I know quite a few people right around me who are doing an admirable job of keeping up their fitness and even their competitiveness as they enter their 50s and beyond. Robert (Bob) Neeley, aka “Zombie” (Bob’s work shifts are all over the clock – graveyard, early a.m., etc. – and so are his training runs!) is one of my heroes. In 2014, to celebrate 30 years of running, he decided to run 30 races and use each one to raise funds for Mobile Meals of Toledo, OH – a charity near and dear to Bob and his wife (and fellow runner), Karla. You can read more about his quest in this article, or follow him on his blog, 30races.com.  As a former-and-trying-again runner, I wanted to get right to the geeky details: with more than three decades of running under his belt, how has Bob’s racing and training changed over the years? (Bob is staring down his 51st birthday.)

Are you running faster, slower, or about the same as you were, say, 10-20 years ago. If you’re faster, have you changed the way you train over those years?

Robert Neeley running in the Churchill Half Marathon, November 2015 (his 30th race that year).

“Well, for shorter distances like 5K or 10K, I’m running slower than years past. Longer distance such as half marathon or 25K,  (I’m) running a better pace. I’ve found that because of my size and build I fare better as the miles roll. I don’t have the all-out sprint in me that I had at a younger age, but I’m durable and can handle more. I like to think I train smarter, now. I listen to my body more and try to eliminate ‘junk’ miles that, as a youngster, you just feel compelled to do for no reason… ! I train short distances and work on speed, train hills and do one long run weekly of 8-10 miles. I’m always looking for a new race so I like to stay somewhat race-ready without having an epic fail. I should cross train more, but find that my time crunches force me to choose what I’ll have time to do. I always choose running.

As a youngster I had no set training… just took off and ran! If I wanted to go faster I just pushed harder and the body responded. I ran 7 days a week and weighed a whole 165 pounds at my peak of speed. I ran my fastest 5K then, 19:47. Best I’ve pulled two years ago was in the 24 minute range.

I’ve hovered between 200-215 pounds for many years, now.* My best weight was around 197. (At my advanced age.) When I was body-building, I was 187 for competition and 200 plus off season. I’ve always been a big runner! Loved when they had a Clydesdale division. Hate trying to outrun the tongue depressors.” (*Bob is 6′ 1-1/2″ tall)

Thanks for indulging me, Zombie! And for the laugh. More “50-forte” profiles to come!

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