Posted Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009
Special to the Star-Telegram
Finally confronting what he called the mess he had made of his life, Ed Rousseau had to make a choice.
He decided to run.
Forrest Gump’s jaunt appears a mere 5K compared to the miles the septuagenarian Rousseau continues to log. On Sunday, he completed the 72-hour portion of the UltraCentric Experience at Murrell Park in Flower Mound, going 205.328 miles.
That’s equivalent to running to Austin and then some.
But it was miles of a different sort that Rousseau was putting on that became the source of some major problems in his life.
“In today’s world, I’d be a felon,” said Rousseau, 70, referring to a sixth drunk driving offense more than 30 years ago. “I was a raging alcoholic at age 40.”
What better motivation to change than fear. Especially the fear of losing your job and, worse, your family.
“I was afraid at that point I was going to lose everything,” Rousseau said. “What do I do in the morning when the addiction is still there? I go for a run. That’s what running means to me.”
Soon, Rousseau’s life and change collided.
“I was sitting there looking out the window one morning trying to figure out what I’m going to do with this mess I’ve made of my life and a jogger went by,” Rousseau said.
“So I broke out some 30-year-old Converse All-Star basketball shoes from the back of the closet and some old sweatpants and I went for a run around the block. I couldn’t make it around the block.”
Rousseau has come a long way, literally and figuratively. To say he is devoted to his new life is an understatement. He travels throughout the country from his home in Minneapolis for races. Sunday was his 77th ultra marathon (ultra is defined as any run longer than 26.2 consecutive miles), and he has run 86 marathons.
His bad stretches now consist of nights like Thursday when he was the last runner to seek shelter during a driving rain storm that drenched the area around Grapevine Lake. He stayed on the USTF certified half-mile circular route for an hour by himself, now motivated not only to run but to break records.
Rousseau, who mentors recovering alcoholics, has gotten good at this, too. During this race, he set an American record in the 70 age bracket by completing 58.11 miles in 12 hours. The 48-hour American record is also likely his, pending certification. He completed 156 miles during that span.
Hung-Kwong Ng, 44, a software engineer from Orlando, Fla., was the event’s overall 72-hour winner. Proving that all terms are relative, Ng said he wasn’t really in shape for the race but nonetheless ran 243.54 miles. Fred Davis III ran 181.89 miles. Renowned ultra runner Amy Palmeiro-Winters, who runs with a prosthetic leg, put in 61 miles in 11 hours, 49 minutes, 4 seconds. That will be submitted for the 100K American record. A scheduled mountain bike portion was canceled because of the rain.
Rousseau said he got in about four hours of sleep during his 72-hour excursion. But whatever fatigue and soreness he’s feeling today beats the heck out of a hangover and a night in the county drunk tank.
All the result of a no-nonsense cop and a tough judge. And the will to change.
“You can have fun after alcohol,” Rousseau said. “Even at age 70.”