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Scuffins headed to Hall

Local runner still holds Marine Corps course record

Local runner still holds Marine Corps course record

October 24, 2008|By ANDREW MASON

The annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington has had approximately 363,000 finishers since its inception in 1976.

Jeff Scuffins, remarkably, remains No. 1 on the list.

"I guess if you think about it, it is a little mind-boggling, isn't it?" said Scuffins, 46, of Williamsport.

It almost is more difficult to fathom how quickly he covered those 26.2 miles in his marathon debut on Nov. 8, 1987.

Averaging 5:07 per mile, Scuffins won the Marine Corps Marathon that day in 2 hours, 14 minutes and 1 second -- finishing more than 5 minutes ahead of the second-place runner, while shattering the course record by more than 2 minutes.

Scuffins, who still holds the record, will be one of three people inducted into the Marine Corps Marathon Hall of Fame this evening at The Washington Post building in D.C.

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"It's a great honor," Scuffins said. "They only started (the Hall of Fame) in 2000."

The whole thing started innocently enough 21 years ago.

"I just decided to go down there at the last minute. I just wanted to hang with the leaders and see what it felt like," said Scuffins, a 1980 North Hagerstown High School graduate. "The original plan was just to use it as a tuneup and maybe go halfway."

He had his sights set on a marathon the following month in California, where he hoped to break 2:20 to qualify for the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Scuffins ended up qualifying a month earlier than planned.

"Once I got out there, I just started clicking," he said. "I was out there doing it in my head, thinking, 'I've got to stay out here. I've got a qualifier.'"

He also had a sizable lead once Chris Fox, his friend and training partner, dropped out shortly before halfway with blister problems. The pair had been running side by side at the front.

"All (Scuffins) had to do was keep running," said Greg Shank, Scuffins' coach at the time. "It was only a day that was semi-planned, but I honestly expected him to qualify that day. But I didn't expect him to run 2:14. He surprised everyone."

Scuffins' next goal was to qualify for the 1988 Summer Olympics.

"When I ran a 2:14 debut, I thought the next step was 2:12, and that would put you right there," he said. "I thought I had an outside chance."

However, Scuffins dropped out of the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon the following year due to stomach issues. Roughly two years later, he left the sport of elite racing. His 2:14:01 remains his personal record.

"I decided it was time to join the real world," he said.

Scuffins, who works as a retention specialist at First Data in Hagerstown, still runs recreationally.

"Just for health and fitness," he said. "Mainly weekends, maybe a couple mornings a week."

As a senior at North Hagerstown, Scuffins won a Maryland state title in the 3,200-meter run and set the still-standing Washington County prep record in the 1,600 at 4:18.84.

At Hagerstown Junior College, he set the NJCAA indoor record for 3 miles at 13:53, winning his first of two national titles in the event. At Clemson University, he twice earned all-ACC honors at 10,000 meters and was an ACC runner-up in cross country.

Post-collegiately, Scuffins turned in several outstanding times, including a 28:40 for 10,000 on the track and a 47:56 for 10 miles on the road.

But nothing compares to being the Marine Corps Marathon course-record holder.

"It's my claim to fame," Scuffins said. "I still like my 28:40 on the track, but nobody comes up to you and says that."

The 33rd annual Marine Corps Marathon will be held Sunday, as Scuffins' record will try to survive another year.

"I'd like to see it broken," Scuffins said. "That means the sport is going in the right direction."

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