August 3, 2006

Epic quest makes marathoner “Fiddy2″ cult figure

By Ros Krasny

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -- Lining up for the San Francisco
Marathon was the usual mix -- the once-in-a-lifers, the gaunt
elite racers, some plodding veterans. Then there was Dane
Rauschenberg, running his 30th marathon of 2006.

Rauschenberg has taken marathon craziness to a new level
with his quest to run an official 26.2-mile race each weekend
of the year. Fifty-two races, or as his Web site says,

Along the way he has become a cult figure in the arcane
world of distance running. Hundreds log onto Rauschenberg's Web
site for a weekly update -- as much picaresque tales of travel
misadventures and colorful characters as they are race reports.

But why do it? "I say 'why not?' But that's usually not
enough for people," said the clean-cut Rauschenberg, 30, from
Arlington, Virginia.

Logging high training mileage is not unusual, and
Rauschenberg has pared back his mid-week runs this year. Still,
elite runners often run only a few races each year and many
have "jobs" where training is supplemented by ample opportunity
for afternoon power-naps.

By contrast, Rauschenberg is the consummate citizen runner.
He works up to 60 hours a week for a patent licensing firm in
Washington before rushing to the airport each Friday night en
route to a race. Then run, rinse and repeat.

"My goal was not just to go out and do the events, but to
do them at a fairly competitive level. I'm giving about my best
every week," he said. "The most fun part of every week is the
actual run. Meeting people and making new friends."

Thirteen of his finishes this year have been under three
hours 20 minutes. All but one, a brutal high-elevation run in
Leadville, Colorado, have been well under four hours.

Rauschenberg is no Kenyan waif. He stands a trim but sturdy
6'1" and currently weighs about 180 pounds -- above the 165
pounds when he ran a personal best marathon of 3:07 in 2005.


The runner says he is not concerned that unseen physical
damage from his grueling schedule will take a toll later in
life. He draws inspiration from his father, Don, who was
crippled in a hunting accident 33 years ago.

"I don't know if I'm going to live to be 40 or 50. I could
get hit by a bus tomorrow. When my dad got injured he wasn't
thinking about what was going to happen at 50."

Through the Fiddy2 quest, Rauschenberg has been raising
funds for L'Arche Mobile, the Mobile, Alabama, branch of an
international group helping mentally handicapped people.

Rauschenberg's schedule is mostly mapped out -- from
Juneau, Alaska, in early August to Springfield, Missouri, in
late December.

But there is one hitch.

"There are absolutely no marathons that I know of, in the
world, on Christmas weekend," he said. "I don't understand it.
There must be four billion people in the world who do not
celebrate Christmas."

The solution? "I am planning to stage a marathon on
December 24 in my home-town of Titusville, Pennsylvania," he
said. "I plan all this in my spare time. There are 24 hours in
a day. I jam-pack mine."

In Rauschenberg's plan, his father will hand-carve the
finishers medals; his mother, Barb, will bake zucchini muffins
for racers in that hardscrabble town, population 6,146, one
hour south of Lake Erie.

With visions of marathon sugar plums dancing in his head,
Dane Rauschenberg, wearing bib number 52, finished the San
Francisco Marathon in 3:19:44.