Long distance running and football are hardly considered a logical mix in our athletic society. Most football coaches believe 50-yard sprints or gassers to be punishment for their players, who likely concur with them.
But we have an “exception to the rule” in our area with David Crane, the football coach at Southeast Whitfield High School. If his players complain about those sprints, he can invite them to join him for a much longer run.
On Friday, Oct. 14, Crane coached his Raiders in their homecoming football game. Then there was the usual post-game activity which keeps coaches from going home early.
“I got to bed about 1:30,” he said. “I obviously did not get that much rest before the race.”
That race, the Dalton Red Carpet half marathon, occurred 6 1/2 hours later at 8 a.m. The 13.1-mile event, which was in its second year, started and ended near the Whitfield County Courthouse in downtown Dalton.
“This was the longest race that I’d ever done. Never in a million years did I ever have thoughts about a half marathon. In high school, I was not a runner. I played football and wrestled,” said Crane, who spent his high school days in Seneca, S.C.
What was the coach’s game plan as he toed the starting line?
“My first goal was to survive,” he said. “Then it was to break two hours. With some pretty good training I’d had, I thought that I might could run between 1:50 and 1:55.”
Crane, who has done a limited number of shorter races over the past half dozen years, used common sense with a conservative pace early in the half marathon.
“In the middle third of the race, I started feeling better and better,” he said. “I’ve done that in 10K and 5K races. I ran a relatively slow 8:40 on the first mile.”
Crane completed his initial half marathon race in an excellent one hour, 47 minutes, 50 seconds — well under his goal. He was 67th of 337 finishers, or in the top 20 percent, while averaging 8:13 per mile.
“I felt good after it was over,” he said. “I felt a little bit better than I’d thought. I felt great emotionally.”
Crane hardly had time for the usual post-race bantering. Football intervened, with his 10-year-old son, Matthew, playing a 10 a.m. youth league game at Valley Point.
“I got over there about 10 after 10,” Crane said. “I was pulling up as he was taking off on his first of three touchdown runs. It was his best game.”
As the head coach of a high school football team, distance training did not easily fit into his schedule. He also had family — wife Elizabeth, the Southeast girls basketball coach, and daughter Bailey, 9, in addition to Matthew — to consider.
“In the afternoons during planning periods, I was usually able to work in some runs about 1:30 or 2,” Crane said. “It was before practice. I’m not a morning person. Too, I wanted to be home to help get my kids ready. Elizabeth let me get my runs in. I tried to run three or four days a week, sometimes five. I ran between 25 and 30 miles a week, with a long run of 13.5 miles. With more time in the summer, I was able to do 35 a week.”
People who had not seen Crane since the 2010 football season might not have recognized him at the start of this campaign.
“I’ve lost 40 pounds,” he said of dropping from 200 to 160 pounds on a 5-foot-7-inch frame. “It’s been good weight to lose through the running.”
Crane said he urged several coaches to do the shorter 5K at the Red Carpet event.
“They could have done that,” he said. “However, they declined.”
He did not bother to urge any football players to negotiate the 3.1-mile distance. After all, that is much farther than those 50-yard gassers.
“I’m doing about 15 miles a week now,” Crane said. “I might do a short race or two before the end of the year and maybe a half marathon somewhere next spring.”
He has logged personal best times of 22:40 and 50:45 for the 5K and 10K races, respectively.
Since the marathon is considered the ultimate by many distance runners, could that be a goal for him?
“It’s way in the back of my mind,” Crane answered with a chuckle. “I don’t want to allow myself to think about it.”
• CHARITY RUN: When the 24th annual Carpet Capital 10-miler occurs on Dec. 10 in Varnell, all proceeds are earmarked this time for Lindsey Metcalf, the former Varnell mayor.
Metcalf is recuperating from a mowing accident at Atlanta’s Shepherd Center, a hospital that specializes in treatment of spinal cord and brain injuries. Dalton’s Saul Raisin was treated there when he returned to the United States following an accident during a professional cycling race in France in 2006.
Karen and Mitchell Hayes, Metcalf’s daughter and son-in-law, are members of the sponsoring Carpet Capital Running Club. This event is Georgia’s lone certified 10-mile race.
• HOLIDAY RACE: Runners will get the holiday spirit for the annual Silver Bell Sprint 5K, scheduled for Dec. 2.
As usual, bells will be ringing from various shoes on this Friday night race that starts and finishes at City Park School in downtown Dalton.
Doug Hawley has been a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years. You can write to him at email@example.com.