Take it slow, rest when you need to: Advice from some of the Steamboat Marathon’s oldest and youngest runners | SteamboatToday.com

Take it slow, rest when you need to: Advice from some of the Steamboat Marathon’s oldest and youngest runners

Vernon Cunningham, the oldest person running a race in 2019’s Steamboat Marathon, half-marathon and 10-kilometer, crosses the half-marathon finish line with family members on Sunday.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Runners of all ages, from across the United States were among the approximately 1,300 racers who finished the Steamboat Marathon, half-marathon and 10-kilometer races on Sunday.

Kids ages 5 and older participated in the half-mile Honey Stinger Fun Run.

At 81 years old, Vernon Cunningham was the oldest in the bunch, completing the half marathon in 3 hours, 5 minutes and 22 seconds. He started running at age 75, and in the time since then, he’s completed 36 half-marathons in 15 states, including Sunday’s race in Steamboat Springs.

He’s about halfway to his goal of running 75 half-marathons in 25 states by the time he’s 85. His advice for those who hope to stay active as octogenarians: stay off the couch.

“Keep active, that’s the big thing,” he said. “Don’t lay around, watch too much TV and play games.”

Cunningham runs ten miles a week, typically broken into two-mile runs. If he misses a training session, he tacks it on to a longer weekend run to hit his 10-mile goal.

He said the hardest section of his races is the first mile — he skips a warm up, so he always starts off slow. When he gets tired mid-race, he snacks and drinks water.

“I eat more gels,” he said. “I drink more water and say ‘I can do it,’ and I slow down.”

Cunningham’s advice for tackling races is similar to that of 9-year-old Sydney Soard’s. She ran in the Fun Run, but the Steamboat native also participates in Steamboat’s Girls on the Run program. She completed last year’s Girls on the Run 5K and plans to run in the program again this fall.

2019 Steamboat Marathon winners

Men’s marathon
1. Ben Anderson (2:41:58)
2. Richard Powell (2:44:54)
3. Francis Nabity (2:47:55)

Women’s marathon
1. Erin Bonthron (3:28:41)
2. Zoe Wall (3:31:09)
3. Andrea Wilhelm (3:35:31)

Men’s half-marathon
1.Daniel Goding (1:20:05)
2. Lucas Crespin (1:20:32)
3. Hadrien Dykiel (1:22:12)

Women’s half-marathon
1. Pearson Alspach (1:27:11)
2. Isabella Donadio (1:28:15)
3. Laura Yarrow (1:33:13) 

Men’s 10K
1. Finn O’Connell (37:54)
2.Sumner Cotton(38:27)
3.Ty Cervantes(39:10)

Women’s 10K
1.Waverly Gebhardt (46:31)
2. Mary Hamilton (47:08)
3. Julie Weinberg (50:01)

Full results are available here.

“(I) start slow, then when I get close to the end and start going a little faster. Then I go a little faster and faster,” Soard said.

When the hardest part of the run hits, fellow fun runner Jayden Hargis, age 8, of Hayden tries to regulate his breath.

“I kind of do a little trick with my breathing, but it only works for a while — for about half a mile,” Hargis said. “When I have side pain, I slow down for at least ten seconds, then I breathe at least 20 times really fast. Then once I do that, the 20 times breathing fast, then (my side pain) goes back to normal and then that’s how I can run really fast.”  

Hargis regularly runs with his mother, Lili Hargis, on the streets near their home. His trick must work because he took seventh place overall in his first 5-kilometer race, part of the Hayden Cog Run.

If these two stick with it for another 65 years, perhaps they’ll log the more than 2,600 miles of races nationwide that 73-year-old Chester Kalb, of Key West, Florida, has. Kalb was the third oldest runner in the pack.

He’s been running for 52 years. He recommends any would-be runners set goals that force them to compete against themselves — not necessarily other people. He finished the half-marathon in 3:28:10, though he won marathons in his younger days. 

Chester Kalb smiles shortly after crossing the finish line of the 2019 Steamboat Half Marathon Sunday.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

“I know I was almost the end,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me. … You’ve got to be willing to accept that you’re not always going to be fast. You’re not always going to be the best out there.”

For Kalb, rest days and a love of the sport have kept his running shoes laced, even after a knee replacement seven years ago. That’s his advice: keep at it.

“First, thing, you’ve got to like it,” he said. “It’s got to be something you want to do every day, and you’ve got to be willing to take the day off on the ones where your body is telling you to, so you don’t injure yourself much.”  

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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