Monday, April 26, 2004

They love what they loathed


Pfeffers turn marathon running into a team sport

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

When it came to running for sport, Ronald Pfeffer Sr. and his sons, Michael and Steve, shared a common bond for decades. They hated it.

Name another sport and the Anderson Township trio has probably played it, coached it, and watched it. Soccer. Baseball. Basketball. But marathon running? No way.

"I didn't enjoy running at all," said Steve Pfeffer, 39. "I thought it was a punishment from all the years when I played other sports, when you had to run for doing something wrong."

But as Michael and Steve hit their 30s, they found the very sport they loathed conveniently fit their schedules. Then, they actually learned to like it.

Sunday, they'll each run their sixth Flying Pig Marathon, and will be among 250 runners who are part of the Pig's new 131 Club, named for the formula 26.2 miles x 5 Pigs = 131.

"When the Pig got started, we thought it was a great marathon," Ronald said. "I guess the bug just bit."

To curb high blood pressure, Ronald, 67, began cramming 3-mile workouts into his lunch hour in 1968. A lifetime of team sports didn't prepare him for the rigors, but he dedicated himself nonetheless.

Michael, 42, and Steve watched their father transform his lunchtime hobby into a full-fledged passion. Team-sport fans to the core, the Turpin High School athletes balked at joining him.

But Ronald was hooked, and decided to test his endurance in a Heart Mini Marathon. He has now run all 27.

"My dad does great. I'm absolutely amazed at how well he runs," Michael said.

A decade ago, Michael figured if his dad could do it, he "could get off (his) rear end, too." And then Steve got in on the act, and discovered running was a great stress-reliever.

Both knew keeping up with Dad wouldn't be easy: Ronald's resume includes 20 marathons and he plans to race until he's at least 70. The retired grandfather covers 4 miles every other day and has clocked a personal-best 3:50 over his marathon career.

Ronald said his time tends to creep up to "about five hours," while Michael and Steve hover around four hours. The trio, which regularly runs the Columbus Marathon as well as the Pig, begins races together, but after a mile or two, it's every Pfeffer for himself.

Michael, the most ardent trainer, usually finishes before Steve; then they both cheer on their father.

"I don't really run for time," Ronald said. "I just run to finish."

Baseball has always been a collective passion, so the Pfeffers never expected to pursue running like they do. It's been a wonderful journey.

"We - all three - love to run now," Michael said. "I hope it never ends. It's something I really treasure."

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E-mail srussell@enquirer.com




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