It wasn't too long ago that Jack Fultz won the Boston Marathon. Fultz plans to run in this year's Boston race later this month, but he says it will be a "celebratory-anniversary run" and that now he runs "for the exhilaration."
For that reason, he says, his tuneup for this year's Boston Marathon -- Sunday's Nike Cherry Blossom 10-Mile road race through East and West Potomac Park and around the Tidal Basin -- will be twice the thrill.
For many of the 4,700 entered in Sunday's race -- the largest field in its 14-year history -- running among the pink blossoms might be thrill enough. But for the one-time Georgetown student, who, along with Greg Meyer and Lorraine Moller, is one of three Boston Marathon winners entered in the competitive field, it will be a chance to retrace the terrain on which he once trained.
"Washington's my old stamping ground," Fultz said the other day from his Boston office, where he is a running promotions director for New Balance shoes. "And it's really where I got my start. I used to run among the monuments all the time."
Although Fultz hasn't trained in Washington in a few years, he probably knows the local running venues as well as anyone. He spent eight years in the area, including four in Alexandria when he was in the Coast Guard before he attended Georgetown.
Running among the monuments will heighten his nostalgia, but, truth be told, the Tidal Basin route wasn't Fultz's favorite.
That was the 10-mile loop from Georgetown, along the C&O Canal, up Rock Creek Parkway to Massachusetts Avenue, around American University and back to campus through Battery Kemble Park. "I tried to include every hill in the area," Fultz said.
The hills on "Fultz Loop" undoubtedly helped him stun the running world when, as a college senior in 1976, he won its most prestigious marathon. And a Boston sportswriter who covered the race for many years distinguished Fultz by calling his 2:20:19 performance in the near-100-degree heat "a run for the hoses" and one of the most underrated in the history of the race.
Now, Fultz is a part of running's corporate world, arranging races, filming video clinics and promoting shoes. However, he says things you wouldn't expect from someone who works for a company trying to sell running.
"People are running fewer and fewer marathons," Fultz says. "They're running fewer and fewer miles. There are still a lot of marathons, but some will fall by the wayside in the next few years because most of them are media events."
Interest in running in general -- and marathons in particular -- has declined, Fultz says, because people are finding other ways to stay in shape, such as aerobics, swimming and middle-distance races. "Road racing is just another branch of the tree that gives people a chance to vent competitive instincts, even if it's only against themselves," he says.
And so it will be for the majority of the runners entered in the 14th annual Cherry Blossom, although a group of about 60 runners makes this race one of the most competitive of 10-milers.
The field has about 40 men capable of breaking 49 minutes and several, including Meyer, who can run Sunday's course in the 46-minute range. Meyer, holder of the unofficial world record at 10 miles, won both the Cherry Blossom and the Boston Marathon in 1983.
Among the women, approximately 15 are able to run 10 miles in less than 56 minutes. Aside from Moller, Rosa Mota, the winner of the Chicago Marathon last October and a bronze medalist in the 1984 Olympic Marathon, might be a favorite.
Unlike the two other Boston Marathon winners, Fultz won't try to win it. "I think I'll be real happy," Fultz said, "if I get close to 50 minutes."