He ran his first Deseret News Marathon in basketball shoes and when he finished, Angelo Kournianos polished off eight cans of Gatorade and promised never to run another one.
Two decades later Angelo Kournianos finds that he has failed miserably in keeping that promise. He ran the Deseret News Marathon again - and again, and again and again . . . Of the 23 DesNews Marathons that have ever been held, he has started the last 21 and finished 19. No one's sure if that's a race record, but it is certainly a lot of running - 497.8 miles of it, to be precise, which is about how far he travels from his home in Denver."I've done 60 marathons," says Kournianos. "The Deseret News is just one I do religiously."
This morning Kournianos will return to the starting line of the Deseret News Marathon once again, this time seeking his 19th consecutive finish.
Kournianos made his marathon debut in 1972 in the Deseret News Marathon, which was then in its third year. "I thought it would be a challenging thing to do," he says. "It was before it was the popular thing to do. We didn't have fancy shoes or T-shirts. I trained in Converse basketball shoes. It took me four hours to finish the first one, and when I was finished I said I'd never do it again."
Kournianos set out to run faster in his next two DesNews races, but never reached the finish line. He didn't finish the race in either 1973 or '74, dropping out at 18 miles near Hogle Zoo.
"I was trying for a fast time," he says. "I just ran out of gas."
After his second non-finish he vowed never again to quit a marathon. He's finished 18 consecutive Deseret News Marathons since then, running times ranging from 3:18 to 4:19.
Kournianos, an accountant who lived in Salt Lake City until he left the state in 1978, has had to travel from his homes in Denver and Dallas to continue his streak in the Deseret News race. During the race's early years, he slept in his car near the starting line in Parleys Canyon because he worried that he might miss the early 5:15 a.m. start of the marathon. For the last 21 years he's been on the starting line on time and for 19 of them he's been at the finish line, too.
"I know what it takes to finish Deseret News," he says. "I know the course."
After two decades, he ought to.