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Swartsley just keeps on going

Jerry Swartsley is so devoted to running, he keeps a personal diary about it.

Swartsley, the co-race director of the annual Pear Blossom Run in Medford with his wife, Zellah, makes entries in that diary six times a week. If not seven.

That's how often he runs.

If they banned all road races, I would still run almost every day, says Swartsley. I enjoy everything about it.

During a run, all of my other problems don't seem so important. I get a feeling of freedom and relaxation out there.

The feeling is so good, Swartsley says he tries to run three to 10 miles a day, five or six times a week. That's been his goal, barring illness, for three decades.

He recently reached a personal milestone of more than 50,000 miles of training and competitive running. The mileage represents more than two jaunts around the globe's 24,859-mile circumference.

When I'm out there, I don't think about running the equivalent of a third time around the world, says Swartsley. I don't care about that. I just want to be out there.

How does he know he's covered more than 50,000 miles in his running?

It's right here, says Swartsley, pointing to his 29 years worth of diary entries. It's a great reference point, and it can be some good reading, at least for me.

Swartsley ran 10 miles last Saturday near his home in Phoenix. His diary entry reads, Good, as in feeling good, along with selected split times and a final time.

Swartsley passed 50,000 miles a little more than two weeks ago.

He continues to run from three to 10 miles a day in his quest for inner-peace and relaxation, prime physical conditioning and good health.

He wears the slender, fit look of a runner well. The aging process seems to have been repelled.

He's still got some blond hair, mixed with some gray, and he doesn't seem to age much, says Zellah. It's really pretty amazing.

Swartsley discovered and bought his first home in Phoenix during a run.

I called Zellah and told her we just got a new house, says Swartsley.

Swartsley, the director of financial services at Crater High, has gotten to know many good folks on his runs across the back roads of Central Point, Phoenix, Talent and Medford.

There's a guy in Phoenix named Mr. Hansen, and he's always looking out his window or coming out to wait for me on my Saturday morning runs, says Swartsley. I usually stop and chat for a while.

Last Saturday, I went by and he wasn't there. So I backed up and waited a minute for him to come out because his house backs up close to the street. I missed him this time, but I'm sure he will be out there next Saturday. I enjoy that. It's one of many ways I try to turn running into fun and relaxation.

Swartsley, who is one of 12 runners to run in 22 straight Pear Blossom Runs, hasn't been inducted into the Pear Hall of Fame. His friends and 600 race volunteers think it's time. Would somebody please nominate this guy and get him in there? He's Mr. Pear Blossom.

The 23rd Pear Blossom Run is April 11, starting and finishing at Medford City Hall. Swartsley has turned the 10-mile race into one of the top 100 road races in the U.S., according to ratings the past five years in Runner's World magazine.

Maybe I'll nominate him, says Zellah. He's run in every Pear and he's also director. I know he doesn't have any time to himself the last two weeks before the race.

I ran with him in the 20th run two years ago, and he was running by people and helping direct traffic and encouraging other runners as we went along, says Zellah.

Although Swartsley has won a few road races over the years, winning is not his goal. Rather, he prefers to savor the rush of running and the feeling of accomplishment.

One of the things I like about running is the smells outside, says Swartsley. I love the smell of fresh-cut grass. In the fall, it's the smell of apples in the orchards, and in the spring, it's the grass and having blackbirds and starlings diving at you while you're running. I love it.

Two of his most memorable runs came in the snow.

Both of them were at altitudes over 6,000 feet around Crater Lake, says Swartsley. I was running with one friend each time. We went bouncing across the snow, and it was so beautiful, I couldn't believe it.

When Jerry started running 29 years ago, Zellah wasn't sure her husband was cut out for what can be a grueling sport.

We were living in an apartment then, and Jerry went out for a run, says Zellah. He only went about two miles.

He had been gone nearly two hours and Zellah got worried.

I got outside and Jerry was laying down on the grass in our yard, says Zellah. I was afraid something might be wrong. But he was just resting.

Since then, Swartsley has learned to pace and enjoy himself on considerably longer runs.

And his diary entries tell the many tales.

I'll be starting my 30th year of running in next year's Pear Blossom Run, says Swartsley. It's hard to believe.

I didn't even think about being a runner when I was younger, he says. I played some basketball then, and I liked to be in shape.

But running was different then. They didn't run 10 miles, and the only running they did was to win.

Runners then wore heavy cotton shorts and sweat clothes, he says, and shoes specifically for running hadn't been dreamt up yet. Swartsley's first pair of running shoes, Asics Tigers, cost him $9.95 in 1969.

How does he remember such detail?

That's also when he bought his first diary.

Randy Hammericksen is the Mail Tribune's sports columnist. He can be reached at 776-4499 or