From 14 to 82, all ages run marathon

Burt Carlson of Mound, Minn., ran his first marathon in 1983 when he "was just a kid.'' Carlson was 57. He is still running marathons today at 81. He said it makes him feel young. Taylor Hendricks of Esko, meanwhile, isn't your typical 14-year-ol...

Burt Carlson of Mound, Minn., ran his first marathon in 1983 when he "was just a kid.''

Carlson was 57. He is still running marathons today at 81. He said it makes him feel young.

Taylor Hendricks of Esko, meanwhile, isn't your typical 14-year-old. When other kids are out playing everything from baseball to badminton, she has been training for her first Grandma's Marathon on Saturday. She said she loves it.

Distance running provides something for everyone, regardless of age. That has never been more evident than today, with the fitness boom leading to capacity marathon fields and older runners leading to more age categories.

"You never saw people running down the street in 1970, and now people don't think anything different about it,'' said Sean Callahan, editor of GeezerJock, a Chicago-based magazine devoted to masters athletes. "Thirty or 40 years ago, people thought that would give you a heart attack. Now it's looked at as something that will prevent one.''


Marathon organizers have needed to add new age divisions to accommodate older runners. This year at Grandma's Marathon, 36 men and five women will run in the70-plus classes.

Duluth native Steve Boman helped start GeezerJock, and the magazine highlights athletes who defy their age.

Callahan said 98-year-old Dimitrion Yordanidis has been credited with being the oldest person to finish a marathon when he completed the Athens Marathon in 1976 in 7 hours, 33 minutes.

Sister Madonna Buder of Spokane, Wash., meanwhile, ran a marathon in August 2005 when she was 75. That was after she already had swum 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles as part of the Ironman World Championships.

And Ed Whitlock of Ontario became the first man over 70 to run a marathon in under 3 hours in 2003 and later clocked a 2:54:48 at age 73.

"You know, Lance Armstrong just ran a 2:59, so this guy [Whitlock] is an exceptional athlete,'' Callahan said. "Three hours is kind of the gold standard.''

Closer to home, Carlson claims to be the first person over 65 to have completed a 100K in Minnesota, having run the 62-mile Edmund Fitzgerald race from Finland to Brighton Beach just outside Duluth in 12:16, a record he said that still stands for his age group.

"My advice to younger runners is to run when you can, walk when you have to and don't let your competition know if you're hurting,'' Carlson said.


Saturday's Grandma's Marathon will be Carlson's 286th marathon or ultramarathon, and his 24-year journey as a distance runner has taken the retired 3M mechanical engineer to all 50 states, nine foreign countries and Antarctica. He has avoided bandits in Kazakstan and run a marathon in southern France where wine was served at all the aid stations in addition to water.

Last year, at age 80, he was the oldest person to complete Grandma's Marathon, finishing in a little over 6 hours, but he completed the Fargo (N.D.) Marathon in 5:38 last month.

Long-distance running is a sport Carlson regrets he didn't pick up sooner, but it wasn't in vogue when he was a young man.

"I was not an athlete when I was in high school,'' said Carlson, who graduated from Minneapolis Central in 1943. "I was always too slow and too clumsy, so I couldn't throw a ball or catch a ball or couldn't sprint. Turned out that I had a little bit of talent in the long-distance, endurance events. It just all came to light eventually."

On the flip side, Erik Furo's claim to fame is being the youngest person to have ever completed Grandma's Marathon, having run the race in 1983 when he was 10, about two years before the marathon required that participants had to be at least 12 years old.

Furo, of Knife River, ran the race with his father, Larry, and uncle Pete, and the three of them completed it in about 4 hours and 30 minutes. Erik Furo, 34, has run nearly every Grandma's since, with a top time of 3:08.

"What was I thinking? My dad just raised me to believe you could do anything if you set your mind to it, so that's what I did,'' said Furo, a deputy for the Lake County Sheriff's office based in Two Harbors. "I trained for the race just like anybody else. There was a lot of training and discipline that was required, and that wasn't always fun for a 10-year-old, but I think it helps to make you goal-orientated. That was a great gift from my dad.''

Hendricks, meanwhile, has learned to believe in herself as well. While she is nervous, she is confident she can finish it in about 4:30.


"Most of my friends are sick of me talking about it,'' Hendricks said, laughing.

Hendricks said running has given her increased stamina for her other sport, soccer. She ran a half-marathon last year and will run this year along with a group of relatives that includes her mother, Julie.

"At first I got into this because I wanted to check the marathon off my list of goals I want to do in my life,'' Hendricks said, "but it turned into me enjoying pushing my limits and challenging myself. I went from worrying I wouldn't be able to finish it to knowing I'll finish it, no matter what it takes, even if I have to walk.

"I've learned a lot about myself and know that I can take on anything I set my mind to. I encourage anybody to do it.''

JON NOWACKI covers local sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached weeknights at (218) 723-5305 or by e-mail at .

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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