Ron Marinucci - July Column

Ron Marinucci - July Column

Provided by RMDC

It seems we are confronted with “fake news” or claims of it practically every day. Often we don’t know what is true or who to believe. Even our most trusted and reliable sources of the past have become suspect.

But here’s something you can take to the bank: Jerry Mittman loves running and being active in all sorts of outdoor activities. The septuagenarian is still at it, not only running and racing, but hiking, cycling, and even mountain climbing—and I mean mountain climbing.

I know I’ve profiled Mittman before, about eight or nine years ago. But it’s worth reviewing his activities and catching up with his current ones.

It’s safe to say his previous statement, made nine years ago, still holds. “I enjoy an active lifestyle.” In fact, it was then and remains quite an understatement. For instance, in January 2016, he completed another goal. He “ran around the world,” accumulating about 25,000 miles of running, a distance equal to the earth’s circumference.

To date, the Ford Motor Company retiree has completed 63 marathons—in 20 states and 11 foreign countries. Plus, his “runography” (credit to Doug Kurtis for that term) also records 101 races of half marathon distance or longer, up to 26.2 miles. He’s also approaching a lifetime total of 1,000 races of all distances; as of the end of June, he had completed 987 of them. In some years, he’s finished “as many as 50 races.”

Since taking up running again in 1992 at the age of 47, following a 30-year hiatus after high school cross country, he’s been a goal-oriented athlete. He explained, “I have always had a goal I was trying to achieve. I planned ahead for the next goal.” I’ve recounted some of his goals and their achievements, running and otherwise. They include a number of highlights, what he calls “special” experiences and memories.

For instance, when Runner’s World magazine published a list of “The World’s Top 10 Marathons” in 2002, he decided to run them all—Boston, Berlin, Paris, and more. Four years later he completed that goal.

About that time, he began to think about running a marathon in each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. He had already finished marathons in 16 states. Figuring his 60-year old body and even his mind might not have another 35 states, that is, another 35 marathons, in them, he opted to set a goal of running a marathon or half marathon in every state and DC. Shortly after my first profile of Mittman, he completed a marathon in Maine in 2009, meeting this goal.

His many marathons and half marathons have left countless “memories and enjoyable trips.” The Medoc Marathon in the Bordeaux wine region of France provided one of them. Runners ran “in 90-degree temperatures, through the vineyards from chateau to chateau, featuring twenty-four wine stops.” In Stockholm, Sweden, he was hit with a hail storm at the 20-mile mark, but he finished.

He’s finished the Boston Marathon several times, “most recently” qualifying as a 65-year old in 2010. It’s “always special,” he said. “I still remember my first time,” in 1998, “and being in the finish area stand the day before the race and seeing the finish banner being raised. It was a ‘goose bumps’ moment.”

And Mittman has run with history. The Berlin Marathon, one of Runner’s World’s “Top 10,” ran “through the Brandenburg Gate and the former East and West Berlin.” In London, another “Top 10,” he ran across the London Bridge before finishing at Buckingham Palace. The Beijing, China, Marathon course included running past Chairman Mao’s Tomb and Tiananmen Square.

Mittman’s running companions have not always been, well, of the two-legged variety. Again in Berlin, while “running through the zoo…a number of animals [were] brought out to the course.” The Casper, Wyoming Half Marathon, was billed to “Run with the Herd.” He did just that. “A group of

pronghorn antelope ran alongside runners” before crossing the road amid the pack. In Anchorage, Alaska, “a moose calf ran next to us and a female grizzly and two cubs crossed the course about ten minutes before [the runners].” The Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati didn’t feature “flying pigs,” but did have many runners with “pig snouts and ears and costumes.”

He emphasized, “One of the most fun things I have done is run a marathon with each of my three children.” He notes among his special memories the Rabat Half Marathon, “while visiting our daughter who was serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco.”

Teresa, his wife, has accompanied him to many of his races, all over Michigan, the United States, and the world. She’s even walked some of the half marathons. “We’ve enjoyed some great trips,” he recalled.

Now, about those other outdoor activities. Mittman has hiked, across and back, the Grand Canyon four times, “most recently in 2015 at the age of 70.” And he’s planning another such hike next year. He’s made “a 100-mile trek in the Swiss Alps and a 105-mile hike along the Cotswold Way in England.” Also on his hiking list is the Inca Trail in Peru. The Inca Trail leads to the ruins at Machu Picchu, beginning at an altitude of almost 9,000 feet before cresting at nearly 14,000 feet elevation and the descent to Machu Picchu.

That altitude, 14,000 feet, is not intimidating to Mittman. Mountain climbing, he’s scaled “fifteen peaks” of that height or more. Five of those climbs came when he was 67 and another two years later. Among his conquests are Mt. Whitney, in California. Its 14,494 feet make it the highest point in the continental US. You will recognize the names Mt. Rainier, Mt. Elbert, Mt. Shasta, and Long’s Peak; he’s reached each of their summits, all more than 14,000 feet.

The tallest mountain he has scaled is Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. Its 19,341 feet make it the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.

There’s running, hiking, mountain climbing—and biking, too. Mittman has cycled from Lansing to Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula; that’s almost 300 miles. He’s taken lengthy rides in Europe, too, Belgium and Germany and Austria along the Danube River. Next month he’ll participate in “The One Day Ride Across Michigan,” a 150-mile affair. And, to emphasize again, he proudly and happily stated, “Many of these activities included one of my three children or my wife.”

In recognition of his many outdoor athletic activities and accomplishments, in 2006 then Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm designated Mittman a “Fitness Ambassador for Oakland County.”

My first profile of Mittman concluded with a reference to wonder how wonderful he’d be as a travel lecturer, especially with slides. With his continued national and world exploits and adventures, any such lectures today would be even better.