"Old Lions" keep marathon streak alive

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Just under 1200 runners participated in the first Richmond marathon.  Few that were a part of that first race thought the event would live for another three and a half decades. Fewer still, thought they'd still be running in it 35 years later.

In fact there are just six men, called the "Old Lions", who have run in every single one of the Richmond marathons - and they're all set to participate in Saturday's race.

Bill Smith, 65, of Richmond; John Deeter, 70, of Glen Allen; John Loughran, 68, of Sandston; Garland Carlton, 72, of Richmond; Phil Gibrall, 63, of Richmond; and Wertenbaker Turner, 66, of Charlottesville, are the lone runners who are keeping the streak alive.

And for many of them, that's the only reason why they're running.

"No one wants to break the streak," says Loughran.

"You want to be the last man standing," adds Gibrall.

"It's more of a curse," laments Smith.

The men don't train with each other, but over the years they have gotten to known each other well.  And there's a heavy mutual respect amongst the group - because they know what the others have had to go through.

While some of them were great runners in their younger days - a few of them can boast having recorded sub-3 hour marathons - now many just race to finish.

"We are allotted 7 hours, and most of us use most of the 7 hours," says Loughran.

The last Old Lion to drop out, did so after the 2003 race.  Which means this will be the ninth race that this group has been the last six standing.

They all talk about how hard it is to train for this event now - "My family wishes I would've quit years ago," says the 72 year old Carlton.

But none of them are ready to quit anytime soon - they've put too much work into being a part of this ultra-exclusive club.