The Dolphin That Runs
By Lenore Dolphin
Note: Lenore Dolphin recently gave us
permission to post this article. This piece was originally written in March,
When the runners assembled at Marymoor Park last November 25 for the start
of the 26th Annual Seattle Marathon, Dr. Bob Dolphin, a retired entomologist
from Yakima, was there to run his 175th marathon.
What a milestone for this 66-year-old great-grandfather, who ran his first
marathon at the age of 51!
Bob had mid-life ambitions to lose weight and attain physical fitness, and
found that running was an enjoyable way to achieve these goals.
Running soon became his hobby, his sport, and maybe even his "obsession."
His perseverance, competitive nature, and goal orientations have made him
a successful runner, a marathon achiever, and an inspiration to other runners.
ran his first marathon in Columbia, MO, on Labor Day of 1981, and #100 on the
same course, in Columbia, on Labor Day, 10 years later! He has run marathons
in 13 states and British Columbia, including five at Boston and two at New
After his move to Yakima in 1984, the Seattle Marathon was his first in
the Northwest, and he has made it to every one since - 12 in a row!
His goal for 1993 was to run 20 marathons in one year, but he ended up with
21! Of these, fifteen were the regular 26.2 mile marathons, and six were ultra-marathons (anything over 26.2 miles, and for him up to 101 miles).
When asked which marathon was the hardest for him, Bob's response was, "Pike's
Peak in Colorado, followed by Crater Lake in Oregon." The high altitudes definitely
contribute to the difficulty.
The Royal Victoria Marathon in Victoria, B.C., and the Trails End Marathon
at Seaside, OR, are among his favorites. In fact, he likes the Trails End
Marathon so well that he ran it twice in 1993!
Snow in Seaside on February 20 caused the cancellation of the marathon.
However, about 50 die-hards who were already there ran it anyway, through
the falling snow and the slush splattered by vehicles passing by on Highway
Bob's car became a portable aid station for him and his running friends,
Tony Sagare from Yakima, and Ron Nicholl from Gig Harbor.
At the awards ceremony two weeks later, following the re-scheduled race,
Bob was given two T-shirts and two finisher's medals.
That same year, he ran back-to back marathons: Skagit Flats in Burlington
in 3:27:03 on September 11, and Seattle Sri Chinmoy Marathon in Myrtle Edwards
Park in 3:52:51 on September 12.
In his article for the Yakima Hard Core Runners Club news letter regarding
these races, he wrote, "My recovery time wasn't great, so I lost a minute per
mile the second day."
Actually, his first step in Seattle on September 12 felt like he was "hitting
the wall," (which means he didn't wait until mile 20 to start hurting)!
But sometimes the marathon distance seems a little short for Bob. Over the
years, he has participated in the following northwestern ultra-marathons:
- Badger Mountain Bean Run, Wenatchee, 31 miles;
- Mudder Fell Six-Hour Race in Portland;
- Fat Ass Fifty on Tiger Mountain;
- Let's Climb a Mountain and Centennial Trail Run in Spokane, 34.5 and 40
- White River 50 Mile Run near Greenwater;
- Seattle and Tsawwassen, B.C., Sri Chinmoy 24-Hour and 12-Hour Runs, 101
and 56 miles;
- WSU lOOK in Pullman, 62 miles;
- Falls to Gasworks (Snoqualmie to Seattle), 46.6 miles;
- Autumn Leaves 50 in Oregon, 50 miles;
- Pacific Rim 24-Hour Run in Longview, 88 miles running, 76 walking.
BOB'S FAVORITE ultra is Falls to Gasworks, and his hardest is the
WSU 100K. This race starts on campus, drops 500' in elevation as the course
goes to the Snake River, runs along the river, and then back up the canyon
on a gravel road to the highway that takes the runners back to the campus.
Most runners dread the day when a race becomes a "DNF' (did not finish).
Bob has two.
The first was at the WSU lOOK in 1994, when he pulled a hamstring, and the
second was a few months later at The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
It starts at Squaw Valley (near Truckee) and ends at Placer High School
in Auburn, CA. He was a few minutes late arriving at a checkpoint, and was
pulled from the course. Unfortunately, running 31 miles in a 100-mile race
doesn't count for anything except experience!
Training is an important aspect of a running program. Last year Bob ran
a total of 1200 miles - 800 in races, and 400 as training runs.
