On New Year's Eve, 1985, when most people were out celebrating, Dick and Tina Tomlinson were hunched over a calendar in their West Los Angeles home--negotiating a marathon-a-month schedule that has become a way of life.
"I wanted to do Long Beach in February," said Dick, 48, a landscape technician at Loyola Marymount University. "We started talking about others and Tina said, 'I'll do that one, if we do Twin Cities.' We realized we were talking about a bunch of marathons."
A Crowded Schedule
Dick and his 37-year-old wife enjoyed their 1985 marathon regimen so much, they decided to pick up the pace even more this year. So far, they've run the Mission Bay Marathon (Jan. 19), Long Beach Marathon (Feb. 2), Los Angeles Marathon (March 9), the grueling Catalina Marathon (March 23), limited to 400 runners who can make the 26.2-mile climb from sea level to 1,500 feet, the Big Sur Marathon (April 27) and the Wild Wild West Marathon in Lone Pine (May 4).
Six marathons in five months is no mean feat. But the accomplishment pales when the Tomlinsons talk about what's coming up next month--the Aptos Creek Marathon in the rugged Santa Cruz Mountains (June 1), a hilly Palos Verdes run (June 14), and a deceptively easy-sounding Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn. (June 21).
Taking a Breather
After that, they plan to "cut back" to just one marathon a month: the San Francisco Marathon in July, the difficult Pike's Peak run in August, and a Portland, Ore., competition in September. October is Sacramento Marathon month, and November brings the San Diego Marathon. Come December, they may skip a month and return to Minnesota for the holidays.
While world-class runner Rick Sayre won the Los Angeles Marathon with a time of 2:12.59, Dick--a steady middle-of-the-pack pacer--said he was content to come in at "about 3:40."
She Gets Money's Worth
Tina finished at 4:20. "I tell people that I get my money's worth, because I get to run longer," she said, laughing.
Rather than race for cash and glory, the Tomlinsons said they run for fun and fitness. And in a sport perceived as agonizing and painful, their attitude is remarkably casual.
"We run these marathons and take them seriously," said Tina, a registered nurse at Shields Health Care Center in Van Nuys, "but we don't give up things like partying. We don't let it interfere with our life style . . . we incorporate it into our life style."
But some things about their lives have changed, the Tomlinsons said, noting they often will turn down social invitations if they are scheduled to run the next morning. And they eat no red meat, concentrating instead on complex carbohydrates, fresh vegetables, fish, poultry and pasta.
Dick began running in 1982, when, bored with river rafting, softball and skiing, he began looking for a new challenge. A friend introduced him to running, he said, and within the year he had run his first marathon in Palos Verdes. A year later, his wife became involved in the sport.
Each trains about four or five times a week, before or after work--a schedule that is complicated by the fact that both are pursuing bachelor's degrees. On weekends, when they're not running marathons, they run together, often using 10K runs (6.2 miles) or half-marathons for training purposes.
"It's a real easy way to get your mileage in, because you've got mileage markers, water, and people around you," said Tina.
On the other hand, running marathons with such frequency, the Tomlinsons consider one marathon as preparation for the next.
The chance to travel, to experience a variety of climates and terrains and an opportunity to add to their competitor T-shirt collection often dictate the couple's choice of runs.
They have run in 90-degree heat in Pigeon Pass near Riverside and in 35-degree weather in Minnesota. In 1985 they picked the Honolulu Marathon "as our grand finale" and combined it with a week's vacation.
Tops in terms of crowd support is the Los Angeles Marathon, according to Tina, but the couple don't shy away from more remote territory.
During the Avenue of the Giants competition near Eureka, for instance, Dick ran with camera in hand, photographing the redwoods. Somewhat less enjoyable, he noted, was the out-and-back course in Lompoc, billed as the Valley of the Flowers run. It was one of the few times he considered quitting.
"There were only 150 runners and there was no audience whatsoever," he said. "It was a lonely highway. Oh sure there were flowers, but there was not even a dog in sight, and it was hot ."
Another runner, a man in his 60s, picked up Dick's spirits and gave him the will to continue, he said. Recently, the two met again in Catalina--during a competition for the hardiest of runners.
The Island Run
To get into the Catalina Marathon, the Tomlinsons had to prove themselves by running in a rugged 25K on the island. Dick said he then waged a letter-writing campaign to get the race director to consider them.
From Mile 12 to Mile 23, the island course included a climb of 1,200 feet, followed by a descent to sea level over the next two miles, said Dick. Being a practical sort, he brought along a liniment, which he rubbed on his aching legs late in the run, he said.
But the key to competing, the Tomlinsons agreed, is training. Their advice to beginning marathoners sums up their uncomplicated attitude about running: "Don't anticipate problems or you'll have them. Just enjoy being out and looking at the sky."
Having participated with runners in their 80s, the Tomlinsons said they expect to continue tackling marathons as long as their bodies hold out. And if aches and pains get in their way, said Dick, "we'll still be grateful for the good times we've had."