- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

“It was a good run,” Betty Cornett said to her husband, Chuck. She held his hand as he released his last breath.

With no visible pain, Charles S. “Chuck” Cornett died of a massive heart attack on the morning of June 25 after 71 vibrant years of life.

“He lived with gusto until the very minute of his last breath,” said Betty, his wife of 50 years.

Chuck probably was best known to runners around the country as the longtime symposium speaker for the Marine Corps Marathon, as well as other marathons like Twin Cities, Charlotte and Pittsburgh.

His reach was far and deep.

“I have been overwhelmed with messages of condolence from runners all over the country, many I do not know,” Betty said from their Gulf Breeze home near Pensacola, Fla.

Chuck’s pre-race talk, “How to Run the Marathon and Love It,” for at least the past 18 years at Marine Corps was inspirational, humorous and filled with knowledgeable tips for runners. He had other seminar topics, too, including “Eat Slim, Walk Trim,” which was keyed to beginners desiring to start getting fit in his famous 35-day program; “How to Run Fast and Smart,” which was geared to runners desiring to better racing times; and his post-graduate seminar, “How to Train For and Run a Marathon.”

He had no strong physical ties to Washington, growing up in Honolulu and Louisiana and living the life of a naval aviator out of Pensacola. But he loved the Marine Corps Marathon.

“He thought it was a people’s run,” said Betty, who said she twice participated in the mid-1980s. “Anybody could run it. There was no qualifying time. It’s so patriotic. You run through the monuments, and the crowd was super. He thought everyone should do it. Sometimes I’d go with him to Washington to the race. Sometimes he’d go up there with a group of runners from here without me.”

Many of those runners were from the Florida Striders Track Club. Chuck was one of the five founders as well as president of the club. For a long time, he also was one of the keepers of the traditional Sunday morning run from Sun Tire store, which began on Oct.13, 1978.

As many as 150 runners came out to join Chuck during marathon season, and sadly he came up just shy of his goal of 100 marathons.

“He had completed 96 or 97 marathons,” Betty said. “His goal was to get to 100. But he had pains in the last couple of years. He figured his running days were over. When we were in Spain [six weeks before died], he said he would try to get his running going again, starting slowly.”

Chuck was much more than a marathoner, certified running coach, husband and father of four. He retired from the Navy as a captain after a 30-year career, which included a tour of Vietnam.

His love of race cars culminated in the purchase of a Corvette pace-car upon retirement.

“In 1998, we traveled all 48 states in 3 weeks, solely for the reason to take that car and let the world see it,” Betty said. “It was just an exciting trip. He photographed the car in front of the ‘welcome’ signs to every state.”

He survived two bouts with cancer, a non-Hodgkins tumor on his eye and a melanoma on his back. He had not been feeling well since his return from Spain six weeks before. Doctors could not find anything wrong.

“His death was totally unexpected,” Betty said. “He had just visited with a neighbor, had breakfast, sat down at his computer to work and I heard a noise. He died shortly after in the hospital. After the cancers, he feared his death would linger. As days passed, our family realized that it was a blessing, that was the way he wanted to go.”

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