WHEELING - The size of the hills hasn't changed, but for some Wheeling Ironmen the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic course continues to be a challenge - even after 36 years of running the race.
Some of that, they admit, has to do with getting older and dealing with everything that comes with age.
But for most, the pain still is worth the thrill of being cheered on by the crowd and the glory of crossing the finish line.
The Ironmen are those who have run every race since its inception with this year's contest weekend, slated for May 25-26 in the downtown, being the 36th.
This year 13 Ironmen are scheduled to compete: David Claypool, Joe Kubik, Steve Habursky, Mitch Toto, Bruce Kirby, Tim Cogan, Larry Jones, Ted Rouse, Pat Cronin, Dr. John Holloway, Paul Exley, Mike LeMasters and David Fiorilli.
On Friday, the group met at Greco's restuarant in Wheeling with Race Director R. "Scat" Scatterday who gave them words of encouragement and some last minute details pertaining to the race.
"It's a historic classification and you guys are doing it," Scatterday said.
Claypool, 66, a Zanesville resident, noted he gets a little slower every year, but added he's glad he hasn't had any physical problems to keep him from running the race.
"I'm still hanging in there. The first time I was young and dumb and I didn't know about the hills. I wasn't laughing when I hit 29th Street hill," Claypool said.
Now when he runs, it's all about taking one step at a time.
"I keeping thinking about putting one foot in front of the other," he said.
Toto, a Morristown resident who will turn 75 on May 28, said he is ready to race because he trains year round.
"I could run it any day of the week. Not fast, but I could run it," Toto said. "Overall, it's a blessing to be able to do it every year. We've got to be lucky and blessed."
Toto said first-time Ogden racers should train on hills.
Grant Marks, a retired Ironmen, quipped that he's been training to run with his 2-year-old grandchild during the Tiny Tot Trot on Friday evening. Though this will be his second year not running the race, Marks said he enjoys meeting with the Ironmen and talking about old times.
Kubik, a St. Clairsville resident, said he finally made up his mind to race about two weeks ago because he just had surgery in March. During his latest training run, he hit the 9-mile mark.
"I think it's just a matter of getting confidence back," Kubik said. "This year, the hills will be steeper for me. I'll do the best I can. We try to beat the clock - that's what we're doing now. ... I really love that finish line, but there's good and bad in all of it."
Scatterday noted Wheeling Jesuit University is sponsoring the Ironmen this year.