- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Darrell General will surpass his boyhood idols, Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter, tomorrow by competing in his fifth Olympic marathon trials.

“I lived in Southeast until I was 10,” said General, who will line up with nearly 100 of the nation’s top distance runners in the U.S. Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials. “When I was younger, I used to run up and down the alleys of Southeast. It was like 1972, 1973. I would be watching Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter on TV duking it out for two hours, and I thought it was cool. I would run up and down the alleys of Southeast thinking I was Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter.”

In three decades, though, General has never gained the world-class status of Rodgers or Shorter, but he certainly has enjoyed local hero status around the District, winning the Marine Corps Marathon twice and rarely finishing out of the money on the area racing circuit.

But unlike his previous U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials dating back to 1988, General will not be focusing on one of the three tickets to the Olympic Games in Athens. An injury to his right knee likely will knock the 38-year-old Hyattsville resident out of contention.

“I have no idea [what kind of time I will run],” General said. “I’m injured but thankful to be able to run. I started running in September. I was out all summer because my right knee has been bothering me. I’m about 75 percent there. I’m going to go out there and run as fast as possible, but I don’t want to predict what I can do. It’s a trials race. I want to go there and have fun.”

The closest General has come to a trip to the Olympics was 1996 in Charlotte, when he placed 12th. That was disappointing after winning his first Marine Corps three months before and coming to the trials with five qualifying times.

“Like the other trials before, my training for that trials was amazing,” said General, remembering the freezing conditions in Charlotte. “That was the year when we had the snowstorm in January and the trials were in February. The snow was about as tall as I was. It was to my waist. I couldn’t do anything for three weeks. So I went to a race in San Diego and stayed out there for two weeks with family. It was enough to get me down to 2:16:30, but 2:13 won it. It was a strong trials race, and for that I will always remember it. Everybody thought I ran well, but I was a bit disappointed because I was shooting for one of those three spots.”

Although he is one of America’s most consistent marathoners, the 5-foot-6, 135-pound General has never reached his potential. He was a rising star in 1988 as the youngest trials qualifier at 22 and a year later ran 2:14:42, his fastest time. The next year, he scored big as the first American at Boston in 1990

“His longevity and his ability to continue to meet the trials time goals are incredible,” said Rick Nealis, Marine Corps Marathon race director who also served with General on the board of the Potomac Valley Association of USA Track & Field. “I always thought Darrell’s never gotten his true recognition, his true due. He’s like a lot of runners in our sport who have to work and train at the same time.

“When he won Marine Corps the first time, it blew me away that a guy who’s the caliber of the runner he is in our sport works full time lifting heavy boxes at Sears.”

Now General works full time at Metro Run & Walk and as a coach at Marshall High School in Falls Church. And while he believes someday he could run a 2:12, it probably will not happen tomorrow.

So he looks to the future. Only three other men have qualified for five Olympic marathon trials: Doug Kurtis (1980 to 1996), Ric Sayre (1980 to 1996) and Ed Eyestone (1984 to 2000). General could be the first to qualify for six marathon trials four years from now.

“If I can stay healthy, I think I can qualify for the 2008 trials,” he said.

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