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The 'Groundpounders' Have Run In Every Marine Corps Marathon Since 1976


Al Richmond is a groundpounder. That word has two meanings. It's a Marine term for infantry troops. In Al Richmond's case, it is someone who has run every Marine Corps Marathon from its beginning - every one, since 1976. On Sunday the retired Marine colonel will run the race here in the D.C. area for the 40th time, at the age of 76. Colonel Richmond, welcome to the program.

AL RICHMOND: Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: Take us to your very first Marine Corps Marathon. What made you decide to run it the first time?

RICHMOND: Well, I had just come back on active duty and served with the Reserve Division at headquarters. They were in the process of organizing the first Marine Corps Reserve Marathon really more as a tool to help recruiting efforts. And so I was involved in helping to set it up and run it. And I decided to run the first one. I'm not sure exactly why. But anyway, I did, and got hooked right after that. So the rest is history.

SHAPIRO: Well, that was 1976. Here we are all these years later. I understand 1990 was a particularly notable marathon. Can you tell me that story?

RICHMOND: Well, it always sounds melodramatic, but...

SHAPIRO: You know, getting shot three times - that's not melodramatic.

RICHMOND: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Sorry, I gave away the punch line. Go ahead.

RICHMOND: That's OK. My last tour of duty was in New Orleans, and I retired. And then my wife and I went back in 1990 for Jazz Fest at the end of April, first of May. And we were in the - what I call the dark side of the quarter, where we had been many times before. And a mugger tried to hold me up, and I guess being a stupid Marine, I, you know, said no way and gave - tried to give him a forearm shiver, and he and a buddy of his shot me three times.

SHAPIRO: And you still ran the marathon that year.

RICHMOND: Yes. I ended up having three major operations that summer. I was already registered for it and I started to train in early September. But when you have a lot of anesthesia it really makes you weak. And so I finally just gave it up and said never mind. At that time, I did not know that there were others who had run every one of them. And the Saturday one week before the marathon, my wife and I were sitting at breakfast and there was an article in the paper about this. And she looked at me, said, wait a minute, you've run all of them. You've got to do it. Of course my reaction was, where have you been for the last two months? But anyway so I went ahead and I ran three three-miles and one six-mile and then ran the marathon. So I kept the string going.

SHAPIRO: There is one other groundpounder left who has run every Marine Corps Marathon since 1976, Will Brown. What's your relationship with him like? Are you going to try to run a little faster than he does? Is he going to try to beat you this weekend?

RICHMOND: No, there really is no competition between us. Actually, Will and I are - we wish all seven of the original groundpounders were with us. And there's no joy in the fact that they're not. We really wish that all of us were running together. So whoever finishes first finishes first.

SHAPIRO: What's going to be going through your head this Sunday at the starting line?

RICHMOND: I think just the normal thing of - my older daughter is running it with me, as she has three previous ones. She ran it last year too. And just hoping that, you know, I don't crash and burn somewhere toward the end and that I give - I would love to keep my finish time under six hours. I've never gone over that. But if it happens, it happens. So just basically to finish.

SHAPIRO: You are 76 years old. This is your 40th marathon. What is your secret?

RICHMOND: Actually it's my 40th Marine Corps. I've run 10 others. I've run three...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

RICHMOND: I've run three Boston Marathons, and three Boston Qualifiers, and a couple Baltimores and a few others. I've been very, very fortunate. That's all I can say. Just physically, I've never had an injury and...

SHAPIRO: Apart from the three gunshots.

RICHMOND: Apart from the three gunshots, that's correct. (Laughter). So I've just been very fortunate.

SHAPIRO: Colonel Richmond you're an inspiration.

RICHMOND: Well, thank you, thank you.

SHAPIRO: Al Richmond. He'll be running his 40th Marine Corps Marathon this Sunday starting in Arlington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.