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Baymiller's quest for records looks good after Hilton Head Half Marathon

Dr. Daniel Hamner hops out of the rented Chevy HHR with a beaming smile on his face -- almost as bright as the red, square-rimmed glasses, the bright green jeans, and the beaten-up, neon Nikes that comprise his wardrobe.

He is eager to share the story of how he spent the better part of an hour wandering back streets in search of the 10-mile mark for Saturday's Hilton Head Island Half Marathon. In fact, "Dr. Dan" is so caught up in the moment that he almost forgets to ask the all-important question, the entire reason he is here in the first place.

"Oh!," he remembers abruptly. "What did you do?"

His eyes light up when 67-year-old Rae Baymiller tells him her time -- an hour, 33 minutes and change (she can't recall the exact time to the second) -- and he launches into an outburst peppered with language as colorful as Dr. Dan himself.

"That's a ... American record!," Dr. Dan says between excited expletives.

He comes by his excitement honestly, because he and Baymiller have put plenty of effort into reaching this moment. They are athlete and trainer -- at times, more than that -- and both are fully invested in Baymiller's quest to add at least one more age-group world record to her impressive resume.

That didn't happen Saturday -- Baymiller's time of 1:33:43 missed the world record in the women's 65-69 age division by 47 seconds -- but it was confirmation enough that this quirky couple is on the right track to challenge records at next month's New York City Half Marathon and the ABN AMRO Marathon Rotterdam in the Netherlands on April 10.

Of course, they should know the path to world-class times by now, having blazed this trail before.

A grandmother of five, Baymiller didn't start running until age 49, when she pledged to train for the 1992 Twin Cities Marathon with her daughter, Tonya. She finished that race in 3 hours, 18 minutes, and when she sat around for more than an hour waiting for her daughter to cross the line, she realized she might have found a late-blooming talent.

It was after that race that she teamed up with Dr. Dan, forming a power couple of sorts in the masters athletics world, and though their personal relationship has been of the on-again, off-again variety, their professional ties remain strong.

She is a designer, once focused on fashion but more recently tending toward lighting design, and she dreams of launching a non-profit organization to promote children's health.

He is a sports medicine guru and an accomplished athlete in his own right, at one time holding three USA Track & Field age-group records.

Together, they built Baymiller into a long-distance legend. At age 50, she ran the 1993 Philadelphia Half Marathon in 1:19:40, setting a world record that has since fallen. And at age 55, she set a mark that still stands, running the Chicago Marathon in 2:52:14.

Then she stopped running.

For 12 years, she stayed away from competitive races, dealing with injuries, personal problems, family illness and professional responsibilities.

But now she's back, and if Saturday's race was any indication, she's close to being back on top of the world.

The half marathon world record in the women's 65-69 division is 1:32:56, a mark that seems destined to fall when Baymiller runs on her home turf next month -- she splits her time between New York and Santa Fe, N.M., these days, but New York is still home -- and then it's off to a notoriously fast course in Rotterdam in April, to take a shot at American Margaret Miller's 85-year-old age-group record of 3:21:18 in the marathon.

After the race on Hilton Head, Baymiller said she was optimistic those records are within reach.

"If I really work my tail off ... and then collapse and die," she says with a laugh. "But it's worth it. You know how a goal is."

And Dr. Dan's reaction ought to be priceless.

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