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The No-Pain, No-Gain Kid
Jill Lieber
November 28, 1988
San Francisco running back Roger Craig takes a terrible pounding, and he goes to great lengths to stay healthy
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November 28, 1988

The No-pain, No-gain Kid

San Francisco running back Roger Craig takes a terrible pounding, and he goes to great lengths to stay healthy

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Still, at the start of the season the 49ers didn't plan to depend quite so much on Craig. He has had to take up the slack for a passing game that has been weakened by injuries to quarterback Joe Montana. San Francisco, which before this weekend led the league in rushing, ranked 16th in passing offense. So Craig is not only carrying the ball more than he ever has, but he's also catching more passes than any of the team's wide receivers, including All-Pro Jerry Rice. In fact, Craig has accounted for one-third of the 49ers' total yardage so far this season. Craig's performance has been a blessing for San Francisco, but it has meant a terrible pounding for him. It has also been a test of his fitness regimen.

Thanks to a stepped-up training program in the off-season, Craig has the endurance of a cross-country runner. Three times a week, starting at 6:30 a.m., he ran a winding four-to eight-mile route along a horse trail through Huddart Park in Woodside, Calif. He churned up the steep incline at a remarkable seven-minute-mile pace, and he descended at less than six minutes per mile.

"When it got hot, Roger wanted to run in the afternoons," says Dr. Art Ting, 35, a marathon runner who trained with Craig. "He wanted to inflict as much adversity on himself as he could."

On three other days Craig sprinted. First he did 15 100-yard dashes—all uphill. That was followed by interval training—220-yard sprints separated by 30-second rest periods—at the College of San Mateo. "Some afternoons I thought I was going to blow out my hamstrings," says Craig, laughing.

"Roger never knows when he's done too much," says 49er defensive back Eric Wright, another of Craig's training partners. "Once he starts he doesn't stop. He's a machine."

Also in the off-season, Craig went on a strict diet, consuming only 2,500 calories a day. No red meat—just chicken, fish and lots of fruits and vegetables. At bedtime he ate popcorn. In the good old days, Craig would put away six oatmeal-raisin cookies, a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream and several glasses of milk in one sitting. It's no wonder that he lopped off 16 pounds and showed up at training camp weighing a trim 210.

Craig, 28, turns the key in the front-door lock of his rustic, two-story home in Portola Valley, Calif., 40 miles south of San Francisco, and issues a warning: "Look out! It's a zoo." His three children are waiting inside, ready with hugs, kisses, giggles and squeals. Damesha, 9, shares her daddy's charismatic smile. She's a fourth-grader with a passion for reading; sometimes she has three books going at a time. "She's as crazy about reading as I am about working out," Craig says.

Rometra, 6, is a first-grader and a quick study. In recent months she has taught herself to play songs on the piano. But, like her father, she doesn't know when enough's enough. "I have to tell her to stop," says Roger. "She's too self-motivated. It's scary. She's just like me."

Then there's Rogdrick, who's almost three and very unpredictable. One moment he's emulating Michael Jackson, kicking his leg, twirling, moonwalking in his tiny hightop sneakers. The next he's shyly hiding his big brown eyes in his dad's chest.

The Craigs' five-bedroom redwood home is situated on two acres among spruce, maples and oaks deep in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. At first glance it resembles an adult-sized treehouse, towering over the driveway, with decks extending in every direction. Craig loves to sit on the patio outside the master bedroom and soak up the moonlight.

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