Local News

Running for excellence

SEBRING -The walls of Doug Morton's home tell a story of a life spent focused on family, the hobbies he is passionate about, and his accomplishments in marathons and bike and running duathlons. "Marathons are more mental than physical, especially after 20 miles," noted the fiercely competitive athlete, who finished the 26.2-mile Marine Corp. Marathon in Washington D.C. in October in 2 hours, 34 minutes and 52 seconds. A room of the Golf Hammock home he shares with his wife of five years, Arin, and their children, Madeleine and Max, is overflowing with racing jerseys, commemorative photos, and countless ribbons, plaques and trophies awarded for his wins. Collections of fly fishing gear, French cook books, and 12 Hours of Sebring memorabilia are prominently reminders of hobbies that have held a great deal of meaning to him.
Since he first attended the Sebring endurance car race as a junior in high school in 1988, Morton has been an avid fan, fascinated by the history of the course and the races that have run there every year expect one since 1950. He has collected programs from each race, securing all but three. "I use to be crazy into distance fly casting," noted Morton looking at a selection of rods stored in the corner. A former member of a fly fisherman club out of Sarasota, he reminisced about mastering the beauty of the cast. "I tend to excel at whatever I put my mind to.that's why I'm a decent runner." Though he loves French cuisine and is an excellent chef, his training no longer permits the luxury of its rich foods and sauces. At 5 feet 11 inches and 155 pounds, Morton strives to keep himself lean. Currently suffering from an injury, he said his ideal racing weight is 140. "Being a competitive runner or biker, your weight is a factor. You need to put in the time, train properly, eat right and have driven determination. You also need a coach who is going to train you for your ability," he advised. Peering at several family photos on his dining room wall, Morton proudly pointed out his 15-year-old daughter, Mariah, explaining that she moved to Tennessee with her mother after the couple divorced seven years ago. He met his present wife, Arin, through her parents, Dick and Lois Brown, ardent marathon runners who founded the Turkey Trot at Highlands Hammock 20 years ago. "She gets my craziness," he explained. Retired Avon Park High School running coach Chet Brojek has know Morton since he helped the DeSoto High track star qualify for his first run in the Boston Marathon in 1996, a race Morton repeated last year. Brojek, who is now director of Midflorida Credit Union, described his training and runner partner as "one of the elite master division (ages 40 plus) runners in Florida." "In distances from the 5K to the marathon, he holds all area record times," remarked Brojek. "He is an excellent coach and mentor to many in our running community. I am so proud of (Doug)." A member of the Central Florida Striders, Morton seldom races in local competitions anymore; instead he volunteers as a coach and race timer. He is also a member of the Tampa area "Fit2Run" racing team, sponsored by NikÚ. "My racing flats are all NikÚs," said Morton, though he wears a Newton shoe designed for a mid-foot strike for his everyday runs. Morton said his training regiment has evolved, with him now varying his speed and the intensity of his pace. He credits the guidelines set down by coaching legend Jack Daniels in his 1998 book, "Daniels' Running Formula," with improvements in his race times. Morton initially moved to Sebring to get his degree from South Florida State College. He returned in 1992 after attending University of Central Florida to take a position at Short Environmental Laboratories, a nationally certified lab that monitors drinking water, ground water and waste water. "We are the guys that go out collect samples and do reports," explained Morton. Currently a project manager, he has worked as an analyst, in quality assurance and as lab manager over the past 21 years. "I've always been a science guy," said Morton. "With everything in life, it comes down to being competitive and wanting to excel."