I began with my first marathon in 1974 in Hinsdale, IL (the Chicago marathon didn't make the scene until 1977). I was in the first Gold cup series in 1979 placing 3rd in my age group. My race, the Lakeshore 10K, began in 1980 (we were a Gold Cup race for 15 years).
Most notable accomplishment - running the Boston marathon for 12 years. My first was in 1976 (the hottest ever was 100 degrees at the start). The day before Dr. George Sheehan (runners guru at the time) said don't run - it's too hot! Out of 2200 registered only 1800 showed up at the start line. I ran a negative split because the heat was constantly on my mind. We got a break as we approached Wellesley - picked up a cooling wind off the Atlantic. I completed my 3rd marathon in 3:29 - running 9 min. miles early on so I could finish. Aid stations were not permitted at that time. I didn't go back for 10 years. I returned in 1986 and ran 11 consecutive marathons.
I wanted to run in the 100th anniversary (1996) BAA. It was my 60th marathon and I was 60 years old (my last race). My time 3:49. My best Boston 3:17.
I was VP in 1988 and 89; president of the Striders from 1989-1995; Chicago marathon coordinator (aid station) since 1989 til present; GC timer since 1995; current Board member. I still do daily jogging to maintaim fitness.
"Before 1970, I was just a weekend jogger," Rhodes said. "I got into jogging just for fitness, and I'd jog for a half hour, 45 minutes a day on the weekends. I met (Gonzales) running here on the beach (in Miller), and he got me jogging every day. I've pretty much run every day since 1970." Despite his dedication to the sport since then, Rhodes contends he's not a true runner by nature, but a swimmer.
He was a member of the Horace Mann's state championship swim team in 1953, the last time any Gary school has won a state championship in that sport. From there, he went on to swim at the University of Iowa with a brief three-year stint in the Navy.
He started jogging with Gonzales about 10 years later. "I would jog on the beach and he would jog on the beach and we became friends," Rhodes said. "I started doing what he was doing-not because I wanted to, but because he would call me every day. I wasn't fat back then, but I was soft. I went from 205 pounds to 175 pounds, and once you reach that status, you want to keep it up. You look good and feel good."
To add another challenge to his fitness regimen, Rhodes ran his first marathon in Hinsdale, IL, in 1974. He would run a total of 60 marathons during his competitive career, the last of which was the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon in 1996. Framed posters of all the different marathons he's run line the hallways of Rhodes' Miller home. "We would run 10 to 15 miles one day, then do the same thing the next day." Rhodes said. "So a marathon was just something I wanted to try-26 miles is a long way. Then you run them just to see if you could better your time. It kind of becomes addictive. At times, I was running five or six a year, which I've since found out is not a good thing to do."
Of all the races he's been to, his favorite is Boston, which he's run 12 times. "Boston is the most memorable." Rhodes said. "There's rolling hills all the way and a world class field. It's on Patriot's Day, which is a big holiday in Boston, so people come out and there's literally thousands of people watching along the way on the route, so that helps."
In addition to his many marathons, Rhodes has competed in a countless number of road races and has over 300 T-shirts, hats and jackets hanging in his closets commemorating a mere portion of them. He remembers back in 1979, when the Striders' Gold Cup Series was only seven or eight races. Now, there's over 30. Though he retired from competition after his last Boston Marathon, he still stays involved by running the timing system at Striders' events.
"Racing just stopped being fun." Rhodes said. "Small injuries that used to take a couple of days to heal started to take weeks. I think you have 20 to 25 years where it's fun to push yourself and attain that runners' high, and that got harder and harder to do. So I don't race anymore, I just do the timing. I almost feel like there's a give-back time, and it's my time to give back a little to the Striders. It's kind of fun. It keeps my hand in racing and I enjoy seeing all the runners."
Aside from running, Rhodes has dabbled a little in triathlons and has competed in the Northwest Indiana Senior Games in swimming. And while his racing career may be over, Rhodes still jogs about 45 minutes every day to stay in shape. Up until last year, in fact, he used to run to work every day to Midwest Steel, but has since cut back his running time.
"I run now just to maintain my fitness level." Rhodes said. "People have to make time to exercise. It's something you have to do all your life. It gives me energy and I rarely get sick. All because of running and exercise."