SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Lifelong Marathoner Is Just Getting Started

When Benjamin McDonnell dashes off the line at the 10th annual Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday, he may not be at the front of the pack, at least where speed is concerned.

In due time, though, the 74-year-old McDonnell will pass some runners half his age who fail to reach the finish line of the grueling 26.2-mile course. He's done it before in the past nine L.A. Marathons.

But that's not to say that McDonnell's bragging.

The retired pipe fitter and welder, a San Juan Capistrano resident, said he hasn't kept track of how many marathons he's run over the years, and added that the best time he's ever clocked is "three-something," which translates into roughly three hours and 10 minutes.

Give him about five hours now, and he'll get the job done.

"I do it for the fun and enjoyment," said McDonnell, a native of Dublin, Ireland, who can usually be seen in the early morning logging his weekly 35 miles.

McDonnell follows a fitness regimen that includes running, swimming, weightlifting and hitting a heavy bag, like boxers do in gymnasiums. Boxing is a sport he took up while in the British army at age 19, a sport that taught him about roadwork--the lonely runs a boxer must put in to gain stamina in the ring.

At age 5, McDonnell said he first became smitten with sports, such as soccer, cross-country running and rugby. His zest for physical exertion and sweat remains with him to this day.

"He runs anything that comes along," said McDonnell's wife, Elena, who enjoys walking and light workouts with weights. "He's always been that way. He feels sick if he doesn't do it."

McDonnell's running has taken him to San Diego and Long Beach for marathons in those two cities. He has also run with Marines at Camp Pendleton on a seven-mile cross-country course.

According to Los Angeles Marathon officials, McDonnell was one of 48 runners between 70 and 74 who competed among the 18,796 entrants in last year's race. He is also one of 543 runners who have finished all nine L.A. Marathons.

Although McDonnell can't run marathons as swiftly as he used to, he said he isn't about to stop. "When you rest, you rust," he said with a smile.

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