It has been estimated that on Sunday, 30,000 people will take to the streets of Washington, D.C., for the Marine Corps Marathon. While this is some runners' first time, there's one man who knows the course better than anyone else.
In 1976, Marine veteran Alfred “Al” Richmond was working in the Marine Corps office that was organizing the inaugural marathon. According to the race's website, initially he hadn't planned on running it, but after realizing his co-worker was participating, figured he would as well.
Forty-one marathons later, he's hitting the pavement one more time. As the last of his elite group left running, it's a sense of pride that has kept him going.
“There were six of us that were given the label of Groundpounder, and one by one they dropped out,” he told Run Washington. “We used to tease that we would lock arms and walk across the finish line together. Of course, that didn’t happen.”
Last year, he ran with his daughter, Elisa Zwanenburg, marking their fourth year traveling the 26.2 miles together. Before she ran alongside him, she watched him from the sidelines and recounted to Run Washington how she'd pass oranges to him along the course.
However, completing the race year after year has been far from easy and there was one year it seemed like he'd end his streak early. Months before the 15th marathon, while vacationing in New Orleans, Richmond was mugged and shot three times.
He explained to NPR that he was already registered for the 1990 marathon, but his anesthesia made him weak and he said, “never mind,” until a week before the race. He read an article about other Marines who had run every one, as well, which is the first time he'd known there even were others.
“And she [his wife] looked at me, said, wait a minute, you've run all of them. You've got to do it,” he revealed. “Of course my reaction was, where have you been for the last two months? But anyway so I went ahead and I ran three three-miles and one six-mile and then ran the marathon. So I kept the string going.”
This year will be the first time that Richmond is in the marathon without any of his fellow groundpounders since veteran Will Brown retired last year. Aside from their personal goals, Richmond explained to NPR that in races that Brown and himself were the only ones running, there was “no competition” between them.
“We wish all seven of the original groundpounders were with us,” he told NPR in 2015. “And there's no joy in the fact that they're not. We really wish that all of us were running together. So whoever finishes first finishes first.”
The 78-year-old told Run Washington he isn't sure what year will be his last, but his daughter said if he makes it to number 47, that would be significant because it was his jersey number when he played football.
While he's not sure if he can make it to 47, Elisa seemed confident. “He laughed at how old he is, yet he’s still out there running them,” she told Run Washington.
Richmond admitted it's difficult to get up and go running in the morning, but it's gotten too hot to run in the afternoon, so he does it anyways — a testament to an expression that pops up in the back of his mind.
“The Marine Corps have a favorite expression that, ‘There’s always 10 percent that never get the word.’ That could be us,” Richmond explained to Run Washington. “We never got the word that we don’t have to suffer this pain or this discomfort and do this year after year.”
Elisa believes that his competitive drive has kept him from giving up when things have gotten tough and added, “It may be the Marine in him.”
Watch coverage of the marathon below, via Fox News.