And then there were two.
Only two women who stood at the starting line of the first Philadelphia Distance Run back in 1978 “remain standing.’’
That is, they’ve run every single one of these half-marathons over the past 44 years.
Richboro’s Mary-Pat Ezzo is one of them.
A week from Sunday, she plans to run in her 45th straight PDR, albeit virtually, on a 13.1-mile course through hilly Tyler State Park, a much more challenging terrain than the one on the actual course through the streets of Philadelphia and along the Schuylkill River.
It’s a labor of love for the longtime veterinarian, who is one of only five (including hree men) runners that can still lay claim to this amazing distinction.
At 64, she admits running the PDR becomes a little tougher each year. So, she takes a prudent approach and doesn’t look beyond the immediate task at hand.
This is the third time she’s done it virtually. The routine started in 2020, when the pandemic basically forced everyone to go the virtual route. That was when the race was still under the “Rock n’ Roll’’ ownership banner. Now the race has returned to its roots when it started out as a YMCA venture.
The PDR sanctions the virtual option and endorses it as a way to get more runners involved. It’s become routine for a lot of races in this health-challenged environment.
“You have to use a tracking app,’’ she explained about the virtual option in a telephone interview. “The other woman (who has run all 44) is 74 and said she was going to stop but she hasn’t yet.’’
Some will recall there were three Lower Bucks County runners who achieved the “40 plateau;’’ that trio included Ezzo, Newtown’s Larry Waldman and Ivyland’s Mark Fite. Now only Ezzo remains.
Born in Pittsburgh, Ezzo moved east to attend Immaculata College back in the ‘70s. She did post-grad studies at the University of Pennsylvania and got her masters from Temple in the mid-‘80s.
One of her classmates talked her into doing her first half-marathon in ‘78 and eventually she was running them in the two-hour range.
Now her target time is much more modest but it’s no longer about being competitive, it’s just about getting to the finish line.
And don’t think it hasn’t crossed her mind to call it quits one of these years.
“This year is probably the year that I’ve trained the least,’’ she said. “I did 10 miles on Sunday and that was pretty much torture. Everytime I think that this year might be it. Now I’m at a nice round number of 45.
“But who knows? It all depends on how the day goes. I just try to finish.’’
Ezzo says she doesn’t mind substituting the hills of Tyler for the almost flat Philly course because she’s familiar with the landscape.
“I kind of miss it (the excitement of a live race) because it keeps you moving,’’ she said. “It was fun so I miss that part of it. But it can get to be a monkey on your back. You start worrying in June that you’re going to be OK, that you’re going to make it.
“I miss some of it and I don’t miss some of it and I’ll leave it at that.’’
Of course, she’s still keeping an eye on the “Final Five.’’
“I would like to be the last person standing,’’ she admitted. “I’m sure I will sign up for it again next year. I just don’t know.’’
Asked if 50 might seem like a “rounder’’ number than 45, Ezzo paused.
“We’ll see,’’ she said with a laugh.
>A big thank you from BCD
It was a great welcome back year for the Bucks County Duathlon and all the people who organize and compete in it.
A big thank you to all the volunteers who helped out as well as a tip of the hat to the Upper Makefield Police Department, the Langhorne Fire-Police, the St. Mary Ambulance Unit and the Washington Crossing Historic Park.
In addition, the sponsors also deserve kudos. They include UMBB Foundation, Newtown Athletic Club, David Craig Jewelers, Firehouse Cycles, Newtown Bike Shop and Guy’s Bicycles. Private donations also played a big role in making the BCD’s return a success.
Mill Street Run 5K, 8:15 a.m., Bristol. Contact www.runningintheusa.com
9/11 Heroes Run 5K, 9 a.m., Feasterville. Contact www.runsignup.com
Bridge to Bridge 51.8-Mile Relay Run, 8 a.m., Washington Crossing. Contact www.runsignup.com
Chasing the Unicorn Marathon and Alternative Half-Marathon, 7:30 a.m., Washington Crossing. Contact www.runningintherusa.com