Never Bet Against Bernie
Never bet against Bernie Roger Robinson
(Running Times, January 1999)
In April 1980 Bernie Portenski made a bet. She would quit smoking and drinking; and she would run a marathon. For a busy, party-loving, 30-year-old out-of-shape suburban hair- dresser, the odds against her looked long.
A year later she had won the bet, and changed her life.
In October 1998, Bernie (for Bernadine) Portenski set herself another triple challenge. She would run the world's fastest marathon by a woman aged 49; and she would do it, or go close, three times in successive weekends. Three 2:48 marathons in fifteen days, on opposite sides of the world, with 16,000 miles of travelling, two major changes of time zone and every spare day spent on her feet at her busy hair salon in Wellington, New Zealand. Again, long odds. But don't ever bet against Bernie.
"When you set a goal you've got to do it, haven't you?" she told me firmly the day after I had watched her in the second leg of this almost perverse treble, the New York City Marathon. Perhaps lulled by the warm Fall sunshine as we ate lunch on Broadway that mellow Monday, I had enquired if her Marathon Number 3, the obscure Canterbury Marathon in Christchurch, New Zealand, was really worth the effort. Was she not tempted to stay on and enjoy New York while her legs recovered?
But Bernie likes a purpose. She devours challenges like other people drink coffee. She’s no mere marathon machine, and has a relish for running and for life that you hear in her hearty, husky post-race chuckle. But she never lets go on a goal.