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Age Is Just a Number: Stan Fortuna's Story

Once upon a time there was a Polish kid who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but no one including his parents told him they were poor…he found out when he went to high school and the other kids told him he was poor.

In his naivete, the kid decided at the beginning of his SENIOR year of high school that he wanted to play VARSITY basketball (he had NEVER played organized basketball before). To get ready for basketball, he thought he’d first go out for cross country. After finishing at the back of the pack at every cross country meet, he did NOT quit … but then came basketball season … no luck there … didn’t make the team.

The truth is that … his athletic career was just waiting to get started. Later, this kid ran a 5K in Ionia, Michigan. Someone suggested a 10K, which led to a 25K, (Old Kent River Run) which eventually led to a marathon (Grand Valley) which led to a 50K (Sunmart) led to a 50 miler (Lakeshore) which led to a 100K (Molokai, Hawai’i) and then to the Vermont 100. Amazing even to Michele, I’d bet, I WON two events… the Lakeshore 50K and the Saddle Road 100K in Hawai’i.

No moral here except you never do know where life will lead. For the record the kid was ME. Running highlights included having run Boston 4 or 5 times, once with my daughter, completing the Vermont 100, and now having completed 110 ultras and marathons. One funny thing, my daughter casually asked me a few weeks before the Chicago Marathon (this was her 1st marathon … to qualify her to run Boston) what my marathon PR was; at the time it was 3:07. Interestingly, she finished Chicago in 3:06……. sometimes we just STRETCH as far as we have to! Two months later I ran Honolulu in plenty of time to qualify for Boston so as to run with her the following April.

Running was off and on for me over time, job, family, the usual. At some point the running plateaued, and someone said go get a coach… I kept getting the same results over and over, doing of course, the same things over and over. In stepped Michele, UROY, with whom I got connected through a local runner from here in Grand Haven, Michigan. Yup, you can guess the rest…. It was a rebirth. Being age-sensitive, I won’t reveal my exact birth year but I’ll let you do a little thinking…. my first marathon was AFTER the first lunar landing but BEFORE the Berlin Wall came crashing down.

Speaking of CRASHING … the most recent Georgia Death Race witnessed an epic crash ….. MINE! The left ankle found a few unfriendly roots. After the crash, the ankle quickly became the size of a mature watermelon, and I was unable to go anywhere for a while. After assessing the situation, and after using some choice words that I couldn’t believe I even knew, sorry Michele, I decided to just keep going. Oh well, without the UROY, I’d still be flat on my ____ somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of northern Georgia. With encouragement, badgering (?), and motherly advice. . . I was able to continue but it was clear that I was not going to set the course record that day so …. and walking, hobbling, occasionally jogging did not allow the ankle to heal or me to make cutoffs so…….. at mile 36 it was time to go back to the Amicalola Lodge … permanent injury did not fit into my long range health plan. Thank goodness too that crew member and Rugged Runner Marie from Texas who was working with Michele was AT mile 36 to haul away the body.

So, you ask, what IS the plan from here. Since Coach insists on goal setting, planning, and BABY STEPS BABY STEPS I decided to just listen to her! This coming year on my hit list is a 100 on the Big Island of Hawai’i, the inaugural Cocodona 250, and a little fun run called Run Rabbit Run. For what it’s worth, at my last high school class reunion, those cross country runners and basketball players from West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids from “back in the day” that were there and vertical …. well… I should be kind … let’s just say they aren’t doing ultras ☺

It is sooooo important to find activity that helps you enjoy life… running has been that activity for me. Let’s just say I am in it for the LONG HAUL! I hope you are as well! One more thing, NEVER miss a strength training workout!

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Stan, you are a such role model for many of us.... Take the time to heal your ankle properly before going back on the trails to live your dreams. Damn those Georgia roots and wicked southeastern trails! Being your junior by over 20 years :), I look forward to continue on the same footprints you leave behind as an inspirational trail blazer. All the best to you and your family. Enjoy Boston 2021! Frederic

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