Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Remembering Charles Sayles... Nuclear Engineer, Marathon Maniac and 50 States Club Former Vice President; February 2, 1937-January 21, 2021

In the movies they call it a “meet cute”; a serendipitous meeting of the main characters that eventually leads to romance. In the “marathon world” something like this happens at finish lines every week. Runners chat with each other only to discover mutual friends or acquaintances in a Six Degrees of Separation type of connection. That’s how I met Charles at the finish line of the Honolulu Marathon in 2005. Over 20,000 runners, along with friends and family crowded Kapiolani Park after the race; my friends and I were there collecting our medals, finisher shirts and taking photos with the hula girls and warrior guys, when I spotted a lone gray haired gentleman in an LA Leggers shirt. The LA team was basically the West Coast counterpart of my team at the time, the New York Flyers, so I greeted him and offered my congratulations on finishing the race only to discover that he was also a 50 Stater and had just finished his 50th state. At that moment I realized that he was the “Charles” my friend, Sharon Kerson, a 6-time 50 State finisher from LA, had invited to our post-race brunch celebration at the Royal Hawaiian. From that day on, Charles joined our “squad” and either traveled to or met our little group, Steffen Schneider, Phil Weiland, Mike Sortito, and me at marathons around the country. At a time in life when most runners are slowing down, Charles began his marathon quest at age 64 at the Mayor’s Midnight Marathon 2001 as a member of Team in Training. He completed his first marathon and was hooked. Along with completing the 50 states within 5 years he also finished 70 marathons before he turned 70. To complete as many marathons in an efficient manner, he would run many doubles (two marathons in one weekend)-New Hampshire Marathon and Maine Marathon; and Mississippi Blues Marathon and First Light Marathon in Mobile, AL were a couple he participated in multiple times. His favorite marathons were close to his home- Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, as well as the many marathons organized by Charlie Alewine along the California coastline, however he enjoyed traveling and running some of the most difficult marathons- Estes Park, Colorado, billed as the highest paved road marathon in the US; Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon, MN; Calico Racing’s Red Rock outside of Las Vegas; ET, the Midnight Marathon at Area 51; Labor of Love at Lovell Canyon and Lake Mead, where he finished his 200th marathon. He went on to complete a lifetime total of 270 marathons as well as a second 50 State Finish at the Chicago Marathon in 2009. Additionally, he could be found every weekend running a local 5 or 10K or even a half marathon. Charles was very active in the running community. He served on the Board of Directors as Vice President of the 50 States Marathon Club for several years. He loved traveling to the club’s quarterly meetings and utilizing his award winning “Toastmasters” skills to work interviewing the runners as he presented them with their Finisher Trophies. He was an early member of the Marathon Maniacs, joining the club in April 2005 and became Maniac#141. He achieved Palladium Status, by running 21 marathons, 20 states within one year and ran 49 states after age 66. He also belonged to local clubs: LA Leggers and the Foothill Flyers Running Club. A fierce age group competitor, Charles loved challenging himself and was very proud of his accomplishments. As a runner over 80, he knew the competition in his age group and could tell you his finishing time and place in every marathon he ran. Although most of us knew him as an epic senior runner from Glendale, CA, Charles was originally from Oklahoma. He graduated from Oklahoma State University and earned his doctorate from Iowa State where he met his lovely wife, Carol, and went on to a long career as a Nuclear Engineer. He worked at Atomics International, a division of Rockwell at the time of the first Space Shuttle launch and Southern California Edison for many years. After his retirement from SCE he worked as a contract employee in several jobs in Connecticut, New York, Chicago, Indiana and repeatedly for GE in San Jose. Charles was also very active in his church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale and often made time to attend church services while traveling. Over the last few years, Charles had dealt with many health and accident issues, however last August, while competing in a Virtual 5K, Charles suffered a fall which resulted in skull fracture. After months in rehab, he entered Grace Residential Home in October and Hospice care in December. He crossed the ultimate finish line peacefully on January 21st. He leaves behind Carol, his wife of 54 years, their two sons, Tom and Ed, Ed’s wife, Laura, and their son, Jack along with many other relatives and friends throughout the US. “Sir Charles”, as his friends referred to him, was always a gentleman. His work ethic and determination inspired all who knew him. He was always well prepared but flexible enough to go along with whatever situation enfolded as they tend to do when traveling and running marathons. I'll always remember his wit, his kindness along with the fun we had at so many marathons. Rest in peace, Charles. We’ll miss you.

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