Rick McCrabb: Middletown woman measures her life in marathon miles, not years

Jul. 9—MIDDLETOWN — This would be like Babe Ruth, as a youngster, hoping to hit a baseball with a bat.

Then eventually getting a hit.

The Babe could only dream of one day hitting a Major League homer. He ended his career with 714.

Move over the Sultan of Swat.

Make room for the Master of Marathons.

That's the best way to describe how Kathy Hicks, of Middletown, went from being satisfied running one mile around the Middletown YMCA indoor track to completing a 26.2-mile marathon.

In all 50 states.

It all started when Hicks, then a 27-year-old elementary school teacher in Franklin, said she felt "a little soft." She joined the local Y, played racquetball, then was introduced to running.

She started slow and worked her way up to running one mile, then five miles. Someone suggested a marathon.

When told that was 26.2 miles, Hicks said: "That's impossible."

With this woman, no mission is impossible. Earlier this year, she ran a marathon in Mesa, Ariz., completing her 50-state journey.

Hicks ran her first marathon in Columbus in 1985 and the following year, ran the same course in 3 hours, 32 minutes, her career best.

Now, 38 years after her first, she has finished 73 marathons, and plans to run in her third New York City Marathon on Nov. 5.

Then in January 2024, when she's 74 years old, Hicks hopes to complete what Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. calls the "Dopey Challenge," a 5-K, 10-K, half marathon and full marathon in four consecutive days. That's 48.6 miles in 96 hours.

That will give her 75 marathons and it will be time to hang up her ultra-light running shoes that spill outside her closet and onto her bedroom floor under three wooden plaques that display all her medals.

Marathon runners have the best stories. A lot can happen to a person, physically and mentally, over a grueling 26.2-mile course that typically includes steep inclines.

As Hicks was preparing to run in a marathon in Arkansas, she got a sinus infection. The medicine she took made her dehydrated. But she wasn't about to let that keep her from running.

At about the eight-mile mark, Hicks became so dehydrated, she called her husband, Glenn, who was checking out of the hotel. She told him she needed transported to the hospital where she received an IV and two potassium pills.

"She's as tough as anybody I have ever seen," Glenn said of his wife of 24 years.

She returned to the course and finished the race, albeit when other runners were eating dinner. From start to finish, it took Hicks 11 hours, 28 minutes. Since she was the last runner to cross the finish line, she received a special medal shaped as a caboose engraved "The Best is Last."

Glenn, also a long distance runner, estimates his wife has run more than 75,000 miles, or three times around the equator. Following the advice of Frank Shorter, one of the country's most accomplished distance runners, Hicks documents her miles on index cards.

She ran eight marathons in Ohio because that allowed her to race on Sunday and return to her teaching job on Monday.

One week, she ran three marathons. Oklahoma on Saturday. Nebraska on Monday. Kansas on Friday. She got faster each race, she said.

When asked about the mentality of a marathon runner, Hicks pointed to her head: "It's up here. Some people say it's 90% physical and 10% mental. I think it's just the reverse."