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Strawberry Fields, NYC Marathon are forever to local man

December 06, 2007|By LARRY YANOS

CASCADE - When most Tri-State area residents flip the calendar to November, thoughts quickly turn toward Thanksgiving Day and the holiday period that extends through December.

That's not necessarily the case for Cascade resident Robert Crawford.

The prestigious New York City Marathon is annually held on the first Sunday of November and the day is etched in Crawford's mind - a special significance for the runner.

Wearing his John Lennon T-shirt, Crawford, 58, completed the New York City Marathon for the ninth straight year and 20th time overall last month. The 26.2-mile race winds through five different boroughs in New York and includes runners from throughout the world.

Crawford has a few rituals he maintains year after year at the marathon.

"Each year, I take the Amtrak to New York City, stay at the YMCA and visit Strawberry Fields the day before the race," Crawford said. "I'm a huge Beatles and John Lennon fan and wear a T-shirt with his picture on it every year. Strawberry Fields is like a shrine to John and is not that far from the finish line. Each year, John's spirit gives me inspiration to finish the marathon. It helps me get through the race."

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Annually, Crawford lays a rose on the monument at Strawberry Fields to Lennon.

"I grew up with Lennon and the Beatles, and I still listen to their music," Crawford said. "The spirit of Lennon affects different people different ways."

This year, Crawford finished in 5 hours, 5 minutes, 37 seconds and was 30,705th out of a field of nearly 40,000 runners. His best time was 3:44:18 in 1994.

"It's really special. It's a test of physical endurance," he said. "You feel like a million bucks at the starting line and like two cents after completing 24 miles. My finishing time this year was nothing to write home about, but I completed it once again.

"I'm not turning in times like I did in the mid-'90s, but I still enjoy it. It's a great experience."

With two other marathons under his belt, Crawford completed the New York City Marathon for the first time in 1984. He's only missed the race four times since, mostly due to injuries.

His goal each year is to start - and finish - the marathon.

"It's a kick in the pants to do it," he said. "A lot of aches and pains but it's well worth the effort."

Each year, Crawford prepares for the marathon by running the hilly terrain near his home.

"I don't train year-round for this," Crawford said. "I may spend a couple of months of running uphill, trying to get in some semblance of shape. As far as the rest of the year, playing an occasional round of golf and my work as a postman in Waynesboro, Pa., keeps me in reasonable shape."

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