Man On The Run: Age Does Not Deter 79 Year Old Runner

VALDOSTA — Somewhere in Naylor, in the home of 79-year-old Joe Christian, is a room filled with 1,125 medals, trophies and awards, an ode to the many races the retiree has run. 

With 1,196 races under his belt, Christian plans to add to his resume by running in at least one event every weekend this year, including the upcoming Second Annual Resolution 5K sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta.

He has been running for 40 years in events such as the Blazer Classic, as well as the 2017 Cast Iron 5K and has even been named an honorary member of the Lowndes County cross-country team.

“People think when you get older, your age goes up and your body goes down,” said Amber Lodge, race coordinator for BGC, “but in his instance, his age goes up and his body continues to go with it. It gets better every year.”

Mentally, Christian said, is how he continues readying himself to make it through each individual event, handling each race one at a time.

“I’ve just always done it,” he said. “Just bring (my brain) together and say I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do this.”

For Christian, preparation consists of five-mile runs, 200 pushups and exercising to the Insanity Workout and Cize It programs conducted by fitness expert Shaun T six days per week.

The veteran embarked on his sprinting journey during his 22-year stint in the Air Force. It was the 10 years he spent as a commando, he said, that jumpstarted his interest in running.

“We exercised and ran, five, six days a week,” he said. “After 10 years, it kind of grows on you.”

Though Christian doesn’t think about stopping now, he said there was a period in 1976 that he’d quit running, but by 1977, he missed the sport and had to “get back in it.”

Marathons, 5Ks, duathlons and bike races are all events he’s participated in both locally and nationally, according to the racer.

He said he has endured five iron-man contests, the last one being completed in his early 70s.

Iron-man events consist of two-mile swims, 112-mile bicycle rides and runs that last 26 miles and 280 yards, Christian said.

Two years ago, he experienced a motorcycle accident where he said he damaged his back, neck, ribs, shoulder, pelvis and left foot and got a concussion.

“It’s been two years now, but 34 days after I wrecked it, I went out and ran a road race in a back brace and a neck brace and won my age group,” he said.

He said there was no fear for further injuries as he “wanted to get back into it.”

“I wanted to prove to myself you can do it,” he said.

Most recently, Christian placed third in his age group at the 2017 Ugly Sweater 5K hosted by the Valdosta-Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority. He also won ugliest sweater.

“He was a great participant,” said Rachel Salyards, parks and rec program coordinator. “I spoke with him before and after the race, and his determination and dedication to running and staying in shape at his youthful age was inspiring to hear.”

Christian said he wants to live at least until he’s 93 years old because he wants to spend his last 46 and a half years not working since he spent the first 46 and a half working.

He may not be working every day, but this former airman wants to remain active.

“I want to breathe, the last breath I want to be doing something,” he said.

When asked what he wants to be doing, he said, “probably running or flying or water skiing or something.” 

Amanda Usher is a reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at 229-244-3400 ext.1274.

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