Saturday, April 19, 2008

Good Luck Karl

Trio ready to take on grueling Boston Marathon

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press
Monday, April 14, 2008.

Valley Press Staff Writer

It cannot be tamed, muted or weakened.

Every bit of its 1,666,368 inches will batter, challenge and humble even the most elite of world athletes.

But three Valley runners hope to overcome the marathon one more time.

On April 21, Raymond Wong, Tony Teske and Karl Stutelberg will rely on months of training in order to endure the 112th running of the Boston Marathon.

Instead, the three seek to prove that they have it - that intangible force that pushes them forward and says, 'yes, you can.'

"The funny thing, it isn't about the competition that you beat," Teske said. "You run against yourself to see what you are made of. That's part of it. (In a marathon), you get into a good groove. But then it stops being pretty, then it's about how I can best finish and survive this thing."

At 65, Teske is the eldest of the trio heading east. But in addition to his running shoes, Teske, who ran his first marathon in 1993, will take with him 15 years of experience gained the hard, old fashioned way - earned on unrelenting, unforgiving roads, valleys and hills. This will be Teske's 25th marathon, and eighth in Boston. Teske's personal best was a time of 3 hours, 14 minutes, 11 seconds, which he ran in Portland in 1995. That time qualified Teske for the 100th running of the Boston Marathon, one of the most elite such races in the world.

"I am not at any point to run any personal bests," Teske said. "I'll just take what my genetics and training gives me."

By race's end, Teske hopes to break the four-hour mark and qualify for next year's marathon. In order to gain entry for 2009, Teske will have to finish faster than 4:15, the minimum qualifying time for his age group. With his last marathon time of 3:48, Teske is confident than an automatic invite is in store once again.

"Every year I compare my bib number to my finish and I see how I did relative to my competition.," he said. "That's my indirect way of competing with those folks. They may have qualified better than me, but on that day I got past them."

Like Teske, though, fellow runner Wong, got a late start in distance running. On a whim nearly 10 years ago, Wong ran an 8K race, which inspired him to run marathons.

With 32 marathons completed, Wong is the most experienced runner of the bunch.

"Boston is a big celebration," he said. "It's like graduation. When you earn it, it's like getting your degree in the marathon."

In addition to Boston, Wong has run in marathons from Long Beach to Maui, all the while striving for personal bests every time he laces up his shoes. Wong plans on beating his previous time of 3:19.31. At last year's New York Marathon, Wong finished in 3:24.21.

"If I execute everything well, I am on schedule to do that," Wong said. "Everyone wants to run their fastest marathon at Boston. It's like the granddaddy of marathon racing. We all want to run our best to know that our time and money, (and) more importantly our months of training, meant something."

As recently as last weekend, Wong was fine tuning his body for the upcoming race. At the Great Race held in Agoura Hills on April 5, Wong finished a 10K in 42:39.2.

Rounding up the three is the 28-year-old Stutelberg, who has not only trained vigorously for Boston, he has also documented it on the Internet.

Since signing up for the marathon, Stutelberg has documented his progress on his personal blog, allowing runners from around the world to follow him on his journey.

"Part of why I did it was to track my progress," Stutelberg said. "I can look back in a month and see where I was at pretty quickly. But also so my friends can check up on what I am doing, but it's mostly for myself."

Stutelberg qualified for Boston in Las Vegas in 2006 when he ran a 3:04.12, slightly behind his personal best of 2:58.37. Since running 16 miles on March 29, Stutelberg has slowly tapered his mileage to focus on technique and rest. All of the training has him on pace to match or even beat his personal best time.

"Boston has so much history and tradition," said Stutelberg, who will be attempting the marathon for the first time. "It's kind of been a life long goal for me to go over there."

In March, Stutelberg was dealing with shin pain and sickness. To be in top shape for Boston, Stutelberg decided to rest rather than potentially hinder his chances of a successful time.

They know their limits and they break through them safely, knowing that unnecessary stress could have long-lasting, permanent effects on their body is one of the things that makes marathon runners so different from other athletes.

Stutelberg, as a physical therapist, understands first-hand the problems facing runners. More than that, though, he knows how the body works and knows how to maximize its efficiency and output. In fact, a couple of months ago, Stutelberg, along with friend and colleague Clayton Patten offered a running clinic for distance runners of the Valley, hoping to provide exercises and tips for improved performance.

"(Being a physical therapist) definitely helps in my training," Stutelberg said. "When I get injuries I know what to do."

One might suspect that in order to adequately train his or her body for the grueling pace of a marathon an agonizing, brutal regimen might be the standard and norm.

But, just like their goals and personalities, the training schedule of each differs according to his style and needs. All three, though, run for the High Desert Runners, a local running group.

Teske, who did not run in last year's Boston Marathon because of an injury to his Achilles' tendon, said that his preparations might surprise people.

"Most end up with some kind of regimen," he said. "It's like a superstition almost. I think I run a shockingly low amount of miles. Over the years, I've evolved. I do what I do. I can still make it from the starting line to the finish. I've learned that my body is going to hold up longer if I keep the mileage low."

According to Teske, a marathon runner's weekly running average should total 50 miles, while his is around 20.

"I guess I am not that committed," he joked.

Wong, in stark contrast, wasted no time getting back into his running shoes after the Agoura event. Instead of resting the next day, he ran 17 miles just to maintain his disciplined and structured plan of attack for Boston.

"I am in recovered mode this week," Wong said. "If you overdo it, you can tip over."

Don't expect these Valley residents to lay down or give up. Just expect them to prove what many already know about them: they cannot be deterred, nor can they be stopped on their quest for running greatness.

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