A long-running love affair with marathons

Higdon set to impart his wisdom today

CHAMPAIGN — Hal Higdon didn't delve into specifics.

When asked earlier this week what the 82-year-old, who has dedicated most of his life to distance running, would discuss today at the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon Health and Fitness Expo in Champaign, Higdon was noncommittal.

"Well, I have to sit down and take a look at my notes and figure out what I want to talk about," Higdon said with a laugh.

Don't worry. His running experience, his experience writing about running and his contributions to the sport give him a plethora of topics to choose from when he is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. inside the Activities and Recreation Center on the University of Illinois campus.

Higdon calls Long Beach, Ind., home these days and returned to the Midwest this week after spending six days in Boston leading up to Monday's Boston Marathon. Higdon, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago and started running in 1949, recently wrote a book titled "4:09.43," which recounts the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and the effect it has had on running. And will continue to have.

"It was a very enjoyable experience," Higdon said of his recent time in Boston. "There was a lot of energy. I posted a message on Facebook asking people how their Boston was. Apparently, it was incredible. The thing that really capped it off, I feel, to make it the perfect week was having an American man win the race for the first time in 31 years. I didn't anticipate that."

While the winner of Saturday's Illinois Marathon most likely won't eclipse the time of 2 hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds that Meb Keflezighi toured the Boston course — 2012 winner Jason Lokwatom has the fastest time in the first five Illinois Marathons at 2:22.46 — Higdon can answer any questions runners have about training.

Ah, yes. The training. Higdon's training methods are well-known to any runner, no matter how advanced one may be, ranging from novice runners attempting their first 5K to the most elite marathon runners.

Higdon started devising training programs when he began writing for Runner's World magazine more than four decades ago, and they started to catch on in the late 1970s.

The popularity of the programs hasn't slowed either.

"The Internet wrapped its arms around me, and I put a lot of my training online," Higdon said. "I feel it's allowed me to impact a lot of people that way. I like to say I've trained half a million people, but maybe it's more."

Higdon still keeps active these days, running two or three times a week and enjoying morning bike rides with his wife, Rose, either in northwest Indiana or Florida in the winter.

Marathons have helped shape Higdon's life. Even if he can't run at the elite level he once did, Higdon is happy to give back to the running community. Which is what the Illinois Marathon, in his opinion, has done.

"One of the really good things about it is it offers a balance between the Chicago Marathon," Higdon said of the race that will take place on Oct. 12. "The Chicago one is huge, not only in the world, but in the Chicago area. I'm not quite sure we've had a balancing marathon in the spring in the past where runners in the Midwest were really focused on. The Illinois Marathon is certainly one that fills that need now."

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