By Greg Gulas
Kinsman’s John Davis vividly remembers running his first marathon.
The year was 1991 and he completed the Columbus Marathon in three hours and 35 minutes, finishing in the middle of the pack at age 44.
Today at this year’s second Youngstown Marathon, the 72-year-old chemistry and physics teacher at Pymatuning Valley will be among the field of nearly 1,000 when he competes in his 100th overall marathon.
Davis conservatively estimates that he has logged some 50,000 training and participatory miles,
He shows no sign of slowing down.
“I watched my younger brother [Clint] run the Pittsburgh Marathon in 1991 and when I returned home, just knew that this was for me,” he said. “In 2007, I was hit by a car while jogging and suffered a broken neck and arm, was in a halo but back at it less than six months later.
“I don’t remember much from that accident, which is probably a good thing, but I remain most proud of how quickly I was able to return to running once again.”
Sponsored by Chemical Bank and Second Sole, this year’s marathon will feature a full marathon (26.2 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles), 5K (3.1 miles) and kids run. The event attracts runners from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, as well as professional runners nationwide.
Course alterations this year already have those entered abuzz.
“We are very excited about the course changes,” race director Courtney Poullas said. “We want to give our runners the kind of route they truly want so course logistics put more ‘Youngstown’ in the Youngstown Marathon this year.
The event, which begins at 7 a.m. at Second Sole on Boardman-Canfield Road, includes the sites of Mill Creek Park with Youngstown State University a huge part of the scenic route.
Race walker Mike Mannozzi, a Boardman native who recently returned to the area with his wife and two children, is coming off a win at the Ontario Championships’ 20K. He was the first male to cross the finish line in either the 20K, 10K or 5K events.
Mannozzi will compete in the half marathon.
A 2016 U.S. Olympics Trials bronze medalist, Mannozzi is a 15-time USA national champion and six-time Team USA member. In 2016, he was voted one of Ohio’s “Finest Citizens” for finishing 37th in Rome, Italy, site of the national race walking team championships.
He returns after participating in last year’s 5K, an event which came on the heels of an injury he suffered while competing in a 50K race walking event in Peru.
Mannozzi calls his home course one of the most beautiful yet most challenging.
“Since there was no walking division last year, I only did the 5K and erred on the side of caution due to injury,” Mannozzi said. “I’m really looking forward to this year because to me, this is the area’s diamond in the rough.
“It’s something that epitomizes the vision of the Valley and while some said this would never happen, here we are in our second year and I’m just honored to be a part of it.”
For Davis, who is a prostate cancer survivor, this will be the 41st marathon, post-accident and not so coincidentally timed to ensure it would be his 100th overall.
A veteran of 27 Columbus Marathons and more than 15 Boston Marathons, he called the camaraderie among runners second to none.
“There’s no trash-talking among runners.,” Davis said. “The only trash-talking allowed is a grunt when you pass someone on the course,” Davis said. “With a new trail this year, which will be slightly more uphill, you just cannot beat the scenery in the park because it is absolutely gorgeous.
“The hills will pose a challenge for everyone, but I absolutely love it.”
An interactive map with zoom feature can be found at https://www.plotaroute.com/route/530024
Poullas said that they’ve added virtual races for all distances so entrants can run their selected distance by July 1 and earn both a t-shirt and medal.