The loneliness of the long-distance runner is no burden for Scott Driver.
Save for the occasional jog with his wife Martha, the 66-year-old Magnolia resident says he prefers to hit the pavement alone, enjoying the solitary rhythms of exertion and contemplation. "I have no desire to run with a group," Driver said. "It's just a personal, quiet time."
There is perhaps no elective physical activity more calculated to pit a man against the inner demons of exhaustion and surrender, with no help but his own willpower and well-being.
However, Driver won't be running alone for long. Come April 18, he'll join an élite cadre of athletes as he competes in the Boston Marathon, one of the few long-distance races for which runners must qualify. "Not many people get to run it," Driver said. "I was very tickled that I did qualify."
He may be the happiest person ever to turn have turned 66. Hitting that milestone this year placed Driver the marathoner in a new competitive age bracket.
Earlier this month he ran the PF Chang Rock-'n'-Roll Marathon in Phoenix, Ariz., and gained an additional 15 minutes to qualify for the big race back East. He strode past the finish line in 4 hours, 11 minutes, finishing in the upper 40 percent of his age bracket and thereby fulfilling an ambition sparked more than 20 years ago when, watching the Seattle marathon from the balcony of his downtown condominium, he overheard the almost ridiculously uplifting theme to the film "Chariots of Fire." Something in Driver lit up.
The very next year, 1983, he was on the ground, shoes laced, when the race began.. He's run the Seattle Marathon several times since, as well many others, including the 1990 Goodwill Games.
Driver, who didn't start running till he was 31, finished the '83 marathon in under four hours, "so I was pleased about that," he said. He was also pretty wrought up.
Romantically unattached at the time, Driver said that despite being ecstatic about finishing the face, he didn't have anyone to share his personal accomplishment with. "I was very emotional," he said. "As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was teary."
Every race is emotional; running a marathon, "you experience different physical and emotional-slash-mental sensations," he said. "Unless you're a world-class marathoner, by the time you're finished you're going to be tired. It just pushes your body so much."
A marathon can hold a few surprises, despite the apparent tedium of the task. For instance, within the first 10 miles of the Phoenix race Driver tangled up with another runner and tripped, skinning his hands and knees. Fortunately, it happened relatively early in the race, before the physical trials of the late stages when runners have been known to fall and not get up.
"I just hopped right up, and I was off and flying," Driver said.
Other than that, he said the Arizona marathon presented some of the finest running conditions he's encountered. "The first 15 miles were the easiest of any marathon I've ever run," Driver said, adding that the course was flat, the temperature was mild and, what's more, there was a high-school band playing every mile along the way.
Not to say it was a cake-walk. During training, just a few weeks before the race, Driver caught a cold. As he says, every infinitesimal change in body chemistry affects your performance on any given day. By the final phase of the race, "I was really reaching down deep."
What he did was visualize all his runs through Magnolia on cold, rainy days, telling himself: "I can achieve the time I need, yes, I'm tired but it doesn't matter."
Driver has lived most of his life in the Northwest. He was born in Shelton, grew up on a dairy farm in Ellensburg, where he also attended college, and has lived the last 12 years in Magnolia. "I plan to be here forever," he said. "I just love it."
For the past 22 years, Driver has worked as a real estate broker, specializing in placing office tenants. His wife, Martha, is a human-resources administrator for King County; she also makes jewelry. Scott has grown children from a previous marriage who, with kids of their own, live in the area. He said he and Martha now have their hands full with their two King Charles cavalier spaniels.
Driver called Magnolia "a wonderful place" to run. When not in training, he runs five miles, six days a week - up the Magnolia Bridge, eventually making his way along Magnolia Boulevard all the way to Discovery Park. Up and back, he said, is about 4.8 miles.
Driver has stuck with the training he utilized when preparing for his first marathon. He'll calibrate the weeks leading up to the event and start with a 10-mile run, adding two miles every week until, just prior to the race, he is running the full 26.2 marathon miles.
It's important to break up long runs into small increments, Driver said, and to approach the distance one length at a time. One of the biggest challenges of training is the uncertainty: "There's absolutely no way to predict how you're going to feel when that day comes," he said. "You're really lucky if you don't get sick."
Before qualifying for the Boston Marathon, Driver assumed he'd be happy just to run the thing. However, "in the last week," he said, "I've been thinking, 'Well...." What he's figuring, he said, is that he could do pretty well for his age group. "I'm fairly competitive in a quiet way," he said. "If everything's 100 percent, I could be in the top 10. My objective will be to finish with the best time that I can achieve without being stupid."
Driver, as befits his name, plans on traveling cross-country to the marathon on his motorcycle, a Harley Davidson 2002 Road King Classic. Should take about five days, he reckons. The trip, coupled with the marathon, is "a very unique opportunity to combine" his two favorite recreations. And en route he can stop in Minnesota and tour the Harley factory.
Driver's put the word out that any of his riding buddies are welcome to join him. He runs alone, but he likes to ride with friends. "I suspect that two or three might ride a ways with me," he said.
Driver said growing up on a dairy farm instilled in him a strong work ethic, which in turn has had a powerful effect on the goals he's set for himself. "I guess my running a marathon is how pretty much I've approached a lot in my life," he said. "You have to be able to persevere. A marathon is the epitome of endurance activity. Once you start the engine, your objective is to finish.
"That carries over into relationships," he added. "Don't quit. Don't give up. Anyone who accomplishes some activity that really pushes you and keeps pushing you ... you learn something from that."
A poster on the wall of Driver's office pictures a lone runner jogging down a country road. The caption beneath says, "The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running."
"That really tells a story about life," Driver said.