Long Beach International City Bank Marathon
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
September 25, 2012 - For 35 years, Tom Pontac has been enjoying what he considers to be one of the greatest pleasures of his life – running.
Pontac, 76, had a wake-up call at age 41. He found himself lost in an unhappy marriage. “I was spending my life doing for everyone else and I wanted to do something that was just for me and made me feel special,” he said.
Pontac, never an athlete, found that “something” when he watched Frank Shorter win the Olympic Marathon at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich and has been running ever since.
Born in Los Angeles, Pontac has lived his entire life in California. He has participated in all 27 official years of the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon, as well as the unofficial runs that took place during the three-year hiatus between 1996 and 1998, making him a legacy runner. He is running the full marathon again in this 28th year of the event.
What is it that keeps Pontac coming back to Long Beach each year?
“Long Beach is a ‘runners race,’” he explained. “The runners come first always – they are not an afterthought as in some marathons, which shall go nameless. . . . A marathon is . . . is the sum of all of the love and effort of the volunteers and the staff. I thank them all and know that I couldn’t do this without them.”
Much preparation has been done for the upcoming marathon in Long Beach, with Pontac running five half marathons just this year. He participated in the Orange County Half Marathon in Corona del Mar and Newport Beach; the Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Half Marathon in Rachel, Nevade; the Surf City USA Half Marathon in Huntington Beach; the Three Peaks Half Marathon in Cuyamaca, California; and the Dingle Half Marathon in Ireland. Pontac also completed the Cal State University Sprint Triathlon and other shorter races in 2012.
Pontac does most of his training on his own, but he does enjoy running with his wife, Jeanne, on trails in the woods. The couple completed the Three Peaks Half Marathon together earlier this year, a race he said is “arguably the toughest half on the West Coast” and “a very challenging and spiritual course.”
While starting from scratch to become a marathon runner at age 41 is impressive in itself, Pontac also went back to school at age 60. He attended California State University, Long Beach, for four years, graduating in 2000 at age 64. He currently resides at Leisure World in Seal Beach, where he has helped train some of his neighbors to compete and finish half and full marathons.
“It’s never too late to discover your ‘Inner Athlete,’” Pontac said. “I’ve done a lot of exercising in my life, and nothing beats running, especially on trails and long distances. . . . It’s never too late to be what you might have been. And there is little in the world to compare with the satisfaction of finishing such an event.”
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