When I came to town, Darrell General used to win many of the races. He did this while holding down a full-time job standing on a concrete floor all day, managing a family and more. Though not as prolific as Mike Wardian, Darrell's story is in some ways, more captivating and impressive. Below is an old artice from the Washington Running Report
Darrell General: More Than a Marathoner
Randy MayesNovember 1999For the Washington Running Report
Darrell General, of Mitchellville, MD, is principally known as a winner of the Marine Corps Marathon, after winning the event in 1995 and 1997. In the 1980s and early 1990s he was a prolific road racer at distances from the 5K to the marathon. Originally an All-County 800m, mile, and two-mile runner for Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, MD, he wanted to eventually run longer distances. As a junior in high school, track and cross-country coach Dan Becker's unorthodox training methods had a profound effect on General's future training. At seventeen, just months after graduating from high school and being encouraged by a high school coach, Jim Zeman, he ran in Marine Corps Marathon and finished in 2:58.
After one year at Prince George's Community College, he began working full-time at Sears in 1984. That same year he ran Marine Corps again, in 2:42, and in 1985 he improved to 2:26. In 1986, he ran the New York Marathon, finishing in 2:31. In 1987, as the youngest Olympic Trials qualifier, he ran 2:19:08 at the Marine Corps Marathon. At the Trials he placed nineteenth in 2:20:30. In 1989, he set his PR (2:14:42) and placed second at the Jersey Waterfront Marathon, which also served as the TAC National Marathon Championships. In 1990 he was the First American at Boston with 2:15:28. From 1984-1991, he worked up to fifty hours per week at the Sears loading dock lifting heavy boxes, sometimes the day before a major race. His demanding work schedule did not stop him from developing his talent, as he continued to log ninety miles per week.
In 1991, he was promoted to supervisor and began coaching part- time in the afternoons. He also represented the U.S. in the marathon at the World Cup Championships in London. He set a PR at the Army Ten Miler, as he and rival Jim Hage dueled throughout the race. Both were training for the 1992 Olympic Marathon Trials, and General pulled away at the end to win by ten seconds in 48:48. In a disappointing showing of 2:25:01 in Columbus, he placed 30th at the Trials. In 1993, he set a PR for the half marathon at Parkersburg in 1:04:48 and ran 29:53 at the Vietnam Veteran's 10K in Washington, DC. General continued to post fast marathon times over the next few years: Pittsburgh (2:19:53) and Twin Cities in 1993 (2:16:08), the 1994 National Championships (2:15:56), 1995 Charlotte National Championships (2:19:06), and his win at Marine Corps in 1995 (2:16:34). He placed twelfth at the 1996 Olympic Trials in 2:16:30. In 1996 he left Sears and became a physical education teacher and assistant track coach at Potomac High School.
For the 1997 Marine Corps Marathon, he set a goal to break the course record. After putting everything into specific training, he felt he was in shape for the task. Rain that year prevented a record time, but not a win. He was disappointed with his 2:18:20. That same year he won the MS Half-Marathon (1:05:45), finished second at the GW Parkway 15K (46:46), and placed eighth at the Parkersburg Half-Marathon in 1:06, making the National Team. The World Championships were held in Slovakia, where he ran 1:05:10.
In 1998, he was the ninth place finisher at Parkersburg (1:06:46), and ran 1:07:48 in Switzerland at the World Championships. He ran four marathons: Motorola-Austin (2:16:52), Pittsburgh (2:17:58), Twin Cities (2:18:59), and Ocean State (2:25:42), qualifying three times for the 2000 Olympic Trials. He also finished first at the GW Parkway 15K in 45:55 and was chosen as the Washington Running Report Runner of the Year.
This year he ran 2:25:50 at Pittsburgh and represented the U.S. at the Pan-Am Games, placing fifth in 2:23:58. At the Parkersburg Half-Marathon National Championships, he finished in 1:08:23 and placed second at the GW Parkway 15K (46:19). The Volvo-Midland Run in Far Hills, NJ was the 1999 USA Men's Ten- Mile Championship. The night before the race, General told his roommate Weldon Johnson he was going out for a half-hour easy run. Two hours later, General returned and Weldon jokingly asked if he had gotten lost. General replied, embarrassed and disgusted, "Yes, I did." His race performance was affected and he finished in 53:54.
After making the decision not to follow through on track scholarships to several colleges, and sacrificing track experience, the roads provided his development. Being very independent and motivated, he chose to be self-coached and train alone. Still using the training methods his high school coaches taught him for strength, speed, and kick, he manages to train twice daily with a full-time job and three children. Strength training usually involves hills. Quarter to three-quarter mile repeats or tempo runs each morning prepare him for Parkersburg's hilly course.
Each afternoon he alternates distances from 100m to 1000m in interval training for speed and kick. His turnover training also enables him to pace himself without a watch, which he finds essential, and allows him to push the pace in the last half of races. His racing tactic is usually to come from behind and sprint to the finish. He has learned that, through varying his training daily, he is less likely to get injured, as he normally logs eighty miles per week and builds to one hundred miles per week before a marathon. To help with recovery from the numerous workouts, he takes super blue-green algae and vitamins. For the 1997 Marine Corps Marathon, he added upper body weight training to his regimen.
General is also entering fewer races to allocate more time for training and to stay in national class shape. In the past he has gone to races unprepared, not giving himself enough time to train properly. At 33, he has completed thirty marathons, fifteen of which were under 2:20. He ran PRs in the 1500m (3:47) and 5000m (14:20) on the same day at a Potomac Valley Track Meet. He has also run 23:32 for an 8K in San Diego and 29:29 at the 1994 Sallie Mae 10K.
When he is not coaching himself or his high school athletes, he works with his racing team that includes Antonio DeBarros, Lorenzo Nelson, and Wendall Brown. Each says they have benefitted from his coaching advice. Currently a PUMA athlete, General is training for the Olympic Marathon Trials in May. With a more flexible schedule that allows him to stay more focused and confident, he says "I have one good marathon PR left in me. The Marine Corps Marathon course record is something I think about frequently."