September 02, 2023 3 min read 2 Comments
Photo: Don Dennard at a local race. He is part of the Geezer Jock community that just runs and enjoys it.
By Ray Glier
Don Dennard, 61, swore he would never run again after he left the Navy in 1985.
He’s running again.
Dennard, who lives in Scottsboro, Ala., is part of the Geezer Jock community, the part that doesn’t win gold medals, or display some freakish athletic ability, or the genetic makeup of an Olympian.
He’s just a guy that runs local 5ks, finishes second occasionally, but he caught my attention with one comment as we traded emails.
“I’m not a fast runner, but I’m the fastest I’ve been in 40 years. I feel great.”
Don wrote that to me the same day a personal trainer told me so many older people think they are finished athletically in their 60s, 70s, and 80s, and they surrender to the couch, or just short walks down the block.
Dennard is one of the reasons this Geezer Jock newsletter is thriving and people have been signing up every day for the past month. It is catching on because people aren’t waiting for the wave. They are walking out to meet it.
People like Don. I have to write about them, even though they don't seem extraordinary.
Dennard threw away his white flag of surrender to age and joined the Geezer Jock movement three years ago.
“I’d been leading a sedentary life (other than work) for some 25-40 years,” Don wrote. “One day, after talking about it until my wife didn’t believe me, I put on some shorts and tennis shoes and headed out to do my first run.
“Around the block here is about 1/3 mile. I was appalled at my condition.”
It was the start of a transformation for one man. There was not some utilitarian need, such as losing weight. It was a frame of mind related to overall health. So he joined Geezer Jock to get a lift from others.
In the meantime, Don is providing a lift to others.
His mother died. He caught Covid. A lung collapsed while running a race. He kept running.
“I questioned if running at my age was wise,” Don said. “I took another break and did a lot of soul searching. Christmas 2022, I got a Garmin watch and determined I was going to do this. I didn’t care about pace or finishing times. I just wanted to run and come what may.”
Don could get himself under the hypnotic pull of a runners’ high, but like many he sometimes required having one-on-ones with himself during a run.
“I talk to myself when my head wants to stop,” he said. “I always refer to myself as ‘you’ not ‘I’. I tell myself, ‘You’re fine. You’re doing great and you got this. You can go further’.”
And he has gone further. 2023 has been a breakout year for a guy who just runs.
“I’ve been running consistently this year, three to four times a week and following guided plans and trust what those Garmin coaches tell me,” Dennard wrote. “I have run three 5Ks this year so far and my best time is down to 38:17. I’ve earned two 2nd place age group medals. Next race, I’m shooting for sub-38 and maybe sub-37.
“I’m not a fast runner, but I’m the fastest I’ve been in 40 years.
“I feel great.”
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