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Twin Cities Marathon sees surge in senior runners

Jim Spaid decided to train for his first marathon at the age of 65. He joins a growing wave of older runners locally and nationally.

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. — Jim Spaid has considered himself a runner for most of his life, but didn't start training for his first marathon until turning 65.

"My daughters, who are also runners, have always encouraged me to try," Spaid said. "I just thought, 'I'm 65, why not? I'm not getting any younger.' When I told my wife what I was thinking about doing, she said she thought I was crazy, but that she would support me 100 percent. So... here I am."

Once he arrives at the start line for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Jim certainly won't be the only senior runner to take up the challenge.

At a time when marathon participation in several age groups has plateaued or fallen, the number of 60 and older runners has surged from 379 in 2019, to 467 last year.

"The way people think about aging is so much different now than say, back in the 70s before the running boom," said Charlie Mahler, senior media manager for Twin Cities in Motion, which puts on the marathon.

Mahler, a 60-plus runner himself, says older runners aren't just pacing growth here. According to Running USA, participation among 55- to 64-year-old runners has jumped more than 5 percent since 2015, second only to the growth among 65-plus runners, who now account for 9 percent of all race participants.

"In 2015, it was only 2.5%," Mahler said. 

While the numbers are clear, each runner brings their own motivation to the start line.

"And it's interesting, with access to the stories that people share about why they're running, even in that 60-plus, 70-plus age category many say, 'I want to win my age group.'"

For Spaid, the motivation is a little more simple.

"Sometimes we get told, 'You're too old for that' — and I'm not too old for anything," he said. 

Still, he says he definitely couldn't do it alone.

"One of the things that I didn't anticipate was the time and sacrifice... every Saturday, for two-and-a-half months, is gone," Spaid said. "Because it takes time, I'm wiped out; I can't do anything the rest of the day. So my wife has sacrificed two-and-a-half months of Saturdays and that's our main time together. It's meant everything."

Even after training for months, Spaid knows finishing is still an ambitious goal — but it's one he's prepared for.

"No shortcuts to victory," he said. "My motto on my bib is 'Go the distance.' All the way, baby. All the way." 


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