Update (10/30, 9:43 p.m.): Keith Whited finished his 99th marathon today in 4:49:09. He says, "[It] was GREAT to finish #99 — only one more to reach the century mark." Karen, who has since retired from running marathons, ran the 10K with him. Keith's brother, his niece, and her friend joined him in this year's Marine Corps Marathon, and he said it's become "a family tradition to run the MCM together." Whited's niece and her friend like to dress in costume while running the marathon, and this year, they dressed as Dr. Seuss's Thing 1 and Thing 2. Whited place 11,970th out of 20,895 finishers overall and 7,973rd out of 12,365 Males.
Whited talked to Patch about his experience running his 99th marathon:
"It’s always an inspiration to see the Wounded Warriors with foot or leg amputations and/or other handicaps, and the ‘hand-cycle (wheelchair) marathoners’ battling their way back from serious injuries to the point of being able to compete in a marathon — reminds me that it’s not such a big accomplishment for me to finish a marathon as an ‘able-bodied’ athlete. It’s also nice seeing the many soldiers (also family and/or friends) who have trained to run a marathon in honor of another soldier who was lost in the war.
Running the MCM also gives me an opportunity to see familiar faces of folks that I really don’t know. The first one who comes to mind is ‘Ray’ who must be in his late 60’s – at least. Ray is there every year carrying the US flag high overhead for the entire 26.2 miles.
There was another group of 4 flag bearers carrying flags to honor the victims of 9/11. One carried the US flag and each of the others carried a separate flag representing NYC, the Pentagon and Flight 93 in Shanksville. I struck up a conversation with the guy carrying the Flight 93 flag. Being from Shanksville, I finally asked him if I could carry it for a little while. It was an honor to carry Flight 93 for about a quarter of a mile."
On Sunday morning, Mount Vernon resident Keith Whited will join thousands of runners at the starting line of the Marine Corps Marathon to run his 99th marathon and his 17th Marine Corps Marathon.
Whited, a Realtor who has lived in Mount Vernon for almost 40 years, began his running career after meeting his significant other, Karen, on a trip to Montana in 1994.
For the Love of the Sport...and Romance
“Women. They make you do crazy things,” Whited said. “[Karen] had been running for twenty-something years and had quite a few marathons under her belt, and she kind of made it apparent that anybody she was interested in had to keep up with her. At the time, I couldn’t really run around the block.”
After dating for a few months, Whited found himself with a case of insomnia one night. After pulling an all-nighter while working, he decided to try to run at six a.m. to tire himself out.
“I had Docksiders on,” Whited said. “Not exactly the best running shoes. I just went out and ran until I couldn’t run anymore.”
He ran seven-tenths of a mile, and then he went back out and ran another five-tenths of a mile. Thanks to Karen, he caught the running bug.
“So next time I ran into her I said, ‘Hey guess what? I went for a run the other morning, I ran 1.2 miles and it took me a little over eleven minutes,’” he recalled. “She just thought that was great.”
Ninety-eight marathons later, Whited and Karen are still going strong.
A Marathon Surprise
Whited worked up to a point where he could run ten miles, and Karen had asked him if he was going to run a marathon. He didn’t think he could do it, but on Labor Day weekend that year, he decided to challenge himself while Karen was running a race out of town.
“I went out Friday night and laid out a course. It was when the Fairfax County Parkway wasn’t yet opened but it was paved,” he said. “I measured out a course 10 miles out and 10 miles back, and I left out water. I got up and started running at quarter to four in the morning. I went out, did my ten miles out and made it about eight miles back.”
When he was finished, he decided to drive to the beach to surprise Karen. He joined her after the race started, surprising her. Little did she know the other surprise that was in store.
“I said, ‘I’m going to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year.’ She said, ‘You can’t get beyond 10 or 12 miles.’ I told her I did 20 this morning and did another 6 miles now,” he recalled with a laugh.
Whited registered for the 1995 Marine Corps Marathon soon and found himself at the starting line of his first marathon soon after.
“It was exciting to be there. It’s a whole party atmosphere,” recalled Whited. “I remember about halfway through I started to develop some pretty nasty blisters that were pretty painful towards the end. Basically, my goal was just to finish.”
He crossed the finish line in four hours, 29 minutes.
“Ten years later, and it still gets to me.”
Whited’s most memorable race was the 2001 Marine Corps Marathon, which took place more than a month after 9/11. As runners passed the Pentagon, Whited recalled, the display of patriotism was a moving sight.
“When we went past the area where the plane had crashed it was just an amazing thing,” he said. “I mean, the whole thing from the start had a lot of patriotism but when you got to that site, so many people stopped. I saw a lot of people just drop to their knees in prayer. It made me cry that day. Ten years later, and it still gets to me.”
A week later, Whited ran the New York City Marathon and then ran a 5K in Shanksville, Pa., the site of the United 93 crash that is coincidentally, his hometown.
Whited has also completed 28 ultra marathons, 50 to 100 mile long endurance runs. He joins the Reston Runners for weekend training runs. He is also a member of the 50 States Club, where members run a marathon in all 50 states. He is more than halfway to his goal.
What is the biggest lesson he has learned through 99 marathons, 28 ultra marathons, and countless 5K’s and 10K’s?
Whited replied, “Just keep pressing on, like everything in life. Don’t give up.”