by Nick Marshall
Editor’s note: Nick Marshall has been keeping these stats for several years. We first became aware of them when a friend added my name to the email subscription list. Having run the marathon ten times, it feels like my hometown race, my favorite and most familiar of the 121 marathons I’ve run so far. I read Nick’s email introduction (that’s what he calls it) with much interest and he agreed that we could print it. The stats are on a google spreadsheet which you can access.
This work is too good to be seen only by those who are lucky enough to be on the email list, so we print it here in its entirety. KM
Below is a link to the historical chart of runners with the most finishes at the Harrisburg Marathon, updated to reflect the results from last week’s 47th edition of the race. For the first time, I’ve put this info online, after always previously sending it out as file attachments with an introductory email. For anyone who’s interested in this material, you can merely bookmark this site for future access:
These compilations were first inspired by race historian Hap Miller’s 2011 book. The latest update shows all the times turned in by the 28 men and 3 women who have at least 15 finishes in the event, as well as the career statistics for more than 100 other runners at the Harrisburg Marathon.
The chart is a very large one, requiring some scrolling to view everyone. The 31 leaders are arrayed across the wide top row, with the others listed below them in four additional groups. After the Top 31, this remainder of the roster consists of an idiosyncratic collection of others who’ve run Harrisburg at least three times apiece, and who have simply seemed significant to me in one way or another. Many of them were important figures in HARRC in the past, or were regulars on my loop around Camp Hill once upon a time, etc. It’s thus a somewhat random lineup, but slanted to old timers. Yet although some of them may have been out of action for decades, their names may ring a bell to many of the recipients of this message, and spur fond memories of days long gone.
The latest Harrisburg Marathon on Nov. 10th continued its streak of luck, again landing on a day featuring excellent running conditions. While last Sunday was a bit cold at the start, things warmed up as the morning progressed, and there were only light breezes along all the potentially-windy riverfront miles. The sun peeked out toward the three-hour mark, so by the time runners began streaming across the line downtown, it was comfortable as well for the spectators gathered there.
The crowd got to witness 654 runners and walkers successfully complete the 26.2 miles. Leading the parade were Fleet Feet’s Fred Joslyn in 2:36:02, and Lacey Wallace in 2:56:21. It was Joslyn’s second win here, making him the 8th man to score multiple victories; and Wallace’s time made her the 6th fastest woman in race history.
Nonetheless, 2019 was a bittersweet year for longtime veterans and observers of the Harrisburg Marathon. One of our two perennial attendees failed to make it to the starting line.
In our inaugural marathon, back in 1973, there were only 51 finishers. This included a memorable trio of young guys from up the Susquehanna. Mike Ranck came from Milton, along with his close friends, Dean and Dane Walize, all three of them being 22 years old. Through the rest of the 1970s, Ranck and the Walize twins were a fixture once a year at Harrisburg. We never saw them except on race day, but they were a fun bunch, and it became a yearly reunion.
That ritual lasted till 1981, when Dean Walize didn’t show up. At that point, there were only four men who’d run every Harrisburg to date. And when I wasn’t able to run it for the first time in 1986, that number dwindled to only our local legend Park Barner, along with Mike Ranck and Dane Walize. They all maintained their perfect records through the 1980s, but the second Walize twin let his streak end at 18 straight after the 1990 race. That left Park Barner and Mike Ranck as the “last men standing,” and for the next 28 years these two men become our event’s Old Reliables, each chalking up another finish every November.
It was thus a tremendous shock to hear news of Mike Ranck’s death on Sept. 11th. I don’t know the cause of Mike’s passing, but it must have been unexpected, as he had remained a strong athlete right up to the end. In April, he’d run a very rugged trail 25-K (15.6 miles), and placed 219th out of 811 finishers, at age 68; and was already signed up to do long trail races in Sept. and Oct., as well as this past weekend’s Harrisburg.
A retired science teacher, Mike coached track, wrestling, and cross country for Hamburg high school. Besides logging 46 consecutive finishes in our marathon (running it in the 2:40s eight times), Ranck hiked the entire Appalachian Trail when he was 59. In his earlier years, he did many ultra-marathons, most notably finishing 4th in the famous Western States Endurance Run in 1979. In his 60s, he was national champ a couple times in his age group in a series of tough trail runs.
A powerful runner with a muscular physique, Mike sported a shaved head in his later years, and was instantly recognizable when he showed up each year at City Island for our race. Beyond that, though, Ranck had a perpetually cheerful and easy-going demeanor which made him a delightful individual. Not having him around for the 47th year in a row is a major loss.
Suddenly, it means there is only one man left who has completed every Harrisburg Marathon ever held. Fittingly, Mr. 47-for-47 is Park Barner, who measured the first course ever used in our marathon (as well as subsequently measuring all its numerous different configurations). In that 1973 edition, Park finished 3rd, despite having run a 50-K race the day before in Vermont.
