Saturday Spotlight- Ron Grinnell

Name: Ron Grinnell
Occupation: Mathematics teacher
Age: 62
Spouse: Kitty (May 30, 1981)
Children: Sean 30, Beth 26
There have been so many great stories posted here of Warriors overcoming obstacles. This is not one going to be one of them. In fact mine will be boring.

I was not an athlete growing up. I was the fourth shortest person in the class in sixth grade. That was the year that I found out I was a little better at new math than my sixth grade teacher and decided that I wanted to teach Math for my career. No one really noticed until the end of tenth grade when I got a 100 on the Geometry Regents.

The last two years of high school went pretty well. I was a member of the wrestling team. I ran to make weight. I could not beat my teammate at my weight class and could not win against anyone on another team if I wrestled up. So I dropped a little over 5% of my down to 129 pounds just to win. In addition I could outrun all of those athletes that weren’t really trying in PE.

Our family had no money. I was headed for FMCC until I won a $1000 a year Regents Scholarship and a $300 a year scholarship to cover books. Tuition AND room and board at SUNY Oneonta was only $200 a semester from 1970 until 1972 so I got to leave home. I had to take PE the first semester and read Bob Cooper’s Aerobics. With a little practice I was able to just complete the twelve minute test for two miles. Then I didn’t run again for twenty years!

I was fortunate to move onto a great corridor with some juniors that were athletes, pre-med, teachers and weekend partiers. They took me under their wing. I made it through one day of college wrestling. This time the guy in my weight class was NCAA champion. We put a team together for every intramural sport instead. Then the following year I pledged Animal House. I enjoyed it so much I stayed for ten years! I actually lived in the frat house my first year teaching. I met in Kit in Oneonta in 1977. She refused to go out with me for the next twenty-five months! We started dating just before she graduated in December 1979 and I followed her back to Centereach.

I started teaching in Freeport in 1980 and have driven back and forth from The Hills for 35 years. Kit and I have always gotten along great and we had two healthy and wonderfully behaved children. We had been married ten years and my son was starting soccer when we found out that my cholesterol levels were already 300. So I started running around the soccer field while he was at practice.

My first race was a Ralph race in Middle Island in August 1991. I did 4K in 21:06. The following month I did my first 5K in 25:56. I improved quickly. By the following June I Ran Around The Lake in 27:44 (6:56 per mile at age 40) in my 11th race and the first one on my list that is still run today. My first Cow Harbor is still my fastest in 43:20.

My father had had thyroid cancer. Five years later it had metastasized into five other places including brain and lung. During the 1992-93 school year I had back to back to back prep, lunch, and duty periods. I would go out to the track each day and run 10K as fast as possible, shower, and be back in 80 minutes to eat lunch on my hall duty. I was always sore but that wasn’t an excuse. The day my father died, March 5, 1993, I went out to the track and ran 25 laps at 1:40 each for a 10K at 6:40 pace. Two months later I ran my first Long Island half in 1:38.

Memorial Day 1996 my college fraternity pledge Tim asked me to run the Marine Corps Marathon with him through Team-in-Training. We had a great family weekend in DC and I beat Oprah. I ran NYC in 1997 and rejoined TNT. I continued running one marathon each fall for TNT, NYC ’98, Chicago ’99, and MCM ’00. Training for MCM ’01 came to a halt September 11th.

Kit’s brother Jimmy was one of the 37 Port Authority Police Officers lost that day. My wife has always been the most emotional woman I have every met and she was devastated. I have lost two brothers and my parents but watching her grieve for her brother on the world stage was a completely different level. Our perfect little family almost came apart at the seams. Jimmy’s body was recovered on September 24th, and I did actually get in one twenty mile run between memorials. Everyone that ran MCM that year has commented on what running past the burnt out side of the Pentagon meant to them. Running with Jimmy’s name on my singlet had me in tears. Despite only doing one run in seven weeks I was able to finish in five hours. I was in a bad place until walking up the ramp at Ground Zero on Memorial Day 2002. I was able to come to terms that day. Kit took years longer.

The following week I started mentoring for TNT and the following year I started coaching. Over the past 12 years I have had the wonderful experience of coaching nearly 500 participants to finish their first marathon. I now do two or three a year and just finished my 39th. When coaching the Nike Women’s Marathon in 2007, 2008, and 2009, I added Tuesday Selden Hills to our normal Saturday Stony Brook schedule. No one from TNT really liked them and it never took off. Most weeks we only had six runners. Maryann told me about the group at The Cookie Run in 2010, but I never actually ran with a Selden Hills member until I met KC in May 2013.

Between 1994 and 2010 my running took a backseat to my work as a board trustee with the Middle County School District. In 1994 a tax-pac group eliminated physical education teachers, social workers, and librarians. The furor caused 300 families to move and housing values to plummet. I had a choice of moving or fixing it and chose the later. Strings, full-day kindergarten, turf fields, lighted tracks, and UPK can all be blamed on me. Sixty hours a month can cut into your running time. I adapted to running at 4:20 in the morning to get it in.

A colleague asked me how to run faster in the summer of 2010. I went out and did my first speed work session in years and wrote up a plan for her. I decided I wanted to be faster also! So for the last four years I have set out to get back to where I was 24 years ago. I weighed 149 when I ran in 1993 and am only down to 158 now. Recovering from major workouts has increased from 24 hours to 36 and now 48. I had one 5K time under 20:00 then and have only gotten down to 21:29 recently. I do five miles in 36:12 now compared to 33:11 then. Cow Harbor this year was 46:58 as compared to 43:20. The half was 1:45 compared to 1:37. I have never been able to run marathons well and four recent 3:58’s or 3:59’s are between 14 seconds and 1:20 of my 2005 PR. I see no reason not to get them even closer. I might even resort to doing a sit-up or trading a cookie for a vegetable!

I have enjoyed meeting everyone in the group! I am inspired by the talent I have around me. I especially enjoyed running with the vampires this summer and am looking forward to joining them again soon. And I will break fifty on the hills this year!!!!!!

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