Call them crazy or inspirational, the legacy runners at the Long Beach Marathon on Sunday, October 9th are a determined bunch.
Her nickname comes from having competed in all 37 previous Long Beach Marathons, beginning in 1982. (The math is not a mistake. There was no race for two years due to financial problems.)
And this relatively small group of gritty, tough runners/walkers will line up with thousands of other runners on Sunday. The legacy runners may be slowing down because of the inevitable aches and pains that come with advancing age, but there’s no stopping this elite group from giving their best in the grueling marathon.
Some will only compete in the half marathon and at least two will compete in virtual races, but they’ll still be out there – keeping alive a streak they hope will end by age 50. You’re going to have 12 years in a row of this one.
“I know I’m 81 years old and a little wrinkled, but this race has kept me young,” said Jim Warnemuende, who spent 35 years at Long Beach City College as a language communications teacher and dean of the creative arts department. He retired in 2000 and moved to Redding, where he built a new home after his old one was destroyed during the devastating 2018 Carr Fire in Northern California. He has since moved to Sacramento to be closer to his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.
Why does he keep running?
“I want to see my friends in Long Beach, a beautiful city that I love,” Warnemünde said. “We are all determined and competitive people who have been through a lot together. We’ve all had health issues, but we’re not letting that stop us.”
John Sumpter, 78, another Legacy runner and close friend of Warnemünde, said his knees had “given up” – but he will still run the half marathon with Warnemunde. He also runs a virtual half marathon. Sumpter, a former head golf coach at Poly High who is still the golf coach there, said he’s worked his whole life to stay fit and enjoys the challenge of marathons.
Sumpter had a misfortune in 2020 that nearly prevented him from running anything, let alone a marathon.
An avid cyclist, he was riding through a residential area in Buena Park when he hit an obstacle and was thrown from his bike. He was knocked unconscious, his shoulder was severed, and he suffered multiple severe bruises. Luckily he was wearing a helmet, which prevented even worse injuries.
Gradually, he resumed training and again took part in the Long Beach Marathon.
His goal, like the others, is to take part in the marathon for 50 years in a row. A perennial optimist, Sumpter said with a smile, “Then I’ll be 90.”
Tom “Frosty” Frost, 69, of Rancho Santa Margarita will also be in Long Beach – once again in honor of his daughter, Lisa Anne Frost. Lisa was 22 when she boarded United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
She was on her way home from Boston University before taking a job in San Francisco.
The Long Beach Marathon, Frost said, has been the one constant in his life since he started running.
“It saved me after 9/11,” he said. “I didn’t want to stop just because of what happened. Running helped me control my emotions. I’ll never forget how all the legacy runners of the time held up for me and my family.
“I love telling people how many years I’ve been attending this event,” Frost added. “It’s my legacy. My daughter is my inspiration. I’ll keep going as long as I can.”
Another Legacy runner, Ken Purucker, 85, a retired Long Beach dentist who now lives at Leisure World in Seal Beach, said he has already run his virtual half marathon. But he will be at the start of this year’s race, not to run himself but to cheer on his grandson Derek Reiser, 21, a student at California Baptist University in Riverside.
“Derek watched me run a marathon when I was a baby,” Purucker told me. “Now this is going to be so exciting for me and my wife Anne to watch him run his first marathon.”
Purucker started running about 15 years before the first Long Beach Marathon, after his father died of a heart attack at the age of 50. Purucker said he felt he had to take precautions “to keep my heart healthy.”
“My heart is still good,” Purucker said. “I will keep moving as long as possible.”
What keeps him going?
His Christian Faith.
“When I run, I feel God’s good pleasure!” he said.
Unfortunately, Purucker’s older brother, David, who is also a legacy runner, will not be taking part this year due to health issues.
Calvin Lau, on the other hand, had to overcome a serious accident the week before the 1992 race in order to maintain his winning streak.
“I broke my leg in a skiing accident, but I really wanted to compete in the 11th race with a leg cast and crutches,” said the 75-year-old. “I was done in about 7 1/2 hours.”
Lau is healthy now, he said, but has had to slow down a little and will run the half marathon.
“I used to put my age in miles on my birthday every year, but I realized it wouldn’t be sustainable to do so after I got older,” he said. “My body is fit, but not as supple and strong as I was in my mid-30s.
Life is full of challenges and opportunities,” added Lau. “I enjoy the journey and the running. I intend to keep going for as long as my aging body will allow.”
Other members of the Legacy Runner group include Michael Benov, Wayne Fong, Lorenzo Herrera, Tom Pontac, George Wallins, Gordon Watson, and Ken Williams.
At 60, Ken Williams is the “baby” of the Legacy group. He will run the whole marathon.
“I keep running every year to see if I can do it,” he said. “I wear a photo of Tom Frost’s daughter on my shirt every year to remind us of 9/11.”
Williams said he also hopes to run 50 straight Long Beach marathons “as long as my knees hold out.”
“I’m picking them up to run and roller skate at the Long Beach Marathon,” Williams said. “Life is about skating for others and skating for myself.”
Benov, 65, was unavailable this year. But last year he spoke of the Legacy Runners as “a special, dedicated and caring group that supports one another year after year. It’s a very refreshing and unique relationship.”
One legacy runner who won’t be running Sunday is Audrey Hauth, 89. Hauth ran the inaugural Long Beach Marathon at 49. Her last marathon was in 2000. She had to have two replacement hips because of arthritis.
“I’m titanium,” she said, laughing.
Hauth became a course rover in later years, but that ended when she fell off her bike and broke her leg.
Now she stays active at the race course, distributing information and advice from a chair at the marathon information booth.
“It’s not that exciting, but I just love the Long Beach Marathon and will do anything to help it and the runners,” Hauth said. “After a while, a marathon becomes a part of you.”
https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/09/rich-archbold-legacy-runners-return-to-long-beach-marathon-again-and-again-and-again/ Legacy runners keep coming back to the Long Beach Marathon—and again—Orange County Register