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At 78, Runner Will Again Pay Respects on Memorial Day

by on May 25, 2019 5:00 AM

The 1984 Boalsburg Memorial Day Race was the first road race I ever ran. I was 43 then. I still remember that first race and struggling to the finish line, but I did finish, and that was my goal. Since I had only started running a month before, I thought I had done pretty well.

Boalsburg started my roadrunning career, which lasted until the age of 60. I ran the Boalsburg race every year during that period from 1984 through 2001, along with many other races, including two marathons and many half-marathons. I had gotten hooked back then, and running had changed my life. I was physically stronger and I believe more mentally astute. Running had been a worthwhile activity for those years, but at age 60, my knees were telling me something.

“Slow down, old man, we can’t take any more pounding,” they said, and I listened.

Age 60 brought another change in my life because I retired. Those days were another type of challenge and another joy. I began to do a lot of traveling, biking, hiking, and camping. I learned a lot about the geographical differences of this country, of the people, and their lifestyles. Hiking and camping brought a better understanding of nature and its ways. The different lifestyle changed me for the good in some ways and the bad in others. I no longer had the energy and I gained a fair amount of weight. I was becoming old and I felt it.

Other factors changed me at age 73; one of those was the death of my mother, which hit me pretty hard. I stressed myself both physically and mentally at that time, working to settle her final affairs and to get mine in order. So, at age 74, I started running again, and to my amazement, my knees didn’t even whimper.

I started out a bit slower, but again gained in strength and mental attitude. I soon found myself finishing first in my age group, not because I was such a fast runner, but because I had become a survivor. The runners who years ago always finished before me weren’t there anymore. At age 75, I ran again at Boalsburg. I remember that race well because I wore my 1984 Boalsburg Memorial Day shirt and received several nice comments. When I consulted the race results and noted the age groups, I realized that my shirt was older than one-third of the runners.

At age 77, I ran again and finished third in my age group behind two younger runners, ages 71 and 72, so I didn’t feel so bad.

More important than statistics, however, is that the Boalsburg race is the day of a memorial to those who have served and those who have sacrificed to keep our country free. So, this year, at age 78, I will travel back to Boalsburg, be the first runner there as usual, finish somewhere in the back of the pack, celebrate my life, and pay my respects to those who have fallen. Yes, it’s back to Boalsburg for a memorial.


Harold O. Woodruff Jr. lives in State College and is retired from Penn State University Libraries.

This article appeared in the May 2019 issue of Town&Gown.

Harold O. Woodruff Jr. lives in State College and is retired from Penn State University Libraries.
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