FORT WAYNE – He needs no road atlas, after all this time. No Mapquest. No GPS. No kiosk with a little red arrow and the notation You Are Here.
So says David Reichwage, a Fort Wayne dentist who headed east this weekend to run his 25th consecutive Boston Marathon on Monday.
Ive got an idea where (the course) goes, thats for sure, he says.
Just how good an idea?
Well, listen to him talk about that last mile, and you begin to understand just how deeply familiar he is with the most famous marathon course in the world.
Youre in downtown Boston, Reichwage says. Youre in the middle of a four-lane street, kind of flat and slightly downhill. Thousands of people are cheering, and you see that finish line ahead, and you just feel good.
Thats what I remember, year after year.
Those years began in 1987, when Reichwage, 65 now, was 40 years old and there was a marathon to run in Fort Wayne. Thats where he qualified for his first Boston, four years after running his first marathon and several more years after he took up the pursuit.
I was totally out of shape, overweight, a smoker, the whole deal, he says. I think I ran like a 15-minute first mile and just about got sick.
What does that say? It says things need to change, and I think I was motivated to get healthy because I saw how bad off I was.
His first marathon was the old Hooks/33 marathon in town, and he swore hed never do that again. But, of course, six months later, there he was, finding some other dumb thing to train for.
Its kind of a self-perpetuating illness, he jokes.
If so, its given him quite the thrill ride. Running Boston once is the pinnacle for any oxygen-debt warrior; run it 25 straight times, and it becomes an old and dependable friend with whom you share a relationship built on an endlessly accumulating store of memory.
That darn course, Reichwage says, with more than a touch of fondness in his voice. Its really subtle for about the first seven miles, because its downhill and you think Hey, this is no big deal. And then, about the time you start to feel confident, you get the sense that hey, theres something up ahead – and sure enough, about 17 miles, thats where the big stuff starts coming.
But then you get to the top of the last hill and you can see downtown Boston, five miles away. And thats uplifting. And you need uplifting at that point.
Reichwage qualified for Boston this year at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, and hes the first to admit that the passing of the years has been beneficial in that respect. In 1987, he had to run a 3-hour, 10-minute marathon to make the Boston cut; now its 4 hours and 15 minutes.
Im not sure its any easier, though, he says.
But its way more rewarding.
I look back on all of it, and I thank God hes given me the body and health to do this year after year, Reichwage says. I guess thats what challenges me, is to get to the motivation of what gets people to do (something like Boston). Thats what I like to center on.
Its about where you reach that balance thats physical, mental and spiritual, and if you fail, you get up and do it again. I guess thats what that course has taught me a lot of.
I guess thats my annual checkup, my annual physical – Boston.