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Marathon Traveler

Simply sightseeing isn't Jerry Evans' style, so the 71-year-old works a marathon — or two — into his travel plans.

The owner of the Jacksonville Inn returned to Medford Nov. 6 after running a 26.2-mile race in Istanbul Oct. 28 and one in Athens on the route of the original marathon just a week later.

"I don't want to be a tourist," he says. "Just going to be a spectator is not my cup of tea. I want to have something to do."

In the past four years, Evans and his running partner, Peter Sage of Medford, 58, have traveled to marathons in Paris, Rome, Hong Kong and Barcelona. Their wives and non-running friends often join their trips.

"They have marathons closer to home, but if I'm going to train long enough and hard enough to run a marathon, I'm going to reward myself with a great experience," Evans says.

In Paris — in April 2004 — that included starting at the Arc de Triomphe and racing down the Champs-Élysées in a crowd of 34,500 runners, then, after the race, sampling creme brulee all across the city of lights to see how the desserts at the Jacksonville Inn compared, Sage says.

It was Sage, a self-proclaimed non-athlete, who lured Evans to try to destination marathons.

Sage started running in what he calls "a late middle-age effort to row against the tide of age and appetite." He and a group of fellow Rotary members ran daily at the Hedrick Middle School track in what they dubbed "The Fat Boys Running Club."

In 2003, Sage ran a marathon in Portland, then ventured to more luxurious locales for marathons in Honolulu and Napa.

His plans to run in April in Paris captured Evans' imagination — and competitive spirit — when the two crossed paths at the Southern Oregon Sizzlers' 2004 Resolution Run, a New Year's Day event that includes a fun run and champagne brunch at the Jacksonville Inn.

Evans ran in high school and college, then "took a quarter of a century off" before becoming a road race regular in events such as the Pear Blossom Run. He had never run a marathon when he started training for the one in Paris at age 67.

"They dared me to go to Paris," he says. "And I'm kind of competitive."

Evans runs on a treadmill at Superior Athletic Club and on the Bear Creek Greenway, where he has mileage for a full marathon marked out on the trail from Barnett out to the Table Rocks. Moderation in eating and drinking rounds out his training regimen.

"It's good for your life overall," he says, noting that he weighs just two pounds more than he did when he graduated from Oregon State University in 1961.

When traveling to distant marathons, he sleeps on the flight and avoids alcohol, tips which can benefit any traveler, he says. "I feel good when I get there," he says.

Evans spends a day or two sightseeing before the race. Sage recommends a hearty meal the night before running.

"Usually I'm in a pretty celebratory mood after the run and try the local wine and local food, but this time, I had to forego that and get ready for the next one," Evans says.

He ran the Istanbul marathon Oct. 28 in five hours, nine minutes — well off his personal best marathon time of 4 hours and 25 minutes — but he suffered a nasty mishap on the course. A man on inline skates — a big no-no on most race courses — was accompanying a runner and crashed into Evans on a turn, knocking him to the ground. With a gash on his head, scraped knees and hands, and a bruised shoulder, Evans got up and kept running, even though medics wanted to take him to the hospital.

"They were insistent, but I was, too," he says. "I'm not going to go halfway around the world and not finish."

The ambulance crew met him at the finish line and insisted on giving him a lift back to his hotel.

Sage was still about a mile and a half from the finish line when officials closed the race route 51/2; hours after the start so roads could reopen for traffic.

Three hours after the race ended, the group of Southern Oregon travelers, including friends who don't run but helped plan the trip, embarked on a cruise through the Greek Isles to Athens for the next run.

Both Evans and Sage finished that race, which followed the route of the legendary 490 B.C. messenger's run from Marathon to Athens and the first marathon that was run at the dawn of the modern Olympics in 1896. Evans finished in 4 hours and 59 minutes and Sage in 5 hours and 20 minutes.

"The most amazing part is doing two marathons in a week," says Alex Szentesi, owner of Total Camera and Video in Medford and a non-marathoner who travels with the group. "Even the really tough young studs don't try that."

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485 or aburke@mailtribune.com

Jerry Evans, 71-year-old owner of the Jacksonville Inn, running a marathon in Istanbul, Turkey. A week later he ran another in Athens, Greece.