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It Keeps You Running

September 20, 2008

By Ken Newton

The wood-chip trail offers a measure of kindness to what Terry Seiter calls his “old-man body.” The description proves a self- mocking dodge.

A picture of aerobic fitness, Mr. Seiter suffers few of the ailments of long-time runners. His joints give him no real problems. His muscles, sure, hurt at times, but ice and ibuprofen do wonders.

But that misses the point, anyway. The 48-year-old St. Joseph man accepts the physical aches because of the rewards he finds in running.

On the impact-absorbing wood chips on the loop at Missouri Western State University, where he runs more than six miles most days, he solves computer problems or plans training sessions or generally lets the oxygen enrichment eat away some of life’s stresses.

Terry Seiter, right, and a running companion pound out mileage on the nature trails at Missouri Western State University.

Photo by Zachary Siebert / St. Joseph News-Press / Purchase this photo

Terry Seiter, right, and a running companion pound out mileage on the nature trails at Missouri Western State University.

Mr. Seiter stands convinced it makes him a better person.

Non-runners may not get it, he concedes. You either love running or tolerate it.

“It’s very rare that you’ll see that look of misery on my face,” he says.

This satisfaction comes hard-won. With this month’s end, Mr. Seiter has logged 57,400 miles of running. In increments of daily dedication, he has equivalently circled the Earth more than twice.

Flash back 29 years and that achievement would seem far-fetched. A native of St. Joseph and 1977 graduate of Central High School, Mr. Seiter went to Missouri Western and had what he calls a “college lifestyle.” In short, he went from a 165-pound guy to a 190-pound guy.

“I’m just getting my driver’s license back, and I’m looking at the picture,” he remembers. “I’m thinking, ‘Wow, you’ve got a lot of chins there.’ It didn’t pack on to me very well.”

His younger brother Ted had qualified for state competition as a high school runner. One miserably hot day in September 1979, he introduced a forced-march method of training that Terry doesn’t recommend for running novices these days.

“He and his friend, they sandwiched me and made me run four miles,” Terry says. “They did that to me for almost a month.”

When the two of them phased out, Mr. Seiter kept running on his own. The next spring, he took part in a 10-kilometer race in Columbia. The runner crossed the finish line in the University of Missouri football stadium and, though the cheering was not specifically for him, he gained an affinity for the competitive aspects of running.

Mr. Seiter had a lot to learn about training. There are hill programs, sprint up and jog down, to build leg strength. There are pace workouts … sprint to one light pole on the city’s Parkway, jog to the next. There is track work, the 200s and 400s, always with time goals.

In 1987, he picked Kansas City as the site of his first marathon. It still bugs him, the only race he never finished.

“I was in shape physically, but I wasn’t ready for it up here,” he says, pointing to his head.

Mr. Seiter took the race number he wore that day and put it by his back door. Every day when he left to run, he would see it as a reminder.

About that time, the runner began improving his diet to match the hours of training. More weight vanished. The training regimen hit 80 to 90 miles a week as he prepared for the next year’s race in Kansas City.

In a pouring rain most of the time, Mr. Seiter finished that marathon in two hours and 50 minutes, exactly the goal he set.

The runner has participated in six marathons since, including the most famous, Boston, in 1993. There were also hundreds of shorter races. He credits his wife, Marlene, and his two children for letting him indulge in this passion, spending a lot of weekends in motels in far-flung towns where he raced. “I dragged them around a lot,” he says.

For him, running also serves as a means of tourism. In Los Angeles, he knows the course around the Staples Center and past the USC campus. In Chicago, he prefers the lakefront trail to risking the downtown stop signals. (“Only a suggestion,” he believes of the drivers’ regard for red lights.)

From his information systems consultancy at American Family Insurance, he crosses the road for daily runs at the university, keeping a pace of about seven and a half minutes a mile and logging about 40 miles a week. Mr. Seiter runs year-round, the hotter the better, he says. In the winter, slippery ground sometimes makes his knees swell.

He goes through a pair of running shoes about every 500 miles. If the numbers don’t tell him, his calves do. The runner trusts the knowledge of his legs.

“Your body knows the difference between a little fleeting pain and when something’s wrong,” Mr. Seiter believes.

One day, he says, the body will revolt. But the runner enjoys a trail with the crunch of wood chips underfoot, likes to collect his thoughts as the scenery rushes by. He’ll trade some soreness for these moments every day.

Ken Newton can be reached

at kenn@npgco.com.

(c) 2008 St. Joseph News-Press. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.




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