Gene Dykes, 71, is looking to break the Big Sur International Marathon record for his age group this weekend
For someone who has done two marathons 24 hours apart, two weeks between Boston and Big Sur may seem like an eternity for Gene Dykes.
Unlike others that have challenged themselves by doing the two marathons in a short time span, it’s not the reason Dykes is running in Sunday’s 34th Big Sur International Marathon.
Instead, the Philadelphia resident is calling it unfinished business from his last trip out west to run the world-renowned course.
“They took my record away when I was 65,” Dykes said. “I owned the course record in my age class for about two months. Then it was discovered on paper that someone ran faster years earlier.”
Ray Piva set the record in the 65-69 age division in 1992 at 3 hours, 10 minutes. Dykes ran 3:26.44 in 2013.
Dykes, 71, can’t get that record back. But he’s looked at the record in the 70-older division — 3:46.36 by Heinrich Gutbier in 1997. His eyes are set on rewriting the mark, adding to his mantel of record-setting accomplishments of late.
“I shouldn’t have trouble beating that mark,” said Dykes, who broke the Boston Marathon record in his age group on April 15, clocking 2 hours, 58 minutes, 50 seconds. “It’s how fast do I want to go.”
What could derail Dykes from shattering the record is he will run the race with his daughter, who is roughly 30 minutes slower than him in a marathon.
“It will depend on how long we run together,” Dykes said. “I’m going to try and get her to run a little harder in the first half. Then I’ll do a negative split the last half of the race.”
While Dykes is six years older than during his last appearance on the Monterey Peninsula, he’s gotten faster covering marathons of all kinds. Most of his personal bests have come in the last year.
“I hired a coach a few years back,” Dykes said. “I just keep dropping time. It’s more of a retirement achievement.”
This will be Dykes’ third crack at Big Sur, but the first time he’s running it after tackling Boston in the same year.
“I guess I’ve always wanted to do Boston-Big Sur,” Dykes said. “Running marathons close together is nothing new to me. It seemed like a good time to do it. Two weeks is plenty of time to recover.”
Dykes’ accomplishments as an ultra distance runner have gained nationwide attention. Last year, the Wall Street Journal labeled him “Earth’s fastest 70-year-old distance runner.”
After setting the record at Boston, men’s winner Meb Keflezighi tweeted “Special shout out to 71-year-old Gene Dykes, who ran an outstanding 2:58.50.”
For someone who didn’t run his first road race until 12 years ago, Dykes has become one of the top ultramarathon runners in his age class in the world.
“I was a jogger my whole life,” Dykes said. “I wasn’t very good in track in high school or college. I was a mediocre runner at best. So I golfed and bowled a lot. I jogged for fun.”
That is until Dykes got in with what he now jokes as a bad crowd — a group of runners, who talked him into his first road race, a half marathon in 2006.
From that point, running became an addiction. Dykes ran well enough that his time allowed him to bypass the lottery for the New York Marathon.
“I could not pass that up,” Dykes said. “So I ran my first marathon. I ended up earning a qualifying time for Boston. So I had to do that.”
By his estimation, Dykes will do 10 to 20 road races a year ranging from 200 miles to the regular 26-mile, 385-yard marathon.
“I race longer and more frequent,” Dykes said. “I’ve done five 200 milers. It’s an endurance race. The clock is running. You run when you can and sleep when you have to. I’ve done them in four days.”
Six weeks before Boston, Dykes completed a 200-mile race, a 100-mile event and two 50-mile races in 2019.
“Every year I try and stretch the boundaries,” Dykes said. “I don’t know if I can do it. So there’s only one way to find out. The hardest part is finding time to sleep. Four hours over four days isn’t much.”
Dykes comes into each race with a plan. After completing his ultra road races — totaling 400 miles — he began preparing for Boston with the mindset of breaking the record in his age division.
“I told my coach you’ve got six weeks to get me under three hours at Boston,” Dykes said
posted Saturday April 27th
by John Devine