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Tarpon Springs marathoner Wehr will go the distance to compete

By DAVE THEALL
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 3, 2002

Where does a goal-oriented runner go after he has completed a marathon in all 50 states and the District of Columbia?

To another country, of course.

Tarpon Springs veterinarian Bob Wehr decided on probably the toughest of the other six continents -- Antarctica.

He began his itinerary about a week ago with a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina, followed by four days at sea reaching the lower continent.

Wehr is with a group of 100-plus hard-core marathoners on a trip arranged by a Boston-based travel agency.

They were scheduled to fulfill their goal this past Friday, weather permitting, on King George Island. However, last year's group was forced to run its 26.2-mile trek in laps on the ship due to severe weather conditions.

Although the temperature was supposed to be 20-30 degrees, the wind could have been as strong as 20-30 mph. But Wehr had many reasons to accomplish the feat.

"One is that as you achieve your goals in life you look for others," Wehr, 57, who started running marathons in 1980, said before the trip. "As you get older, you look for accomplishments that most people are unable or unwilling to try to do.

"As for trying to run marathons in all 50 states, that enabled me to see all parts of this beautiful country and meet some wonderful people," he said.

Wehr is a member of the 50 States Marathon Club, a group he met at the Ocala Marathon in 1998 when he completed his 29th.

To date, he has run 84, including several ultras over the standard distance of 26.2 miles.

In 2000, he was in 17 marathons, beginning with the Gulf Beaches in Clearwater and concluding with the Hops Marathon in Tampa in December.

Last year, Wehr ran two or three every month for a total of 28. The states ranged from Arizona to Hawaii, Alaska, Maine, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. One event that stands out to Wehr is the aptly named Marathon to Marathon, last June in Iowa. It wasn't that the course was to the town of Marathon, it's the fact the temperature was in the 80s and it resulted in a long day -- 5 hours and 15 minutes..

Wehr, a strict vegetarian, said he has many favorite marathons for different reasons.

Some because of the beauty of the courses, such as Crater Lake in Oregon and Mesa Falls in Idaho where he saw a bear along the way.

Other favorites include Boston, New York and Chicago because of the cheering crowds, and others because they enabled him to run alongside supportive friends.

"One advantage of running marathons so close together is that you really don't have to train for them," Wehr said. "Each one serves as a training run in itself."

Another factor to consider is cost. The trip to Antarctica was $5,000, Wehr said.

He expects to complete the other five continents within 2-3 years.

"I couldn't have completed running the states or going on this trip without the support of my family and co-workers," Wehr said. "I'm lucky to have their support."

ROUNDUP: The Festival of Light Race on Feb. 16 in Fort Meyers served as the 2002 Road Runners Club of America 5K State Championship.

With prize money on the line, the Russians and other international stars came and earned most of the cash.

Volo Bukhanov, 41, won in 14:46, a 4:45 per-mile pace. Compatriot Tatyana Maslova, 35, captured the women's title in 16:17.

Local standouts included teenagers Kevin Lyons of Clearwater Central Catholic High School and John Biffar of Admiral Farragut Academy.

Lyons and Biffar finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 16-19 age group. Lyons, 16, ran 15:54 for 10th place overall -- 19 seconds ahead of 2001 Gasparilla winner Much Mazano of Tampa.

Kyle Groh, 7, of St. Petersburg was second (21:40), 9-and-under; Victor Yeager (17:15) and Danny Nolan (17:36) were third and fourth, respectively, 40-44; the Forerunners' Eileen Peters (19:45) and Kim Donaldson (19:50) finished 1-2, 40-44; and thirds were taken by Seminole's Joe Costas (18:38), 50-54; and Jerry Margolin (24:48), 70-74.

In the RRCA's 100K (62.2 miles) State Championship in Brooksville, Mark Goodale of Ohio won in seven hours, 32 minutes.

The top Florida finishers were fifth- and sixth-placed runners Dan Ripka (8:45) and Jon Docs (9:04) of Tampa.

Palm Harbor's Noora Alidina, 45, was the third woman and 13th overall in a field of 25.Her time was 10:53.

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