The following are brief profiles of the 50 interviewees. The full interview as well as insights will be featured in the upcoming book.
Scott Graham is a 50 year old endurance athlete who participates in running, triathlons, snow shoe racing, and anything else that can put his heart rate way up there. Scott lives in Westford, Massachusetts, and is an executive for a financial services company. He discovered at about the age of 11 that he had lots of endurance, when he finished first overall in a 25 mile walkathon. It also helped that Scott’s best buddy’s father was a marathoner, and would run his warm ups with them. Scott has been at it a long time, and has run 23 consecutive Boston Marathons, and most recently ran 3:01, just missing the three hour mark. Scott is known in his local running club as PHAT, for Pain Heavy At Times, a reference to his propensity to push though pain levels that would stop most others. Scott has a very demanding job, and he often does his workouts at 4am. Despite the challenge of fitting his training into his busy life, Scott continues being an athlete because he loves working out with, and being around his network of athlete friends.
Jerry Smartt is a 77 year old runner, who lives in Warsaw, Missouri, and who has been running for 62 years. Jerry, who is a retired english teacher, has loved footraces his whole life. He got his start playing tag, and hide and go seek, when he was just a child. His talents went untapped, until he was a senior in high school, and some friends of his who were on the track team, told the team coach that Jerry was one fast cat. Jerry joined the team, and with perseverance, went on to win many races.
Jerry joined the Air Force in 1952, and went on to have great success as a runner, and qualified as an alternate for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
Jerry continues to run and compete at the national level, because he still loves a footrace, and because he feels it has given him the great health he currently enjoys. Jerry keeps a scrapbook with media clippings from his running career. It currently weighs 40 pounds, and in it he has eight aliases. His favorite alias is from Finland, where he is named as Josef Smargg.
Jane Welzel is a 54 year old distance runner who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, and who has been involved in distance running since before the running boom of the 1970’s. Jane, who is originally from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, where the Boston marathon starts, has participated in a long list of sports since her childhood including field hockey, gymnastics, basketball, tennis, swimming, water polo, crew, cross-country, road racing, and track. Jane came to running as her long-term sport quite by chance. At the start of her junior year at University of Massachusetts, Jane was planning on continuing her participation on the swim team. Fortunately, when she arrived on campus that year, two things conspired to unearth for her a sport that she will do her entire life. The pool was under repair, and the school had just added women’s cross-country in response to Title IX legislation that required universities to offer women access to sports on more even footing with that offered to men. Not wanting to get out of shape, Jane started running with the cross-country team, and two weeks later at the first meet, was the school’s top runner. Jane went on to qualify for five Olympic trials in the marathon, run as a professional, and coach at the college level.
Jane has made running an integral part of her life. She is very involved in the local running community, organizes races, and hold workouts every Tuesday that draws runners of all abilities to share her passion for running. She plans on running for the rest of her life, because she just loves to run.
Barb Page is a 71 year old runner and Nordic skier who lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. Barb is a retired high school chemistry teacher who, when asked by her students what she would do when she retired at age 67, told them she was going to get back in shape and do a marathon once again. She shocked those kids, I’m sure.
When Barb grew up in the 1950s, there were not many opportunities for women in sports. Barb played basketball in high school, and was even made captain of the team her senior year. She went on to play on the girl’s varsity basketball team in college, but did not get a varsity letter because at the time, girl athletes were not eligible for varsity letters.
While teaching in Alaska, Barb was introduced to Nordic skiing by a fellow teacher, and she has skied ever since. In 1966, a friend asked Barb to hike the Fairbanks Equinox Marathon with her, and Barb finished in 11th place. She figured that if she could place 11th by walking, maybe she could do really well if she ran. Barb ran the same marathon a year later. Barb continued to run and ski off and on from that point on, and in 2005 kicked her training into gear when she retired. Barb’s log shows that she skied 377 miles in the winter of 2005/2006, 428 miles in 2006/2007, 515 miles in 2007/2008, and 345 miles last winter.
In 2007, Barb’s college Alma Mater presented Barb and her basketball teammates with their varsity letters to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Title IX, and that is a memory that Barb will always cherish.
Richard Stiller is a 64 year old runner, who lives in the Santa Clara Valley of California. Richard, who is a human resources consultant, and who has a degree in history, has reinvented himself several times in his running career. Richard played soccer his first two years of college, but did not continue his last two years, and ended up gaining a significant amount of weight. When he completed college, Richard lost the excess weight through a strict diet, but found that he hated dieting. Richard decided to reinvent himself, and become a runner. Richard began running in the early 1970’s, when the running boom was just getting underway. After running for a couple years, he ran his first race, which was the Bay To Breakers. He finished the race in about 300th place, and ran 6:18 pace, but this did not fit Richard’s mental image of himself as a runner. His second reinvention was from a runner, into a serious, competitive runner. Richard went on to race very well, and was ranked as one of the top runners in northern California. Richard later found that the training regimen that had worked for him for many years, did not work for him in his forties. Reinvention number three, was becoming a successful master’s runner. Richard continues to be open to further reinvention, and even enjoys the process. His training as a human resource professional, and his love of history, has enabled him to be open to learning the lessons of history, and to not be tied to conventional wisdom.