By Donald Wittkowski
Roger Hauge said he has competed in 227 marathons during his 22-year running career. At 26.2 miles per marathon, he is closing in on 6,000 total miles.
Put another way, he has now run more marathon miles than the distance from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Japan.
The mileage itself is staggering, but what is even more extraordinary is that Hauge didn’t begin running in marathons until he was 63 years old and is still going strong now at 85. Yes, that’s 85 years old.
On Sunday, he added another 26.2 miles to his running resume by competing in the 19th annual Ocean Drive Marathon in Sea Isle City. Dealing with biting winds, overcast skies and temperatures in the mid-40s, he finished in 5 hours, 44 minutes and 43 seconds.
“It’s a little on the cold side,” Hauge said of the chilly conditions.
Hauge was among 256 runners who competed in the marathon. A 1.5-mile fun run and walk, a 5K run and a 10-mile run were also held Sunday. A total of 552 runners participated in all of the events, according to a representative of Split Second Racing, the official timekeeper.
Ed De Palma, the race director, announced before the start of the marathon that there were runners from 31 states and Canada.
Daniel Ray, 26, of Morristown, N.J., finished first in 2:48:10, Aleksei Chernov, 31, of Stamford, Conn., was second in 2:53:54 and Kara Rubinich, 38, of Downingtown, Pa., took third in 3:04:00.
Proceeds from the marathon benefited Volunteers in Medicine of South Jersey, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine and Cape May County high schools.
The course took runners along the Ocean Drive through Sea Isle, Avalon, Stone Harbor and Middle Township before they turned around and headed back to Sea Isle for the finish. It was the first time the marathon was held over a new out-and-back course.
Hauge, who lives in Excelsior, Minn., came up for the marathon from his vacation home in Venice, Fla. He was joined by his 35-year-old son, Eric, of Minneapolis.
Hauge explained that his son has set a goal of running in a marathon in all 50 states. For Hauge, though, running in a marathon in every state is old hat. He’s already done that three times and is currently working on his fourth round of across-the-country running. On average, he runs in one marathon every month, he said.
Hauge said he took up running at 60 when he was an airline executive working in Europe. His grinding work hours and poor diet then convinced him he needed a healthier lifestyle.
“Most of the time, I was coming home from work, plunking down on the sofa, having a beer and watching TV,” he said.
A younger airline executive who was an avid runner urged Hauge to begin exercising. When Hauge started running, he dropped 20 pounds in just 12 weeks. That eventually led to him competing in a half-marathon in Hastings, England. When he returned to the United States, he ran in his first marathon, in Minnesota, when he was 63.
Hauge said his best marathon time was 4 hours and 10 minutes. Acknowledging that he is slowing down as he gets older, he said it now usually takes him between 5:15 and 5:30 to finish a race.
Another Ocean Drive Marathon runner, Pat Weidner, 55, of Little Ferry, N.J., said she was hoping to finish within 5 hours.
“My main thing is to start and finish, without any oxygen or an ambulance,” joked Weidner, who has been running in marathons for the last three years.
For Weidner, Sunday’s marathon was a family affair. She was joined by her 19-year-old son, John, a sophomore at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and her 44-year-old brother, Thomas Marshall, of South Hackensack, N.J.
All three of them noted that the nippy weather presented challenges, but they said they were determined to finish the race.
“We’ll just keep going forward. We’ll go down the course and come back for the finish. Then I’ll get in my car and get warm,” Marshall said.