The "Bob Dolphin Method of Training" that works for him is to run a race
every weekend, if possible, do a lot of marathons, rest and walk in between,
and run several five-mile training runs when the races are half-marathon length
As an example, between September 9 and October 22 of this year he ran the
Skagit Flats, Portland, Victoria, and Tri-Cities Marathons, 53 miles in the
Sri Chinmoy 12-Hour Run, 50 miles in the Oregon Autumn Leaves Run, plus an
8K in Oregon City.
In order of preference, his favorite race is the marathon, followed by the
ultras, half-marathons, lOKs, 8Ks, and 5Ks.
He does one triathlon a year, Yakima's Valley of the Sun Triathlon, and
one biathlon, the Sri Chinmoy at Seattle's Seward Park.
He's also a member of the Fabulous Fifties Relay Team that runs the Rainier
to Pacific and the Hood to Coast races each year.
At the Gap-to-Gap Relay in Yakima in June, Bob is overall chairman of the
10K race portion, captain of his relay team, and runner of the two-mile field
run and the 10K run.
Throughout his running career, Bob has given his best to each race he enters,
and the rewards have been many.
He holds two marathon course records: Skagit Flats, M60-64, 3:05:16, and
Heart of America in Columbia, MO, M55-59, 3:09:03. His personal best was 3:00:13
at the 1988 Emerald City Marathon in Seattle.
He has been recognized twice by the Oregon Road Runners Club as their Male
Masters Runner of the Month, for February 1990 and October 1994.
CERTAIN FIRST PLACE age-class wins hold a special significance to him:
(1) In Seattle for the 1990 Goodwill Games Marathon, M60-64;
As Bob is an inspiration to others, so, too, certain runners have been an inspiration
(2) In Portland on October 23, 1994, running his 10th consecutive Portland
Marathon, always placing but never first until two days before his 65th
birthday when, as the oldest runner in the M60-64 division, he outran 37
other runners that age;
(3) Last year's 25th Seattle Marathon, when each age-class winner received
summed up by Egan Wong, a 30-year-old runner from Vancouver, B.C., who said,
"Bob Dolphin is a friendly and sincere person, whose running accomplishments
provide an incentive for all of us younger runners."
- The late Dr. George Sheehan, a cardiologist who was a good runner and
philosopher of running, and who changed his career to become a writer and
lecturer about this philosophy;
- Local runners Lary Webster, Mel Preedy, Bruce Katter, Ray Nicholl and
his brother Ron, who all train and work hard to improve in their sport of
marathons and ultras;
- Chris Ralph from Bothell, a woman who won't let multiple sclerosis keep
her from running;
- Dave Legre from Ellensburg, who fought cancer and has come back to be
a great marathon competitor;
- Eric Gebelein from Bothell, who is fighting cancer now, and vows he'll
be running again soon;
- Two runners in Victoria who were tied together with a sign that read,
"ASSISTED RUNNER" - a good marathoner there to help a blind runner achieve
Sixteen years ago, Bob's goal was to attain physical fitness by adding running
to his life style. Through his perseverance this major goal has been met and
His goals for the future include:
(I) Running the Berlin and London Marathons;
(2) Finish the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run in 1996 or
(3) Join the "50 Plus D.C. Club", whose members run a marathon in
every state and the District of Columbia;
(4) Push on to 200 marathons to join his friends, John Bandur from
Federal Way, Russ Akers from Walla Walla, and 'Del Scharffenberg from Portland,
who are already there;
(5) Get to age 70 as fast as he can when Mel Preedy, a tough (but
friendly) competitor from Ravensdale turns 65!
WHETHER YOU'RE a dedicated runner like Bob, an occasional participant, or
whether your contribution is volunteering or cheering on the sidelines, the
rewards of friendships and a job well done are there for everyone.
Any race, large or small, is a group effort of those sponsoring the race,
those administering it, the many volunteers helping to put it all together,
the spectators and cheering sections, and the participants, who by their presence
are there supporting the cause.
Running, both competitive and noncompetitive, is a way of life for some,
a series of challenges with the necessary goals in mind.
Bob Dolphin, a high school dropout with a Ph.D., has transferred his personal
and career goals to running - his hobby, his sport. He not only is a marathon
achiever, he's a lifetime achiever.
As a person, a husband, friend, competitor, mentor, or inspiration, he's
Bob & Lenore Dolphin...the "Dolphin Marathon Team"