Now at age 75, the Grand Old Man has moved to the back of the pack, and almost entirely walked the 26-miler this year in a time more than five hours slower than in 1973, graciously allowing all 653 other participants to cross the line ahead of him. In doing so, he’s compiled a record no one else can ever achieve.
Naturally, Mike Ranck is now in second place with 46 finishes.
The only other person with over 40 finishes is Hap Miller, also 75, who was content to let his tally remain at 44. On Saturday, Hap sent out a note with the heading, “See ya at the finish line,” saying: “I plan on starting tomorrow . . . but don’t plan on finishing. It’s only fitting that my only DNF of my running career be at Harrisburg. I could probably gut out a six or seven hour marathon but that’s too damn long to torture one’s body. . . In 1992, I moved into third place on the most HBMs completed list. Fast forward twenty-seven years later, I’m still there. I concede to Mike Ranck (RIP), a good runner and friend, and ultra unbeatable Park B. I will stop at the bronze. You can never catch your idols (or never should). I plan on starting with the walkers (06:30) as I have the last few years. Hope to run/walk the first 8-10 miles. . . . After which I plan on going to the Walnut Street Bridge area and cheering for the runners (it’s about time I did a little pay back). Will be at the finish to see the winners for the first time ever. . . . PS Tomorrow if you see me headed . . . in the direction of Ft. Hunter, please pull me aside and reason with me (good luck) and maybe give me a lift to the finish line. Please!”
True to his word, Hap stepped off the course at 11 miles, stopping his streak at 44 straight. That still leaves him well ahead of the next most prolific man, Dwight Edris of Leesport, who ran Hbg. for the 39th time in the past 40 years, including breaking four hours in his first 36 appearances. In doing so, Dwight passed a great landmark, becoming only the 4th individual to log over 1,000 total miles in the event. (39 x 26.2 = 1,022 miles.)
This time, Edris was the only one of the real old timers to turn in a solid running performance, as the 73-year-old earned his 15th age-group title (he’s also been a runnerup 8 times), with a 4:21:54. Although he looked comfortable when crossing the line, Dwight expressed some disappointment in his time, writing afterward: “The first half of the race went ok (slow—but ok) for me. Then came the second half. The finish line was a very welcome sight.” However, it’s worth noting that Edris has a personal tradition of doing two marathons annually. That’s not unusual, but in Dwight’s case, the other one he runs every fall happens to be the Marine Corps Marathon, which is always scheduled two weeks before ours. This year Edris did the MCM on Oct. 27th in 4:26:06, followed by our race 14 days later. Now he gets to knock off for 49+ weeks before he again crams next year’s pair of 26-milers into a fortnight.
Local runner Andy O’Donnell remains ranked #5, with an even 30 HBMs to his credit. It seems likely that Andy may have retired with that round number — while our marathon was going on this year, he was on a hiking excursion in Patagonia. As alternative exercises go, that’s an exotic one.
There are nine men who have done 25 or more Harrisburgs. This year hyperactive Don Halke from Newport moved into 7th place by getting his 26th (while completing at least his 12th marathon or 50K/50-mile race in 2019!), and Dale Jordan from Maryland tied me for 8th place when he logged his 25th. Meanwhile, I’ve been stuck at that frustrating number for five years, being hobbled in some way or another every time November rolls around again (but still hopeful that this negative streak can be reversed in 2020).
It will be a long while before anyone else joins the 25-year club. The 10th most prolific participant is the woman’s leader, Caroll Myers from East Berlin. Caroll always ran here at an extremely high level, as she was the overall women’s winner ten times (!), and holds the event’s fastest time ever, a 2:44:00 in 1984. But her last appearance was 10 years ago, so she retired with 22 HBMs on her resume.
There are 21 additional individuals who have between 15 and 20 finishes apiece. Racewalker Eliot Collins from New Jersey notched his 20th this year, but the most significant members of this group are a couple women who are now tied for second behind Caroll Myers as the most frequent female finishers. Marge Lebo and Jen Cadenhead have each done 17.
Marge emulated Hap Miller’s attitude this year, by entering but not being concerned about feeling she had to go the whole way. Instead, Lebo settled for a DNF, reporting afterward that, “I didn’t finish today, but had a great training run. Didn’t want to finish with a crappy time.”
That enabled Jen Cadenhead to pull into the second place tie with Lebo, when she reached downtown at 4:44:30. Lately, Jen has been branching out to distances which make Harrisburg look relatively easy. In July, she’d run the Viaduct Trail 50-mile, and in September did the Pine Creek 100-K (62.1 miles).
Cadenhead is unusual in that she’s compiled her extensive resume while relatively young. Over the history of the race, the fields which assemble have gradually become more skewed toward an older demographic. Throughout the 1970s, our marathon was largely populated by young men (with Mike Ranck and the Walize twins being good examples), who tended to log heavy training mileages, and run fast times. Things have become much more egalitarian over the decades, though, and in fact young men in their 20s now comprise only a small percentage of the total field.
