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Following Dad's lead, family stays on run

Rhonda Calvin doesn't look like a mad scientist, but she concedes she did indeed create a "monster." Make that a "running monster."

Her 45-year-old husband, Bill, runs an average of 70 miles per week _ a 10-mile per-day average.

"Bill is unquestionably the top runner in his age division in the entire Tampa Bay area _ there is no doubt about that," said Joe Burgasser, coach and founder of Forerunners running club, which is based in St. Petersburg.

Bill Calvin didn't always wear out running shoes every two or three months. He never used to run at all.

That changed 13 years ago, when the Calvins were living in Lynn, Mass.

"At the time, the Boston Marathon was coming up and that's all everybody was talking about," she said. "I wanted to get back in shape, but I was bored with exercising at home, so I decided to try jogging."

One problem. She was afraid to run by herself and persuaded her husband to escort her. On her first jaunt, she huffed and puffed for a mile. Bill rode a bike beside her with their 2-year-old son, Michael, on the back.

On ensuing runs, Rhonda had Bill join her on foot.

"Then as it always happens with a guy and a girl, I couldn't keep up with him and he would get mad," Rhonda said. "I found other people to run with and he went off on his own. Now look at the running monster I created."

Together, the couple has produced three little running monsters _ Katie, 8; Marc, 10; and Michael, now 15. All four are regular competitors at Tampa Bay area road races.

Rhonda is the only one in the family who doesn't run now. She suffered a serious knee injury two years ago that keeps her on the sidelines.

"I watch a lot of races," she said.

Of the four Calvin runners, Bill is the fanatic. He has skipped his daily run just once in two years.

The date is lodged in his memory.

"It was November 10, (1990)," he recalled. "I spent all day moving soccer goals from one field to another. And when I was ready for my run that evening, there was a thunder and lightning storm. So I had to miss. I felt real bad about it."

Bill Calvin works in production control for Aircraft Porous Media, a company that makes filter systems. He finds time to run either before or after work. Many times he runs twice a day.

"His dedication and hard work certainly are a big reason he is so good," Burgasser said of Calvin, who is a Forerunners member along with Michael.

"There are probably a lot of other 45-year-olds with Bill's talent who are still sitting on a sofa."

Calvin has conquered 13 marathons, including the prestigious Boston Marathon four times. His best finish is 2:50:12 at the Ocean State marathon in Newport, R.I. in 1979.

But his days of running 26.2-mile races are over. He has been fighting a nine-year battle with plantar faciitis (inflammation of a tendon that runs lengthwise along the bottom of the foot).

Instead, Calvin puts his effort into shorter distances. The pain of the ailment is always there, "like a toothache," he said. "But I've learned to live with it."

He must have. He'll be honored as the overall champion of the Suncoast Runners Club 12-race series. Runners are awarded points according to their age-group finishes in each race.

The last race of the series was St. Petersburg's Bay-to-Bay May 26. He won the 45-49 age group in the 7.5-mile run in 43:25.

"It was hot," Bill Calvin said. "But I like to run in the heat."

Daughter Katie is just the opposite. She likes to run when it's cool.

But despite the heat, she also won her age group (9-and-under) in the Bay-to-Bay's 5K (3.1-mile) race in 24:44.

"That was a bad time," said the third-grader at Holy Name School of St. Petersburg. "My first 5K I ran in 30-something, then 27 minutes, 25, 24, 23."

Her personal best for a 5K is 22:14. And Katie also will be getting an award as the winner of the 14-and-under age group of the Suncoast Runners series.

That's pretty good for the 4-foot-1, 58-pounder who usually is one of the smallest competitors. Her brother Marc isn't much bigger at 4-6, 67 pounds.

In the start of large road races, Bill Calvin runs behind his two youngest children to make sure they don't get trampled.

"I block for them so they don't get knocked over," he said. "Marc got pushed down in one race. Some people just don't care sometimes.

"People think, "Oh, these little kids, they don't belong up front.' And then those little kids finish before them.' Those people think they don't belong up front, but they do. They run fast enough.

"It's funny, but some of the women in the (Forerunners) club have a goal to beat Katie," Bill Calvin said.

Katie's goal is to beat Marc, who is one grade ahead of her at Holy Name.

Marc took ninth place in his age group (10-14) at Bay-to-Bay with a time of 22:19 in the 5K race.

In the 7.5-mile race, Mike, a sophomore at Clearwater Central Catholic, finished in 51:35.

Mike's long-range goal is to someday beat his father. "But that will be pretty tough," he said.

Rhonda and Bill Calvin are pleased their children like to run. But they also are pleased that they aren't quite the running fanatic Bill is at this stage of their lives.

Schoolwork comes first, Rhonda Calvin said. Then there is time for other activities. They all are involved in other sports, from gymnastics to soccer to basketball to fishing to golf.

"We don't want them to specialize when they are so young," Rhonda said, while Bill nodded in agreement. "We don't want to make the decision for them."

The Calvins don't allow Marc or Katie to run in a race longer than a 5K even though Marc and Katie both want to run a 10K.

"When you're bigger," Bill Calvin told them.