by Thad Mumau | Photography by Diana Matthews
Quite a while ago, Fayetteville residents Marsha Kouba and Austin Lehmann set some formidable, ambitious goals for themselves. Both have reached them.
In February, Kouba ran a marathon in Africa, marking the seventh continent on which she has entered and finished a 26.2-mile event. An OutreachNC story documented sometime back that she had already run marathons in all 50 states, and now she has done it on all the continents as well.
“I am happy to have that finished,” she says. “One of the great things about running in all of those places is that my husband, Steve, and I had such extraordinary experiences visiting every state and continent.”
As it turned out, Kouba saved the hardest for last.
“Oh, boy, Africa was rough,” she says. “The heat, the elevation and the extra hilly terrain would have been challenging, if it had been just one of those things. All together … Wow!”
The race took place at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The combination of stifling heat and thin air made breathing difficult. And then there was the extra added attraction.
“We ran quite a distance on an unpaved road,” Kouba says, “with traffic. Cars and trucks, goats and dogs, people walking to church. Kids coming up to the runners. The first 10 miles of the marathon were fairly typical. After that, it became fairly atypical.
“Of all the marathons I have done, Africa and Antarctica were the hardest.”
Kouba, a post-surgical nurse, ran her first marathon in 1992. Her eleventh appearance at the Boston Marathon in April was her 91st marathon.
“My family wants me to go for 100,” she says. “We’ll see.”
This magazine had also told readers the story of Austin Lehmann, the school teacher and sure-shot basketball camp instructor of many a summer, who decided to see how long it would take to launch 1 million shots at a hoop.
The answer, for him, turned out to be five years and a month. Taking 500 to 1,000 shots every weekday morning before school and at least 1,000 on weekend days, Lehmann seldom missed a day of shooting. He also seldom missed a shot, most of which were launched from the 15-foot range.
He sank over 1,000 in a row twice and hit at least 100 consecutive shots every single day. None of them were layups. He kept meticulous records for each morning of shooting – the number of attempts, the number of made shots and the number of makes without a miss.
Early in the afternoon on June 5, with members of the Lake Rim Elementary School student body and faculty on hand, Lehmann took shot No. 1,000,000. Making a wonderful day even more so were his wife, Jolene; son, A.B.; and daughter, Rachel.
It was an emotional moment for a man who goes about life quietly, spending much of his time doing things for others. Everyone gave him a long and loud standing ovation, and he was noticeably touched.
Baden, the company that makes the basketballs used for this amazing display of determination and marksmanship, is paying tribute to Lehmann with a special ball made in his honor. It is a top-of-the-line leather basketball, with “Austin Lehmann” printed on one panel and “1,000,000 Shots” printed on another.
“I’m happy to reach the end,” he says. “I don’t think I had any idea it would take this long. I don’t think I had any idea just how big a number 1 million is.”