Will Rogers once said, “being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth.”
Luckily running heroes last a lot longer. For those in grade school in 1972 like me, Olympic Gold medallists Dave Wottle and Frank Shorter were our first running heroes. They were the inspiration for all of us at least taking a try at running. Some of us stuck with it and still hold a debt of gratitude to them today. Later inspirational heroes during our own running careers included Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Steve Scott, and closer to home Browning Ross, Tom Osler, and Lorraine Cephus.
Lorraine Cephus? If you do any running in the South Jersey or Philadelphia area you know right away who Lorraine Cephus is. There are many who think a local race isn’t complete until they see Lorraine. Lorraine has run every Philadelphia Distance Run, Brian’s Run (West Chester, PA), Broad Street Run, and has finished 31 Marine Corps Marathons. Oh, and she is over 75 years old and still going strong.
It’s safe to say that no race in South Jersey is complete until Lorraine shows up to run. Ann Warsing, one of the top Masters runners in South Jersey, recently said, “A race just doesn't seem to be official, unless Lorraine is there to greet all of her friends (and everyone is her friend), with her beautiful smile, laugh, and encouragement.”
Lorraine was born in Dallas, Texas and spent her childhood years in Texas. Lorraine and her late husband, Louis, a medic in the Army, raised two children, a son and a daughter. While the Cephus family was stationed in Germany they got to see much of Europe. Lorraine started to walk for fitness (“Volksmarches” are a weekend walking tradition throughout Germany.). Looking for more of a challenge, Lorraine started to run when the family settled in New Jersey. Lorraine quickly became an accomplished runner usually winning her age groups.
We recently caught up with Lorraine in her Cherry Hill, New Jersey home as she took time out of her busy schedule as a full-time volunteer to talk to us about her running.
Lorraine, can you tell us about your running? “I’ve been running more than 40 years, since we settled in Cherry Hill. I usually run about 5-6 miles a day. My favorite running route is along Cuthbert Boulevard and Kings Highway in Cherry Hill--the old New Jersey 10-mile route (note: The NJ 10 Miler was a national class race held in the ’80s, there has been some recent talk of bringing it back by the Camden County Parks Commission.) When the weather is cold I swim and work out in the fitness center I belong to in Cherry Hill. I run on the treadmill and use the elliptical machine till the weather is nice enough to run outside.”
Can you tell us about your racing? “My favorite racing distance is the 10K. There aren’t many 10Ks anymore. I think the Benjamin Franklin Bridge Run (November) is one of the few I’ve done this year. In the ’80s almost every race was a 10K before they were replaced by 5Ks. For years I ran back-to-back races (Saturday and Sunday) on the weekends. Now I usually only race once on the weekends. My favorite race is probably the Broad Street Ten Mile (Philadelphia). It’s just a fun race, flat with a lot of spirit--and you can see a lot of the city.”
Lorraine, you’ve run 32 marathons and the Marine Corps Marathon 31 times (Philadelphia was the other). What do you like about the Marine Corps Marathon? (Laughs) “There are plenty of men there! It’s flat and smooth until the finish at the monument. The military has always been a part of me. I pass Arlington Cemetery where Louis is buried during the race. It’s just a great race.”
What do you like best about running? “It keeps your mind going. You just have to get out and go and you will always get something out of every run. You always feel better afterwards. Exercise is so good for you--you can think and problem-solve on the run.
You also feel wonderful when you are done. I enjoy running and enjoy the people you meet--I look forward to seeing running friends every year at the different races. The people are great and it gives you something to do--how can you beat that?”
How have the races changed in the past 40 years? “Besides less of a variety of distances--almost all of the races today are 5Ks--I don’t think the prizes are as good as they used to be. The cost of entering races has really gone up but the awards aren’t as good. I don’t race as much as I used to. ”
Do you have a favorite pre-race meal? “Yes, a bagel seems to stay with me. I usually have a bagel with some jelly. It stays with you (gives you energy) and is easily digested while you run.”
Have you been able to stay away from injuries by swimming and cross training? “Yes, I’ve had a heel spur off and on for about 20 years and I fell once in the woods and tweaked the outside of my knee, but I’ve been pretty healthy.”
Finally, what is your philosophy of running? “Enjoy it. Running is a gift. Enjoy the running and enjoy the people. The people you meet in running are great and it gives you something to do.”
Lorraine Cephus is one of those great people you meet only in running. Lorraine is a giving person who does full time volunteer work, and an accomplished athlete who always has an encouraging word and a smile for other runners, in other words--Lorraine is an inspiration and a running hero with staying power.