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Road Runners come in all shapes, sizes and ages

March 06, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A few hundred yards ahead of the next runner and barely breathing hard, Carolyn Showalter finished a 6-mile run Sunday with a time of 46 minutes and 55 seconds.

The Maugansville, Md., woman was among 20 people participating in the monthly Fun Run sponsored by the Chambersburg Road Runners Club. Running, jogging or walking six miles would leave most people rubber-legged and gasping for air, but it wasn't a particularly long run for her.

Twenty-one times she has competed in the JFK 50, a race run each November along the C&O Canal that is almost twice the distance of a 26-mile, 385-yard marathon. Six times she has won the event, the last time in 1994 when she was 40.

"My best years were when I was 30 and 31," Showalter said as other runners filtered in to the parking lot of Chambersburg Area Middle School for Gatorade and pretzels. She first won the 50-miler in 1985.

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Road Runners Club Vice President Leon Bierbower of Chambersburg has finished the JFK, as have some other members. He and another member decided to run 12 miles Sunday.

Bierbower is 64. He joined the club shortly after it was formed in 1973 and since then said he has logged more than 36,000 miles. "It's a little more than 1,000 miles a year," he said.

"He's got more miles than your car's warranty," said club member Phil Wolgemuth, who edits the club newsletter, the Out 'n Back, with his wife Christine.

"I seriously think Leon's done more miles than that, but if that's what he wants to confess to ... ," said Cliff Cole of Chambersburg, the Road Runners' president the past three years. The 52-year-old contractor was behind the wheel of his van instead of running Sunday as he nursed a bad knee.

Cole said he put in 3,000 miles training for the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994, which he finished in three hours and 29 minutes. "I'd have done a lot better if my feet hadn't blistered at 22 miles."

Most people are lucky if they get through a year without a sick day. Cole noted one woman in the club has run every day for more than seven years.

Among the club's 177 members is a former Olympian, Steve Spence, who did not run Sunday. In February he finished the Memorial 5K at Shippensburg University with a time of 15 minutes and 23 seconds. In 1992 he finished 13th in the Olympic marathon in Barcelona, Spain, despite a case of the flu.

For some club members, the run Sunday was a tune-up for the March 25 half-marathon. The club is also sponsoring the Great Valley Marathon to benefit the Cumberland Valley Breast Care Alliance on Saturday, April 15.

Those races have registration fees, but not the monthly Fun Runs. "This is open to anybody that wants to come out and enjoy the running," Cole said. Despite a steady breeze, Sunday was a beautiful day with clear skies, a temperature of 61 degrees and a course along rolling rural roads east of Chambersburg.

Not all the club members are competitive runners. Wolgemuth, 30, a planner with the Franklin County Planning Department, took up running in college "just for the exercise and to be outside."

"I had no money. The cheapest thing was a pair of shoes, so economics played a role in it," Wolgemuth said.

For more information about the Chambersburg Road Runners Club, call Cliff Cole at 1-717-261-9504 or e-mail Wolgemuth at plw@pa.net.

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