Murphy, The Marathon Man and me

Terry Wilson on his book, “Life’s Too Short … And So Am I”

By Sarah Sidlow

Photo: Terry Wilson, about to go on the air for the first time on WING radio

Terry Wilson has been all over the globe. For over 40 years, he has brought his boundless energy and sense of humor to his work as an Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, director and on-air television and radio personality. He became known around the country in 1968 when, at age 22, he set a world record, broadcasting non-stop for 200 hours from the window of a restaurant in Oxford, Ohio, and earning the signature, “the Marathon Man.”

With Murphy – yes, of “Murphy’s Law” – as his ever-faithful and always in-tow travel companion, Wilson has accrued an unbelievable collection of stranger-than-fiction tales of survival, including being attacked by a shark, run over by a semi truck and hit by lightning, not once, but three times. It’s a fortunate combination of good humor and martial arts training that has kept Wilson alive through so many circumstances.

His unbelievable stories are punctuated by his unlikely and obsessive collection of photographs, which document these and other stories you simply want to believe are true. (He even has a photo of his first kiss).

Wilson’s recently released book, “Life’s Too Short … And So Am I,” chronicles a number of these moments – replete with those improbable pictures – and features Murphy as an important and recurring character.

The tireless and animated Wilson met with me on a gloomy day at a coffee shop in Centerville, Ohio, having returned that weekend for West Carrollton High School’s 50th class reunion. He gesticulated through punchlines and spoke in so many different voices that the characters in his stories morphed seamlessly into the many personalities of The Marathon Man. As he fumbled with technology and flipped through photos, we talked about nerds and prom queens, the radio marathon, the misadventures and traveling with Murphy.

Life’s too short…

“When I got fired because I was too old to be in prime time, according to my network owner, I sat down and I finished this book, because people kept telling me I should write it. And it contains all of my misadventures, and I really thought, ‘no one’s going to read this, but I got nothing else to do.’ And other people would read the drafts and they’d say, ‘Terry, it’s a great story but you are so full of shit.’

I said, ‘Yeah, that’s true too…’ And they said, ‘That couldn’t happen to anybody,’ and I thought, ‘Well, I’d better put pictures in.’

So, I went through my scrapbooks, because I almost always take a picture when something happens; I’m almost never without a camera on me. Because this stuff happens … Elvis could walk out of that car right now.” – Terry Wilson

The Marathon Man

“I worked at a small station WOXR, in Oxford Ohio, home of Miami University. At the time, it was above Beasley’s Bakery. They made me program director, which was scary because then I had to break my own rules.

Ox House restaurant was right across the street and we agreed I would broadcast from that window. The deal was to go on the air 24 hours a day and set a world record. And I’ve got great pictures of me – you can see, the first 24 hours you can handle, at 48 you start getting kinda [loopy]…

So, I’m sitting there and I can’t stay up another minute. Nobody’s in the restaurant, they’re open 24 hours and there’s just one waitress there. Tapping her fingernails on the desk. And all of a sudden it hit. The college crowd came in and it was their version of a rave every night. And [the Marathon] picked up on the national wires. I had all the major markets calling me every night. It became a crazy party. What we found out, was at about 62 hours you start to hallucinate.

Well, I had hit about 163 hours. See the tape around the microphone? About four hours earlier I thought that had turned into a big snake, and I wrestled it on the ground and beat it up. I had already destroyed the two sets of remote gear the station had, so we had to go out, Gerry-rig my record-hop equipment, and patch it into the radio station across the street. Because I would hallucinate.

[Pointing to a photo,] see, I’m hallucinating here. In the next four minutes, I interview a little man sitting on my sandwich. Mr. Roast Beef Sandwich, Plain. And then at the end of the interview, I ate him on the air…

The one time it got kind of dangerous was, the restaurant had an upstairs – a balcony –  and downstairs was the salad bar and seating. I had gotten away from my people, my handlers. And one of the fraternities had put a big no-doze tablet in the background, made out of paper Mache. They were setting that up and I walked up to the top of the stairs and they heard me singing the theme music to ‘Superman.’ ‘Da da da da, able to leap tall…’ and as soon as I said ‘able to leap tall buildings,’ I leaped off of the damn thing, and thank God they caught me, but we all hit the salad bar…

I was picking lettuce off of guys and eating it; oh, it was hysterical.

[Later, because of the marathon,] I was on the Dick Clark Show. While I was there, I got on the Joe Pine Show. Joe Pine was the first of the guys that had crazy people on late-night TV. I was the normal one. I stayed on the air 200 hours. I was sitting next to a guy that was wrapped in cellophane with an antenna on his head because he was getting instructions from the moon. So I looked pretty damn sane.” – TW


“I was run over by a semi-truck while standing inside a shell mini-mart a handful of years ago. It’s in the book; got pictures.

I’m standing inside a Shell minimart and a runaway 18-wheeler truck – not just any runaway 18-wheeler where the guy had a heart attack. This guy parked his truck on a hill, got out to get a taco, forgot to set the brake – and that damn truck traversed down the hillside missing every shop, every car, every thing in its path except the Shell minimart. And I’m reaching in for a bottle of water and BOOM, here comes the truck. So I went with the force of the truck – this is coming from my martial arts training – I went to its weak side, if a semi truck ever has a weak side. And it flung me through a bunch of shelves. And now I’m pinned, shelves have fallen across my leg. Here’s the humor: the truck keeps coming, and it’s bending shelves; stuff keeps flying at me. So I’m trying to block, like, cans of tomato juice and baked beans, but I’ll let the toilet paper and the soft stuff hit me. The truck has stopped now, and I hear the sirens coming. Guess where they put me? I’m in the Häagen-Dazs section. I swear to Pete. I can’t use my hands, but I can use my nose, by granddad’s big-ass nose finally came in handy. So I pushed that lever, and right there is a chocolate Häagen-Dazs, and I bury my head in it – I’m so thirsty, and I’m licking it up like a dog.

Now the paramedics are digging through the rubble – and you’ve gotta picture this – I’ve got a face full of chocolate, and the paramedic turns me around, I’ve got this big black face, and I say [in the voice of Al Jolson] ‘Is everybody happy? Swanee, how I love ya…’”

Terry has left the building

“The Marathon gave me the name the Marathon Man, but when I worked at KODS in Reno, that’s when the Marathon Man came to life. I did the stuff of old time radio back in the day we didn’t have programming. And I would probably still be there had the program director not come in early one night.

The national program director worked at the station, he did a morning show. And I had a deal with the girl that would lead. I said listen, if you’re ever sick, call me, let me know, and she forgot to call, and it was one of the craziest nights. I’d taken everybody in my ’57 time machine to the Hemophiliac Drive-In, in San Francisco and had a Rice-a-Roni treat. It was one of the craziest nights I’d ever done, it was like I was on crack – it was funnier than hell. And I turned around, and there’s the program director.

So they called me into a meeting, and the General Manager says, ‘Terry your show is sold out. But you’re not following the format…’

And people still talk about how I left; [after a long meeting trying to come to an agreement, Program Director] Joel said well, Terry what do you think?

I said, ‘Sir, I’d rather have a cheeseburger; rock ‘n’ roll baby,’ and I walked out.”

Terry Wilson’s book, “Life’s Too Short … And So Am I,” is available in a Kindle edition on For more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Sarah Sidlow at Sarah

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