Back on December 5, 2008 when I read Tara Parker-Pope's piece in the New York Times, "A 30-year Running Streak, Still Going Strong", I thought of my husband.
Here's my comment to the 30-year running streak story:
"Dr. Simon looks fantastic–and truly, to each his own. I say Mazel Tov!
My 59 year old husband has been running for about 36 years. Definitely, not daily. After a couple of injuries & mono, somehow he came across an easy-does-it, easy-on-the-joints method of training for long runs.
On Nov. 22 he ran the JFK 50-miler (in below freezing weather) & he ran maybe 3 days a week to train for it. Only 1 day a week did he run for hours–and I mean hours.
Adding yoga a day or two a week & biking for another (when the weather was good) seemed to do it.
The only thing he does obsessively is to run 10 miles on his birthday–which came 5 days after the JFK. 9 years ago, when he ran his last 50-miler he slacked off, and we walked the 10 miles together.
According to him, he’s never felt better and I’ve got to agree with him. I say he owes it all to green smoothies (crammed with veggies), balanced exercise & my healthy cooking.
I have to say, after reading in July about Michael Bicks’ heart attack during a regular Sunday bike ride, I was really nervous about his running a 50 mile race. I made him promise to run with a heart rate monitor. To read Bicks' story, "Not a Moment Too Soon I Thought of Tim Russert" click here."
Now I'm in awe of Dr. Simon--he's 66 years old--and hasn't missed ONE day of running in 30 years. But, I'm also in awe of my husband. He's been running for 36 years--but only 2 or 3 times a week. He deserves an interview, too!
Q: When & why did you start to run? Why do you keep running?
A: I started running in high school because I thought it was something I might be good at--like cross-country & track. Then Frank Shorter came along in the 1972 Olympics, and that got me more interested; For me, running is a good basis for fitness--it's inexpensive & you can just do it right out your front door.
Q: Nine years ago you ran the JFK 50 miler (in Hagerstown, MD) & you said you would never do it again. It was brutal. What made you decide to run it again? (here's what the JFK is all about-click here)
A: Did I really say it was brutal? A good friend of mine, who had run a lot of marathons wanted to run the JFK in 2008. He knew I had run it & when he asked me about it, it got me energized. I wanted a challenge--to force myself to train for something again--and frankly, I wanted the camaraderie. It gets kind of old running the 4 & 5 hour training runs by yourself. I thought we could have a good time training together.
Q: Any difference running it at almost 59 years old, compared to when you ran it at 49 years old?
A: The difference? Number one difference was the weather. In 1999 the weather was perfect for running. In November 2008 we started out in 19 degree cold--I wasn't expecting that--and the cold made it very difficult. But mostly, this time I was much tougher mentally. Since 1999 I've been to a few silent meditation retreats, and that really helped me to stay focused to the moment--and just keep moving forward. Ironically, I also felt physically stronger this time around, even though I'm running slower--but hey, I'm nine years older.
Q: You rarely seem to get injured (knock on wood). It doesn't seem like you run all that much, even though you can run long distances. How do you explain that?
A: Simple. I don't over-run. That's why I don't get injured. I vary my exercise routine. I alternate running with biking, yoga, and some weights. When I train for long races--my training focus is off of increasing one long run a week--2, maybe 3 other short to medium runs. Rarely would I run 2 days in a row. The big thing: I listen to my body--I don't push it--I know in the long run I'm better off if I just don't push it, especially if I'm not feeling well.
Q: Inquiring minds want to know. Do you feel better or worse as an amateur athlete now that you're eating mostly plant-based?
A: I feel better. But of course, it's hard to know. I definitely don't feel weaker--that's for sure. I feel my diet has kept me in the game.
Q: What about the Green Smoothies that your wife is always talking about? Do you think that has had any effect on your performance, recovery or energy level?
A: Again, it's hard to know for sure if my performance, recovery & energy are better because of the smoothies. But, I'll say this. Without trying too much, I've lost weight--and I attribute it to the change in my diet. My wife isn't buying me any big boxes of Snyder's Pretzels anymore, so I don't eat junk at night. I've kind of learned to go to bed a little hungry. But I'm definitely a big advocate of the smoothies, though--they just make me feel healthier--and I rarely miss a day. For the link about green smoothies, click here.
Q: I know you've taken statins (Lipitor/Zocor) to counteract your low HDLs (good cholesterol). Do you think they have had an effect on your athletic performance? Did you notice any changes when you decreased your dosage?
A: YES!!! They produced a subtle muscle weakness and I was only on a low dose! What does muscle weakness mean? My muscles fatigued earlier--I didn't have that core oomph. I've stopped & started taking statins enough to know that they've (even the lowest possible dose) definitely had a negative effect on how I felt. Running--going up a hill was much easier once I had stopped taking them for 7-10 days. And the Tricor/Lipitor combination the doctor once tried me on was deadly. I remember thinking in yoga class, "I must be getting old." It was an amazing turnaround when I quit. Now I just eat plant-based and don't worry much about taking statins.
Q: What about curcumin, the anti-oxidant in the spice turmeric. What are you taking it for & has it worked? Yes, I know it's anecdotal evidence-placebo-effect-study-of-one-stuff, but I've read reports about its anti-inflammatory benefits & I've heard pharmacologist Joe Graedon of "The People's Pharmacy" singing its praises.
A: I take it for very annoying foot & toe cramps that I get while I'm sleeping. They would wake me up & sometimes I had to get out of bed to work them out. Yes, I've noticed a dramatic reduction in these muscle cramps. I take 2 pills of curcumin (500 mg each) in the morning, maybe 4-5 times a week. I only take vitamins in the car--so it's not an everyday thing with me. I haven't changed anything else--so I must conclude--the curcumin has killed the cramps.
Q: What about the effect of yoga & running? Think it helps?
A: I can't say if it helps running, or has made me a better runner. No idea. I don't do it to improve my running. I do it for flexibility, discipline, and as a meditation-in-motion kind of thing. It definitely helped my recovery in the JFK run. I see the difference with my friends who run, but don't do yoga. They have the aches and pains you get from lack of flexibility. After the JFK my quadriceps were sore--that's inevitable from lactic acid build-up. In 1999--a week after I ran the JFK--I couldn't run my annual 10 mile birthday run. I had to walk it. And I was better trained in 1999. This year, my 10 mile birthday run came just 5 days after the JFK--and I ran it.
Q: Aren't your joints killing you? Don't you think running at your age (59) is asking for trouble?
A: No, my joints aren't killing me. Occasionally my left knee bothers me--and sometimes I feel a little something in my hip. I just don't overdo it. There are more days that I don't run, than days that I do run. I keep my weight down. I don't force the issue. If it were detrimental, I'd stop it. I don't feel obsessive about running at all.
Q: What do you think about the advice you get from The Healthy Librarian? Now be nice!
A: I think it's excellent advice. Always informative & beneficial. The best thing she's done is writing the post about my mom. I've reread it many times. I love seeing my mom's pictures online--when she was out in the sun & looks so alive.