Richard Garritson knows
that his family is different.
For starters, there’s the clan’s extraordinary size: 14 children, 10 boys and 4 girls.
Richard, at age 22, is the 10th of the brood.
“I’m not sure why my parents had so
many kids,” he says. “My dad was raised
Mormon, so that might have something
to do with it.” Nor does Richard have a
clear-cut reason for the other thing that
sets the Garritsons apart: their near-reli-gious devotion to distance running.
Certain matters regarding the sport,
however, appear self-evident. Mike Garritson, Richard’s father, believes that
running makes his children stronger,
both individually and collectively; that it
protects them against the corrupting elements of modern society; and that the
medicine of distance running must be
applied in very strong—perhaps, excessively strong—daily doses.
Every day at 4 p.m., the kids and grand-
children who happen to be around the
family home—a rambling ranch house
on a 17-acre lot in Valley Center, Califor-
nia, a town of 9,277 in northeast San
Diego County—join the patriarch for a
focused, rigorous workout. As James Gar-
ritson, the eldest child, who is now a
37-year-old middle-school teacher in the
nearby city of Escondido, says, “My
father is not into mediocrity. We never
run just for the sake of doing it. There’s
always a purpose.”
In the 1980s, the older Garritson kids
set age-group American records that still
stand. James ran a 33: 41 10-K at age 12.
Carrie, 35, the oldest of the girls, logged a
2: 49 marathon at age 11. “One-hundred-
mile weeks were the norm,” she recalls.
“And that included at least two sessions
of very hard speedwork.” Carrie adds that
her father almost never gave his kids a
day off from training. How come? “No one
has shown me that they help,” Mike Gar-
ritson told the Los Angeles Times in 1987.