Pat Cronin to Continue Ironman Streak
WHEELING — The Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic was scheduled to stage its 44th annual running Saturday until it was stopped at the starting line by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The half-marathon’s cancellation, however, will not stop Pat Cronin from touring the 13.1-mile course early Saturday morning.
Cronin, 66, is one of only six remaining Ogden Ironmen — a group that holds the impressive distinction of participating in every Ogden distance race since its inception. The Bethlehem resident and owner of Wheeling Rubber Products will take to the streets of the Friendly City Saturday to once again battle the hilly and demanding terrain. He plans to launch his latest foray at about the normal race start time of 8 a.m.
“Well, I have done it for 43 years. I don’t know what else to do on that day,” Cronin offered. “I feel like I have to do this.
“The training has been slim. I do most of my training on a treadmill,” he added. “My description of running on a treadmill is that it is better than nothing. I can’t run very long distances on a treadmill. After 3-4 miles, my mind is shot by then.”
Running the course solo obviously means that Cronin will be void of any running partners, which can make 13.1 miles even more taxing. However, he has implemented a plan to add some camaraderie to the final stages of his journey.
“I am going to have my grandkids meet me at the end of the trail on their bikes. What I have decided to do is to revert back to the course we ran when Wheeling Hill was closed because of mudslides and we ran on the jogging trails,” he said. “My grandkids will meet me at the end of the trail and ride in the rest of the way with me. Hopefully, they will be able to drag me the rest of the way.
“I have no time goal. I just want to finish standing up,” Cronin continued. “My body is not feeling too bad right now. But ask me that Sunday.”
Weather always plays a major factor in any road race of such distance. Cronin has been keeping on eye on Saturday’s forecast all week.
“Earlier in the week, it looked like we may have some rain Saturday morning. But now it looks like it will be dry,” he said. “My ideal running conditions would be low 70s, low humidity with a slight breeze. Partly cloudy would be alright as well.”
Cronin’s running career spans some 50 years. The Wheeling High grad competed in cross country and track for legendary coach Gordon Downie. After picking up his Wildcat diploma, he matriculated to Ohio Valley College in Parkersburg where he ran cross country. OVC was junior college in those days, so he finished up his degree at what is now Harding University in Arkansas.
Cronin noted that he doesn’t keep in close contact with the fellow five members of his unique and small running fraternity.
“I really don’t keep in touch with the other Ironmen. It is usually a once-in-the-year thing. The paper (The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register) usually has a get-together for us a week or so before the race,” Cronin said. “Of course the (Ironmen) in town, I will see them around. I follow one of the other guys on Facebook.”
While the coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with Cronin’s training routine, it also had another impact on his life. Cronin owns his own small business, Wheeling Rubber Products on Main Street in Center Wheeling, and it, too, has struggled in recent months.
“So far we are doing enough business to make it worthwhile,” he said. “We are treading water and I think things are starting to improve.”
Cronin and his wife, Becky, have two children: Sean and Molly (Williams), and five grandchildren.
And what will it mean to Cronin when he crosses the finish line for the 44th successive time Saturday?
“It will feel good Saturday. Every year, it feels good just to complete it again. It will be a little different this year as I am kind of on my own,” he added. ” It will be more like of a training run — with a little more meaning.”