Of course, women are now represented in sizable numbers, and Jen Cadenhead has helped carry the banner in that regard. She did her first when she was 22, and is only 41 now. One other relative youngster who bears watching in the future is a guy who broke the trend of younger men not turning out for the marathon. Michael Womelsdorf showed up here in 2007 when he was 21, and a 4:04:03 clocking last Sunday gave him 11 finishes at age 33. Womelsdorf doesn’t restrict his loyalty to our race, though, as this was the 9th marathon he’s done this year.
He and Jen Cadenhead both have decades in which to add to their totals in future years. Even so, it will remain hard to ever surpass Park Barner’s record. Even if Park would hang up his shoes now, the earliest Womelsdorf could catch him would be in the second half of this century. It’s a good illustration of how long Mr. Barner has been at it.
Among the thousands who’ve done our race in its 47 years, but with lesser frequency than those already mentioned, it was nice to see Laurie Dymond from Chambersburg show up for the first time in 10 years. Now 53, she’s a petite powerhouse who’s been competing since she was a teenager, and is one of central Pa.’s strongest runners. Among her credits are the second fastest 100-mile (17:01:58) and 24-hour (135.5 miles) ever run by a woman from our state. Just two years ago, she was part of the U.S. squad which won the team title at the 24-hour world championship in Ireland. On Oct. 13th Dymond ran 3:19:06 at Steamtown. Four weeks later, she only came to Harrisburg because a friend wanted to do it and asked Laurie to come along on the drive. So, rather than stand around on the sidelines waiting for her pal, she entered our race on short notice and cruised to a 3:29:22. And next Saturday she’ll be running the JFK 50-mile in Maryland for the 10th time.
Everyone has a story, of course. This year, our 654 finishers included 86 who ran fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon in April, so this was a prelude to more stories then. Among the qualifiers deserving special notice is the HARRC couple of Mike and Becky Cover. Both are 63. Mike notched his 7th finish with a 3:35:54 that was over 6 minutes faster than his previous best. Becky’s initial Harrisburg came when she was already 60, and her 4th finish proved her best, as well, with her 3:57:32 winning her age category by 17 minutes.
While the Covers’ husband/wife duo is proving to be an impressive family combo, they are far from the most active family group. There have been a lot of parent-child combos over the years, and of course the most finishes registered by siblings are the 26 turned in by the Walize twins between 1973 and 1990. However, far ahead of everyone else is Hap Miller and his family. Besides Hap’s 44, his daughter Kelly Krutz ran with him 3 times (1997-98, & 2012), plus his wife Betsy did the race in 1992, and son-in-law Scott Krutz ran in 2008 and 2012. That yields a total of 50 Harrisburgs that the Miller clan has done. It’s a nice, round number.
Another oddball record now belongs to New Cumberland’s Paul Moretz. In 1978, Paul ran a 3:57:59 when he was only 16, back in the days when the course went out to Linglestown and back. His age then illustrates how dramatically “younger” the event was in its earlier years. Besides being much more predominantly male in its makeup, the race attracted lots of teenagers. Remarkably, in 1978 it had 511 finishers, and 86 of them were in the 18-&-under category! By contrast, this year’s race had a single male under 20. (And whatever possessed 17-year-old John Svoboda to come to our race, all the way from Omaha, Nebraska? It’s a mystery.)
After his experience when he was 16, Paul Moretz took a break. The break lasted 41 years, until he showed up at the starting line last week, and ran a 3:46:53. It only took him a little more than four decades to improve on his debut performance. If he continues to follow this pattern, you can expect to see him again at the race in 2060.
Either way, the 47th Harrisburg was a prelude to many more to come. Time marches on. Next year brings a fresh new decade.
See you in 2020?
Nick Marshall was the first president of the Harrisburg Area Road Runners Club, and was one of 51 finishers in the first Harrisburg Marathon, on Labor Day in 1973. However, the main focus of his career was on longer distances. During the 1970s and ’80s, he was the country’s leading authority on ultramarathons. For ten years, he published an annual “Ultradistance Summary,” which provided comprehensive coverage of the sport in the U.S., growing in size to 148 pages of small-print text and statistics by its final edition.
As a competitor, he had PRs of 2:41:15 in the marathon; 5:42:31 for 50 miles; 7:17:06 for 100-K; 14:11:10 for 100 miles; and 146.3 miles in 24 hours. He was 3rd in the 50-mile national championship in 1977 and 2nd in the national championship 100-mile in 1983. Among his victories were wins at the historic Lake Waramaug (CT) 100-K; the Lake Tahoe 72-mile; and a 165-mile race from Wheeling to Charleston in West Virginia all three times it was held. His latest ultra was a 100-miler in May 2017. Later that year, Marshall became the 15th person inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.
(Slideshow photos courtesy of Nick Marshall)