PROFILE--Hal Lieberman has been running for 60 years

Hal Lieberman
(8-18) Hal Lieberman is 75 (in August, 2018) and started his running career in high school (60 years ago) as a middle distance runner.  As a member of the Manhattan-based Central Park Track Club, Lieberman has won national masters medals, and in 2014 set an indoor world record as a member of a 70+ 4 x 800m relay.  His advice to younger runners who want to be lifetime runners is to: train smart, have a bit of luck on your side, and come to terms with the aging process. He views his running not only as a competitive sport but also as a lifelong hobby.

Started running/years: age 16, 1959, 60 years ago.

Why did you start running? My competitive nature and a bit of talent is what got
me into running and has stayed with me all these years.

Did you have any inspiration or person who motivated you? I credit my U. C. Berkley and U. of Chicago coaches  - Brutus Hamilton and Ted Haydon, both inducted into the T&F Coaches Hall of Fame -  with my drive to excel.

What were some of your better races? Winning the 2013 Fifth Avenue Mile at age 70 in 6:54.  The 2018 USATF Masters Indoor T&F Championships in Maryland. I took home silver in the 1500m in 7:21 and gold in the 800m (3:22:76). Nice reward for just turning 75, a new age division. A memorable race was my first masters national championships in Boston as a 65-year old. I took home a bronze medal in the 800m. My coach was shocked and said, “People come here year after year and never win anything and you walk away with a medal on your first try!” I have many more memorable races. You can’t ever forget them.

How do you train? I run every other day, only on soft surfaces where possible, avoid uneven surfaces, warm up, stretch, and warm down. Attending prescribed, coached workouts is very important. But workouts have to be adjusted to reflect current fitness levels and how one feels on any given day. Having a training partner is great, but sometimes it is difficult for older runners to find a partner.

Your running now?  I was almost exclusively a middle distance and cross-country runner in high school/college. I ran road races (5K, 10K, half marathon) for a number of years, and came back to track (and cross country) about 11 years ago. My best distance is 800m. Parenthetically, running 8X400m intervals in 95 seconds feels exactly like it did when running the same workout in 70 seconds 50 years ago. And the aerobic benefits are probably the same relative to age.

How has your weight changed? No.

Diet through the years? I have no special diet except protein after runs.

Alcohol? Minimal, an occasional beer.

Cross-train? I hit the weight room once a week. Swimming when I can.

Social running? I enjoy the masters running community and am always impressed by the fitness, health, and personal qualities of my fellow competitors.

Obstacles along the way? Injuries here and there. I take more time to recover and patience was never a strength.

A favorite quote? “The older I get the better I was.” But I don’t think about that too much.

Running/training philosophy? Older runners need to back off. Everyone is different, but running shorter, quicker intervals with less rest has worked best for me. I don’t run a lot of mileage per week. To stay in competitive shape I need to adjust pace, rest, and the number of intervals to my current capacity and I avoid hard surfaces. Soft surfaces are critical to staying injury-free for me.

Exercise philosophy? I listen to my body and try not to overdo it. I back off when hurting or tired, and at the same time not get too lazy. No one workout is worth it. The only goal is to get to the starting line.

What are the lessons you have learned from running? Be thankful for and proud of what you can do, for what you have left in the tank, for the ability to run (relatively) fast, for the camaraderie of the people in my club, and all trackies. Don’t think about how much you’ve lost, or how fast or strong you were a few years ago. No one cares. Keep going no matter what.

How has running helped you with the aging process? Running keeps me mentally as well as physically healthy. As an active litigator, I can draw on experiences from law to help with my running and vice versa, such as the nervous excitement and adrenaline at the starting line of a race and going in front of a judge. In both cases, with the proper preparation and experience those nerves are gone in thirty seconds and you just perform as always. Competitive running breeds a certain mental toughness that lets you stand up and perform.