Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Milton man preps for 50-mile run

By James Diehl, Sussex Post

GEORGETOWN - After running several standard marathons, Milton resident Joe LoBiondo felt he needed a new challenge. He needed to kick it up a notch.

So, at an age when most people are thinking of retiring and enjoying their golden years, the soon to be 60-year-old has set his sights on something else entirely - he's training for a 50-mile "ultramarathon."

"I enjoy running very much and I'll be 60 in August so I want to see how far I can take my body," Mr. LoBiondo said. "I've been in a lot of marathons but to run an ultra you have to take it to another level. It's a whole different world."

With the help of Georgetown-area athletic trainer Roger "Doc" Hunt, Mr. LoBiondo is hoping to run the JFK 50 in November in less than 12 hours.

If successful, he would qualify for a 100-mile race sometime in the future.

"I got through the 50 miler two years ago in 12 hours and 26 minutes, but I suffered for it," Mr. LoBiondo said. "But I made it through and I knew I wanted to do it again because, if you do it and make it in the time limit, it gets into your blood.

"Now that I did it and I know what to expect, there's that challenge to hopefully do it in under 12 hours so I can at least qualify for that next step if I choose to do it."

As a warm-up for the JFK, Mr. LoBiondo will be running in the 50K (31 mile) Hat Run on March 19 in Harford County, Md.

But he won't be alone in that endeavor.

Joining him for the race at Maryland's Susquehanna State Park will be Sussex Central High School English teacher Fran Donoway and her husband, Chuck.

"In the course of training with Joe, he got us running off the road and on the trails," said Mrs. Donoway, who has run several marathons herself in the past. "He's just wonderful to run with because he's so positive.
"I'm not quite as convinced as my husband though. I'm going to reserve judgment until I see how bad this is on the body," Mrs. Donoway continued. "The course at Susquehanna is a bear. It's a very different experience from running a normal marathon on the road. I'm very worried about handling the hills."

Mr. LoBiondo said the one thing that hurt him in the past when attempting the ultramarathons was getting up and down the numerous hills on the course.

Well, there aren't any hills to speak of in Delaware, so Mr. LoBiondo turned to Mr. Hunt, an old friend who trained his son, Jon, to become a state wrestling champion for Cape Henlopen High School in the late 1980s.

"I'm here training with Doc to help me get over that hump, to strengthen my legs to handle the hills," Mr. LoBiondo said. "He helped train my son in the last 1980s to become a state champion wrestler and he taught me then that it's more than just the physical aspect. It's the mental and the emotional too."

Mr. Hunt trained Jon LoBiondo while he was in high school, helping him take home two straight state wrestling championships in 1989 and 1990. Now he's trying to help the senior LoBiondo with one of his life's goals.

"When Joe came to me and told me he was having trouble with the hills, I told him I would train him but he would have to follow everything I told him just like his son did in the '80s," Mr. Hunt said. "And he really has. He's mentally and psychically ready to go. He's in the best shape he's ever been in."

As for the younger LoBiondo, well he's just proud of his dad.

"This is something that he's been working toward since I was in high school," Jon LoBiondo said. "I'm very proud of him. I tell my wife all the time that I hope I can do what he does when I'm his age because it really is amazing."

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