CHAMPLIN, Minn. – The runner approaches from down the blacktop trail. His breathing is even, his pace steady. His legs are trim and muscled.
John Keston is not the man he looks to be – by a good 20 years.
“I'm 92 now and I'll be 93 in December,” says Keston, mid-stride.
Keston no longer competes in marathons, though he has 53 under his belt. He’s no longer setting world records, though he once shattered several of those as well.
Yet Keston appears to still be winning another race – the one against time.
“I don’t know what 92 is supposed to feel like,” Keston says.
He can’t exactly compare notes with his running peers. “Most of them are pushing up daisies,” Keston say.
Roughly four times a week Keston drives himself to the trail, then runs three to four miles, slowing periodically to catch his breath, before soldiering on.
“I feel pretty good, considering,” he says.
Considering John was born in 1924.
Considering he served his native England in WWII.
Considering “runner” was far from Keston’s first role.
“There's me as Sherlock Holmes,” says Keston, pointing to publicity stills spread across a billiard table at his home.
Keston once made his living as an actor, appearing on stage in London and on Broadway. He supplemented his theater income with a slew of print and TV advertisements, hawking everything from bank services to KitKat bars.
Keston also sang. He still does, at 92, without a crackle. In fact it was Keston’s tenor voice that brought him to Minnesota in 1975 to teach classical singing at Bemidji State University.
In Bemidji, Keston ran his first race, a 10K sponsored by the university. He was 55 years old – and won.
“I was hooked,” he says. “I kept on training and I got faster and faster.” Then the records started falling.
From age 69 into his 80s, Keston broke numerous U.S. and world records for runners in his age group.
In 2001 he was inducted into the Masters section of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.
“I used to run about 2,500 miles a year when I was in tiptop shape,” Keston says. “I’m lucky if I get about 700 or 800 miles in now. But I still do it.”
Anne Keston smiles when asked about her husband’s youthful appearance.
“Yeah, it's not fair, he's got no wrinkles,” she laughs.
He does, of course, have a few wrinkles – mostly the kind one gets spending hours in a swimming pool.
“I do 120 laps four or five times a week,” says Keston, now in the pool at Lifetime Fitness in Champlin.
Keston doesn’t swim so much as stride through four feet of water. The water provides the resistance he seeks to further tone his muscles – as a swift walk alone would not be enough for a man born before sliced bread, penicillin and ballpoint pens.
“Wow, that's impressive, that's really impressive,” says David Schmoyer, who’s training one lane over.
Six months from his 93rd birthday, Keston has no plans to slow down.
“My MD is expecting me to get to be 100 so that's only seven-and-a-half years to go,” Keston says. “I think the reason I do it is because I don't want to expire too early in life.”
Anne Keston says, “I can't imagine that he ever will stop.”
Note: John Keston has written a book about aging and his life. Email him for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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