Saturday, May 24, 2008

Catching up with Walt Pierson, South Jersey Masters Champ

Kay and Walt Pierson “We’ve been through some things together
With trunks of memories still to come.
We found things to do in stormy weather
Long may you run. Long may you run.
Neil Young-- “Long May You Run"

If you’ve run any races in South Jersey in the past 30 years, you’ve heard one name announced over and over at the post-race award ceremonies—Walt Pierson.
Pierson, a West Deptford native now 72 often finishes first in the over 70 category at his races just as he has for much of the last 30 years in all his preceeding age groups. Walt and his wife Kay (pictured at right) love to travel and have visited much of the world including China, most of Europe and New Zealand. It hasn’t been an easy journey for the dedicated runner. While in New Zealand five years ago, Walt had a stroke. The stroke left him with no deficits-- possibly due to his superb fitness. He continues to run. He has had four stents placed in his heart and one in his renal artery. He continues to run. Walt has also survived a bout with prostrate cancer. None of this has slowed him down.
Wife Kay: “Each time he had a "minor health disaster" his first question to his doc was: "When can I run?" He always followed their advice - and here he is still running each day and loving it. Walter has run 60,000 miles as of last April 20th (his deceased Mother's birthday) and that is 2 and one half times around the world!!!! He started keeping records of his running at age 38. He constantly amazes me.”

We decided to ask the amazing Walt some questions to see just what makes him tick:
How long have you been running?
Walt: 34 years. I started when I was 38 and I’m now 72.
Any idea how many races you've run?
I have run in over 600 races since my first one in 1979.
Tell us about your birthday runs.
When I turned 47 I ran 47 miles in one day from West Deptford to Alloway and back with a break for lunch in Alloway. From age 48 to 52 I ran the miles starting at 6AM and finishing at 6 PM in various increments such as 10 miles, 5miles etc, with a break between each increment. My wife, Kay, ran an open house all day long and several friends joined me for one or more runs and Kay's good food. It was fun. (Note- Browning Ross and I participated in a few of Walt’s birthday runs and they were so much fun I decided to emulate his idea. However I re-evaluated and quickly dropped the plans once I passed my 21 st birthday!)
What is/was your favorite race?
I have lots of favorite races. I will only mention a few:Any of Browning’s races as they were so unpredictable. The N.Y. marathon. The Broad St. Run. The Bread and Cheese run. Pitman 4th of July. Cooper River Thanksgiving race. Your Mt. Ephraim race—the Ross Kupcha race is a good one.
What is your favorite running route?
Walt: I have a different route every day on a 7 day cycle out of our house.
How much do you run a week now?
I am currently running between 30 and 40 miles a week.
What did you like best about Browning's races?
Browning's races were so unique. There were low key but drew some good runners. All finishers got a prize, sometimes a pair of sox, a bag of used golf balls,10 pounds of potatoes, a recycled trophy, a book by Tom Osler and other goodies. There was always a good spirit with no emphasis on exact times or distances. It was cheap. Kids ran free which is a tradition that you continue and I congratulate you for it.
What are your running goals today?
Just today (when recently interviewed) I completed my latest goal. I have finished 60,000 miles of running. Over the years I have always kept a log book. Beyond that I don't have any goals. Maybe I'll quit.
Is this too many questions?
Walt: No that wasn't too many questions. I hope my answers didn't ramble too much.

No way Walt-- long may you run!

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