to be a blessing in disguise. We both joined the Half Fanatics as Gerda became member number 45 and I became member number 46. It was time for both of us to do half marathons and see what we could accomplish before anyone else in the club. Also it was good for my knees to not do so many miles at one time. It was also nicer for Gerda as she often had to wait as long as three hours after her finish for my finish. Beginning in September we had already entered Gerda in a half marathon in all six states that she would need to finish completing a half marathon in all 50 states. I could change from the associated marathon to the half marathon in all these races. It was perfect. I was already entered in the Pike’s Peak Marathon on August 16, 2009. That would be a wonderful event to complete as my final marathon – the 135th walking marathon since starting at Disney World in 2002. Three days after I completed the Pike’s Peak Marathon I suffered a pulmonary embolism. Fortunately for me medicine cleared it up and I was able to complete a half marathon in Boulder, Colorado on September 20, 2009. At this time both Gerda and I were 63 years old and had become completely retired when we were 62. We decided to try to reach the level 10 - the highest level in the club by completing 30 half marathons in 30 different states in one year. On November 1, 2009 in Manchester, New Hampshire, Gerda finished her quest to do a half marathon in all 50 states, making her the first person to do so. I reached level 10 on August 28, 2010 when I completed the Mesa Falls Half Marathon in Ashton, Idaho and became the first person to be level 10 in both the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. On September 6, 2010 Gerda reached level 10 when she completed the Disneyland Half Marathon in Anaheim, California. There was one more thing that each of us might be able to earn as 2010 was going to be the initial year when the Half Fanatics would be awarding Fanatic of the Year Awards to the three males and three females who had finished the most half marathons in 2010. I was leading in the male competition and Gerda was one of four females close together in leading the female competition. When the results were tabulated at the end of 2010, I was awarded first male Fanatic of the Year for 2010 and Gerda was awarded third female Fanatic of the Year for 2010. I completed a quest to finish a half marathon in all 50 states plus DC on October 29, 2011 when I completed the Jazz Half Marathon in New Orleans, Louisiana making me the first person to complete both a half marathon and a full marathon in all 50 states plus DC. When Gerda completed the Route 66 Half Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma on November 24, 2013, she became the first person to complete two half marathons in all 50 States. As of March 27, 2015 Gerda has 229 total marathons (1) and half marathons (228). As for me I have 287 total marathons (135) and half marathons (154). I would also like to note that on February 20, 2012 I had my left knee replaced very successfully by Dr. Lavernia in Miami, Florida. With his approval I resumed race walking half marathons on October, 30, 2012 when I completed the Runner’s World Half Marathon in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I have completed 69 half marathons in 38 different states since the operation. I expect to finish all 50states plus DC on my new knee on June 28, 2015 when I complete the Kona Half Marathon in Kona, Hawaii. I have noticed that over the years that I have been involved in running and walking there has been a shift in attitude. The question that used to be asked is: “Did you win?” and the winners were placed on a pedestal and everybody else was forgotten. The question now seems to be: “What did you accomplish?” and everyone can be included in the recognition. Winning is still important and the elite athletes of the past and present are given the recognition that they deserve. The shift in attitude has allowed the rest of the participants to still be relevant. Chip timing has allowed more winners than just the first person to cross the finish line. The other participants are embarking on alternative goals to judge their accomplishments. People have discovered that the ability to complete a half or full marathon is enough of a feat to be worthy of recognition. The four clubs that I have joined epitomizes the alternate goal approach to competition where other accomplishments are just as important as who won. I have enjoyed going to marathon and half marathon events and meeting the celebrities and getting to know them personally whether its current elite runners (Ryan Hall, Brian Sell, Deana Kastor, or Desiree Davilla) or the past elite runners (Amby Burfoot, Hal Higdon, Bill Rogers, Frank Shorter, Dick Beardsley, Joan Benoit Samuelson, or Jeff Galloway) or other celebrities (Bart Yasso, Dean Karnazes, Katherine Switzer, Astronaut Mike McCulley, Swimmer Mark Spitz, Diana Nyad, or NASCAR Driver Jimmy Johnson). I have also enjoyed meeting the non-celebrities. These are the people from all over the world who have come to the events to participate and have great enjoyment that they are trying to accomplish a goal that is important to that individual. I have discovered that the members from all over the world of the clubs to which Gerda and I belong have accomplished many outstanding things. The following information is about the clubs and some of the members who are Gerda and my friends and is as of March 27, 2015. The 50 States Marathon Club has 3704 members who have completed more than 225000 marathons. A total of 1004, (654 men and 350 women), have completed at least one marathon in each of the 50 states, in fact, 228 have completed all 50 states two or more times. More than 50% of its members are 55 years of age or older. The 100 Marathon Club of North America has 454 members, 50 of whom live in countries different than the USA. The Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics have 11021 and 10954 members respectively from all over the world although most of the members are from the USA. Level 10 has been reached by 208 Marathon Maniacs and 68 Half Fanatics. There are 11 people that have reached level 10 in both clubs. Following is a list of the accomplishments of a few of our friends in the clubs: Bob Dolphin: age 84, from Washington, finished marathon number 502 in May of 2014 Steve Boone: age 65, from Texas, finished 605 marathons, completed all 50 states 5 times Paula Boone: age 48, from Texas, finished 315 marathons, completed all 50 states 3 times Steven Yee: age 55, from Washington, finished 42 half 317 full 6 ultra Chris Warren: age 47, from Washington, finished 24 half 231 full 15 ultra Tony Phillippi: age 53, from Washington, finished 42 half 212 full 46 ultra Harry Hoffman: age 74, from Florida, knee replacement 78 marathons after, 236 full 30 ultra, completed all 50 states once Chuck Engle: age 43, from DC, 263 marathons, often entered both Saturday-Sunday events in a single weekend and won both races, WON a marathon in all 50 states Yolanda Holder: age 56, from California, walker, 418 full 85 ultra, Twice set Guiness World Record for most marathons completed in year by female 103 then 113 Larry Macon: age 70, from Texas, completed over 1410 marathons, completed all 50 states 19 times, completed all 50 states in one year 9 times, Four times set Guiness World Record for most marathons completed in year by male 106 then 113 then 157 then 253 (accomplished in 2013) Below are some photographs from my journeys. Bill Rogers Brian Sell Diana Nyad Dane Rauschenberg Bart Yasso Harry Hoffman Larry Macon Steve Yee, Chris Warren, Tony Phillippi Chuck Engle Dean Karnazes Dick Beardsley Joan Benoit Samuelson Ryan Hall Katherine Switzer Hal Higdon Jeff Galloway Paula Boone and Steve Boone My wife, Gerda Kalb, and myself, Chester "Southernmost Walker" Kalb
Friday, March 27, 2015
Sunday, March 22, 2015
Shamrock Half Marathon Virginia Beach, Virginia Sunday, March 22, 2015 On Sunday, March 22, 2015 I race walked the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The temperature ranged in the upper 40’s with mostly cloudy skies and some wind. The course was flat on roadways and the Boardwalk which were completely closed to traffic. Intersections were controlled by police and other volunteers. Water/Gatorade stations were located every 1.5 miles and were manned by plenty of enthusiastic volunteers. The two days of racing saw almost 30000 participants. The race has been held for many years and I have done 5 full marathons or 2 half marathons. The event is always extremely well organized and I enjoyed myself a usual. My friend, Bart Yasso from Runner’s World was a celebrity at the event.