Late start was not a problem for local runner

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bill Plemmons’ running career didn’t get off to a good start.

Actually, it didn’t get off to much of a start at all.

&uot;My first practice was a disaster,&uot; Plemmons laughs in his Wigneil Street home. &uot;By the time I got up the block, I was out of breath.&uot;

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Still, the Newport News Shipbuilding retiree, 68, who took up running in September 2000 after watching his son run in two marathons, didn’t put away his track shoes. After about a month of hitting the Eclipse streets nearly every day, Plemmons charged a mile without stopping.

&uot;I was so excited!&uot; he exclaims. &uot;I came running up to the house and told my wife (Jackie) what I’d done.&uot;

Little did he know what would follow. Plemmons kept on plodding, charging up to Chuckatuck, and down routes 10 and 32. He ran in several 5K (3.1 miles) and 10K races, and in the inaugural Virginia Beach Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon in 2001.

Then, in October of 2001, he followed in his son’s running steps, competing in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. Five and a half hours after the starting gun went off, Plemmons crossed the finish line – and if his first mile had been a thrill, this one was a stunner.

&uot;When they put that medal on me, I just started crying,&uot; he said. &uot;I burst into tears. I was so emotional.&uot;

It wouldn’t be the last time. The following January, he ran in the Florida Golf Beach race. He ran in four marathons in 2003, and another four in 2004, charging through Chicago, Minn-esota, New Jersey and other areas. On June 4, he bolted through the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, Ind. – home of Notre Dame – and hopes to someday run in the Philadelphia and New York City races (because the Boston Marathon requires a qualifying time of less than four and a half hours, he jokingly says, he probably won’t make that one!).

And he always had a special fan on the sidelines to cheer.

&uot;Wherever you stand,&uot; Jackie says, &uot;there’s always a group of people cheering you on.&uot;

&uot;It’s motivating,&uot; Plemmons says of the crowd’s encouragement, &uot;and it makes you embarrassed if you stop running! I wear a short with my name on it, so people are always shouting, ‘Go, Bill, keep going!’ I think I do this for the certificates!&uot;

He holds up a huge stack of certificates and medals congratulating him for his finishes.

&uot;I’m not a fast runner,&uot; he says. &uot;I don’t run for the money, or to finish up front. This is basically for fun. When I ran in South Bend, there were only eight people in my age group.

&uot;Absolutely not,&uot; he says when asked if he ever thought he’d run as long and far as he has. &uot;But I can breathe easier, and my heart rate is low. I don’t have any aches and pains. I wake up healthy and I go to bed healthy.&uot;