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Anti-sub gunner to keep marathon in line

Anti-sub gunner to keep marathon in line

 

By MARY BROWNFIELD

Published April 16, 2004

 

      John Mutty, a retired U.S. Navy officer and former antisubmarine aircraft pilot who teaches financial management at the Naval Postgraduate School, spent Tuesday morning spray painting pavement on Highway 1.

 

      Marking each of the 26.2 miles along the roadway is one among many varied tasks Mutty undertakes each year as course director of the Big Sur International Marathon which will have thousands of athletes running and walking up the scenic Big Sur and Carmel coastline next Sunday.

 

      Mutty and his fellow volunteers are "responsible for everything between the start and the finish," he said.

 

     As course director, a job he assumed in 1997, Mutty oversees the aid stations set up every couple of miles to supply water, Gatorade and other sustenance to participants. He ensures everyone has enough supplies. He provides set-up locations for the musicians. He coordinates the volunteers who call out runners' times and pace each mile. He confers with the California Highway Patrol on traffic control and when and how convoys of motorists should travel while the highway is closed. He ensures the presence of the bicycle-riding police officers with their portable automatic defibrillators, as well as the course marshals who keep everyone in place. He coordinates the ham radio operators who broadcast the race worldwide and offer the only source of reliable mobile communication in the miles-long cell phone dead zone.

 

     He even makes sure the highway is left cleaner than it was before the race.

 

     "Last month, the Hartnell Physics Club picked up litter along the entire course and will do so again afterward," he said. "So the course is cleaner because of the marathon."

 

Marathoning muscle man

 

     Like all of the volunteers on the BSIM board of directors, Mutty can run 26.2 miles without a hitch. He signed up for his first marathon while stationed in Newport, R.I., in 1976, because he wanted to try it and the city was hosting its inaugural race that year.

 

     "I actually have kind of a football player's physique-more of a weightlifter, I guess-and I don't run very fast," he said.

 

     He ran a dozen more marathons during the 27 years he flew Orion P-3s, hunting submarines and conducting maritime surveillance for the Navy, as well as after his retirement in 1994. He competed in the Boston Marathon, and the Marine Corps Marathon and races in Bermuda, Spain and Melbourne, Australia.

 

     "They've run the gamut from very small fields to very large," he said.

 

     But his favorite, of course, is Big Sur, which he ran for the first time in 1994, the year before he moved to the Peninsula to take the teaching job at NPS.

 

     "I would be lying if I said anything other than it's the most spectacular one around," he said. "As far as scenery, there's no comparison."

 

     Mutty volunteered to take on the role of course director seven years ago at the request of friend and former Marine Wally Kastner, the race director.

 

     The first race he helped organize was held in the wake of 1998's El Nino storms, which brought down the mountainside at Hurricane Point, closing the highway and cutting off the usual marathon route.

 

     "Right after I became course director, we had the rain, hail and winds on Hurricane Point that gave it its name," he said. "With the landslide, we had to do an out-and-back course, so that was a very interesting experience, because all of the lessons learned and handed down didn't apply that year."

 

Armed Forces skills a plus

 

     Mutty said his military background - organizing, delegating and following complex operational plans - prepared him well to be a course director.

 

     "A number of the volunteers are former military officers, and I think that has helped," he observed.

 

     With the marathon and accompanying relay race beginning at the Big Sur Station south of the River Inn, and the 21-mile PowerWalk, 10-mile Walk and 5k race all occurring concurrently, participants are bused to various starting points and volunteers are dropped off and picked up along the course.

 

     It could be an organizational nightmare, but the field of more than 2,000 volunteers - many returning year after year - and a dedicated board help everything operate smoothly, according to Mutty.

 

     "Essentially 95 percent of the people [overseeing the event] are part-time volunteers," he said. "The fact that it comes off as well as it does every year serves as a testimony to the people we have working on the board and the volunteers."

 

     Since board members have to work on marathon day, their annual Directors Run will take place early April 17, without the benefit of traffic control.

 

     "We start at about 5 a.m. so it's pitch black, and those of us who are slower runners end up fighting traffic the closer we get to the finish line," Mutty said. "That probably makes it more interesting than otherwise. It takes me almost five hours now, compared to the elite runners, who could run it forward and backward in the time it takes me to run it."

 

     The Big Sur International Marathon will begin at 7 a.m. on Sunday, April 25. The marathon, relay, and both walks are sold out, but registration remains open for the News 46 5k run/walk. For more information, visit the BSIM Health and Fitness Expo at Monterey Conference Center at 1 Portola Plaza noon to 7 p.m. April 23 and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 24 or go to www.bsim.org.

 

PHOTO/MARY BROWNFIELD

Photo Caption 

Outfitted in orange safety vest and wielding a can of spray paint, Big Sur International Marathon course director John Mutty spent Tuesday morning painting mile markers on Highway 1, accompanied by fellow volunteers, a CHP officer and a state parks ranger "to make sure we don't spray paint any squirrels." Mutty is in charge of everything between the start and the finish line of the April 25 event.