PUBLISHED: 4:42 PM on Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Ketchikan man completes New York City Marathon
On Nov. 4, approximately 37,000 athletes participated in the ING New York City Marathon. And while completing the race is exciting by anyone's standards, it was an especially memorable experience for Bill Elberson of Ketchikan.

"New York is the big daddy-it's the race I've wanted to run for years and years," said Elberson, 60, who also participated in the Boston Marathon in 1997. "Everything people say about it is true-it is just amazing. There's nothing like running through the five boroughs of New York with people cheering like mad the whole way."

Elberson, who has been running for 16 years, never expected his hobby to take him such a distance. "I started scuba diving, but I wasn't sure if I could swim to shore, so I started running to get in better shape," he explained. "Then running took on a life of its own."

Since taking up the sport, Elberson has run in numerous marathons in Alaska as well as on the West Coast. In his debut in New York City, Elberson took 4719th place, and registered a time of three hours and 33 minutes. "I thought it was kind of odd, since this was my 33rd marathon and I had a time of 3:33," said Elberson.

Elberson and his wife, Laurie, also enjoyed the sights during their five days in the city, including a trip to Madison Square Garden for a hockey game. "I think one of my favorite parts was just walking down Broadway with my wife," said Elberson.

Courtesy photo
  Bill Elberson of Ketchikan (just crossing race mark) was among 37,000 athletes to participate in the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.
"And contrary to everything I've hard, people were just wonderful; they were extremely friendly and helpful."

This was especially important when Elberson boarded one of the many buses that take runners to the race start, and it turned out to be going the wrong way.

"We were in probably the fourth bus of an endless line of buses that takes runners to Staten Island from Manhattan," Elberson said.

"I'm sharing the seat with an old codger like me, except he's run the New York Marathon 12 times already. And he looks up and says, 'we're going the wrong way.'

"It turns out he was a retired cabdriver," continued Elberson. "So the buses pull over and all of the drivers consult their maps, and we make a U-turn. All of the other buses fell in behind. A New York cabdriver saved the day."

Having never run in a race as large as the New York Marathon, Elberson had to adjust to the fact that he was sharing the course with thousands of other athletes. "Remember what it was like when you were in the hall in high school when classes changed?" he asked. "It's like being in the middle of 26 miles of class changes."

Elberson joked that he was able to clear some space around him by performing a 'spectacular' fall. "About mile two or three, I hit a curb and went down hard," he said. "There was enough blood on me that people stayed away-I think it's a strategy that I'll use again." Despite a bloody nose and injured pride, Elberson was able to continue the race.

Having finished 'the big daddy' of all marathons, Elberson now plans to participate in the "Ultra Nasty" on New Year's Day, a 33-mile race between Thorne Bay and Klawock named for its ugly weather. In April, he plans to compete in his third Ironman triathlon competition in Arizona. "I have qualified for next year's New York and Boston marathons, but I don't think I'll participate," said Elberson. "I have my sixth grandchild showing up about then, and I'm pretty sure my grandchild will win out."

When he's not racing, Elberson sells real estate for ReMax in Ketchikan, and also participates in the Ketchikan Rotary Club, as well as in Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He is also involved in the Residential Youth Care program as well as the Ketchikan General Hospital Foundation.

"It's not that I'm anything special," said Elberson of the endless energy that he seems to have.

"I just make myself get out every day and do something. You just have to get moving, and anybody can do it. And it doesn't matter if you run or walk."