Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Too Old to Start Running?

Think Again

Published Oct 09, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

When are you too old to start running? I started running at 32. My wife started at 33. Her dean started at 52. Charlie Hackenheimer, fighting emphysema, started running at 72, and set numerous national and world age group records, including running 15K in 1:51:16 at age 84.

Ten years ago, Abraham Weintraub started running at age 80. Last fall, at age 89, he completed the New York City Marathon in 8:10:33, finishing ahead of 87 younger runners. The nonagenarian from Brooklyn has become an icon on the road-racing scene, competing in such races as the Fifth Avenue Mile and the Falmouth Road Race.

If age alone is not a deterrent against taking up running, where should you look for a legitimate excuse? I used to submit that a physical handicap was a legitimate deterrent, until a double-amputee on prostheses passed my best friend in the last mile of the Utica Boilermaker 15K road race.

So, when Lindsay, a new graduate student, confided that she could not run because of age and health, I got a good chuckle. Like many of her peers, Lindsay competed in high school, worked out in the college gym, and achieved a healthy metabolism that is the envy of many.

However, unlike most high school game players, Lindsay trained and competed at the national level as an elite ice dancer, and earned the US Ice Skating Federation's gold medal. Obviously, she showed the dedication and determination to train long and hard for those awe-inspiring routines that we admire from the comfort of our television rooms.

Lindsay's new position immerses her in a culture that urges her to run. In a rare twist of fate, working and running have melded to shape her graduate career in new media production. Her next assignment requires her to tell the stories of track athletes. So, she turned to this expert for advice on starting to run.

My prescription for Lindsay reflected my own timid introduction to running. In an old German article on running, I read that motion is the secret to running. This evidence translated into a kinship between walking and running. I started walking two miles each day the first week. Next, I jogged one block, and walked several, increasing my jogs by one extra block every day. By the end of the second week, I could run a mile.

I built up to jogging three miles each day, five days each week, when the racing bug bit me. I entered the Cazenovia Fourth of July 5K. Signing my first entry form transformed me from a jogger into a runner. A yearlong calendar of road races eventually transformed me into a racer.

As Lindsay tows the start line of a new career, and follows the road well traveled towards becoming a runner, I wish her a mild winter and a gentle breeze at her back.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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