Why We Run – 76 years old and going strong
I was at Ironman Boulder in 2017. A 140.6 Ironman makes for a long day, you have to get up early and board a bus to the start. Most of the morning is spent with the athletes checking tire pressure, squeezing into wetsuits, and handing bike pumps back and forth. There is not a sense of competition, you find yourself making lots of new friends in the dark as you wait for the announcement to self-seed into the swim corals.
On this particular day I remember hearing a voice behind me say, “I’m over 75 years old. All I have to do today is finish the race and I’m headed to Kona.” Kona, of course, is the big event in the Ironman World. You have to qualify and it isn’t very easy to do. I remember turning around and looking at this gentleman and having a sincere hope that one day I can be like him. I thought about all the stories he could tell and I had a strange urge to sit down with him and hear his oral history.
Go to the start line of any marathon and you’ll be in a similar situation. I love meeting the 60, 70, and even 80 year olds out there running the races. Seeing them at the start, or even mid-race, is inspiring. When I see them post race I walk up to them and tell them how I hope to be like them. Far too often these great people are forgotten, and the stories they can tell go un-told. I love hearing from these people, so if you are one of them and you have a story to tell, please send me an email at email@example.com. I want to hear from you!
John Maultsby is one of these amazing men, and I have been fortunate enough to learn a thing or two from him.
I met John at one of our Saturday Long Runs a few weeks ago. Since that first day he has been a regular at our long runs. Last week he showed up at our marathon training plan and subtly introduced himself as having run 64 marathons, which is an amazing accomplishment. When he added that they had all been run after the age of 60, I knew that I had to learn more about John.
John is 76 years young. He came to Las Vegas with the Air Force in February of 1966. He served in the Air Force from 1961 – 1969, and made a home of Las Vegas after getting out of the Air Force. After the Air Force he earned a BA from UNLV, got married and raised three wonderful daughters.
It wasn’t until 1973, 46 years ago, that John started running. He was developing a beer belly and decided it was time to make a change. Like so many of us, John started running for health reasons. My own personal running story began with health reasons. John marked out a two mile course around his neighborhood and started walking. After about two weeks, he started running between two light poles and walking two light poles, then running three light poles and walking one until he was running the entire two miles. We can all learn a lesson from John! We don’t need to go out and tackle the world on our first day. If we take our training slowly we will improve!
Eventually John was running about five miles a day and got caught up in the 70’s running boom. He started competing in the occasional 5 or 10k. It wasn’t too long before he started dreaming about running the Boston Marathon. With no formal training of any kind, he would just go out and run 10 miles one day and 15 the next. Pretty soon his body would start breaking down and he would have to reduce his training. John repeated this pattern several times over the years and the same thing seemed to happen to him every time. When his mileage increased his body would resist.
When John was in his mid 50’s he developed high blood pressure. His doctor wanted to put him on drugs. John politely refused and said, “I will figure it out.” He started doing his own research and found out through reading Dr. John McDougall’s book, “Twelve Days to Dynamic Health,” that if you stop eating animals and animal products then your blood pressure will be normal in 48 hours. John decided to put this to the test. At the time he was taking his blood pressure twice a day and charting it, so he knew he would be able to see any changes in his blood pressure if he changed his diet. Sure enough, after 48 hours his blood pressure was normal. He’s been on a plant based diet ever since.
A few years after becoming vegan and having more energy he started thinking about Boston again and decided that he would give it one more shot. By this time he had read a few books on running and had a better idea about how to train for a marathon. So, at 59 years old and with about a 30 mile per week base he picked up a training schedule and started an eighteen week training program. At age 60 he ran the 2003 Las Vegas Marathon and qualified for Boston .
Las Vegas was the first of many marathons for John. He has competed in 64 marathons, completing marathons in all 50 states plus Washington D.C. He has competed in 11 Boston Marathons, three Carlsbad, and two Las Vegas marathons.
John runs for the simple reason that it makes him feel good and that it gives him confidence. He worked in gaming for 50 years and was on his feet 8 hours a day. He found that a run before work made standing during the day easy.
If you’re looking for great running stories, John has his fair share of them. He was charged by a moose in Alaska and nearly froze to death in Tampa Florida (38 degrees, wind 40 mph, and torrential rain while wearing only a tank top and shorts). The one marathon that really sticks out to John, though, is completing the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. If you have done the Marine Corps Marathon then you know the finish line is the base of the statue of the marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima. When the marine corp officer presented John with his finisher medal, it left a huge impression on him.
John holds the course record for age 70+ at the Estes Park Marathon in Colorado. It is highest paved marathon in the world. He has had his share of tough races as well, such as running races with plantar fasciitis or getting dehydrated at the Boston Marathon on a particularly hot day. He’s had his share of amazing races too, and there isn’t enough time or space to list them all here. If you want to learn more, come to one of our Saturday long runs and meet John for yourself! Get to know him, he has some amazing stories to tell.
John credits running with for his ability to get through the difficult times of his life. He says he has spent so much time running that he didn’t have time for difficulties. When he was attending college and had a difficult paper to write or an oral presentation to give, he would usually get his most creative ideas while running. Running before work also gave him a clear mind set and helped to prevent difficulties. For John, running is difficulty prevention.
There are so many lessons we can learn from John. He has the experience as a runner and a person to help you out with your training needs. With over 40 years of running under his belt, it is safe to say that John has been there and done that. I’m honored that I have been able to shake his hand these last few weeks and get to know him better!