PROFILE--Joel Pasternack has been running for 54 years (127,034 miles)



Pasternack (second from left) with Tom Fleming (left)
and Ron Hill. Can you name runner on right?
(Answer at bottom of article.)
(9-18) Joel Pasternack, from Woodland Park, NJ, is a running coach whose athletes include running clubs, recreational youth groups, high school teams and private clients. He has been coaching for 45 years.  His streak of 11 years and two months of running at least 3 miles per day came to an end on January 6, 2015 due to knee replacement surgery (the sixth).  He’d like to get 10,000 miles out of this last knee replacement, which he predicts will get him to age 75 and 137,034 lifetime miles. He has saved every issue of Runners World since the inaugural issue.  

Started running: September 1965. I’m now 68. Where did the time go?

Why did you start running? I was too small for football (4'10" 105lbs) and didn't understand soccer. In the fall of 1969 when I was running for Monmouth College, I ran against Tom Fleming from Paterson State. We became close friends and running partners for 20 years. Now, I run with more patience and (a lot) more slowly, but it was so much fun to run during the 70s when we were all crazy, young Turks on the road. In the late 70s I would run from Clifton NJ, where I was living at the time, over the George Washington Bridge to my store, The Athletic Attic, on 6th Avenue between 11th and 12th street, 25 miles round trip.

Did you have an early inspiration or person who motivated you? I love the training methods of Bill Bowerman and use them in my own plans. As for runners, I was fortunate to coach the great
Toshika d’Elia, the first woman to break three hours in a marathon at the age of 50. She belonged to the running club I coach, North Jersey Masters. To be honest, she didn’t need much coaching but she was a joy to watch running on the track even into her 80s and she inspired the other members. 

How much did you run in your peak week years? Now? From 1970-1979 I averaged 90-100 miles a week. Now, I’m down to 16-18 miles per week. I believe my running hit a peak in 1976 when I was doing too many miles and not enough speed work. My training pace in the 70s was 6:40-7:00 per mile. I was very fortunate doing those years of high mileage, as I didn't get injured.  
Running 2:26:07 at 1975 Boston.

What were some of your better/memorable races?
·                     1972 Yonkers Marathon: 2:32:06 – 2nd place.
·                     1973 Jersey Shore Marathon: 2:25:08 – 2nd place
·                     1974 Boston Marathon: 2:25:03 – 28th place
·                     1976 New York City Marathon: 2:27:27 – 25th place.   
·                     In 1972 I was very fortunate to accompany Tom Fleming as his coach to the Olympic Marathon Trials in Eugene, OR. That was a great thrill.

How do you train now? In my younger years I sometimes ran twice a day.  I took a rare day off and on Sundays ran long (14-20 miles) or raced. Now, I train four days a week for 4-5 miles and the other days do 40 minutes of non-pounding aerobics. I do arm and leg work to keep my knee strong.

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Has your diet changed through the years: I pretty much eat the same now as I did as a teenager. Burgers, steak and pasta. I eliminated soda a long time ago and don’t drink alcoholic beverages. But I like my cookies and cakes.

Cross training? I do outdoor and indoor biking, use the elliptical and a machine called the Zero-runner, which has no impact to the knees.  And I do aerobics to strengthen my knee. For the last 15 years I have been using the Karvonen method of running (Karvonen formula essentially converts you to training at a % of your Max O2 Uptake) using resting heart rate and age. This keeps me from over training. I'm very flexible as I spend at least 10 minutes a day stretching. I've always been active and love the feeling of sweating and working out. Exercising or running is the way I start every day.  It gives me that lift to feel good and be ready for any challenge that comes my way.

How important is social running to you? During the 70s and 80s I enjoyed running with training groups and the camaraderie we shared. Back then my running circle consisted of Tom Fleming, Marty Liquori, Bill Rodgers and Henry Rono. Now I run alone and enjoy it.
I also want to add that I am a huge historian of our sport. I love the history and getting to know some of our legendary runners and pioneers. In 2003 I was in Boulder and had the nerve to just knock on Frank Shorter’s door to get an autograph of a recent book he had written.

A favorite quote: Juma Ikanga from Tanzania, who won the 1989 New York City Marathon, said: “The will to win is nothing without the will to train."

Obstacles along the way: You mean something more than six knee surgeries? No.

With Lasse Viren (second from right) and
Grete Waitz (right)
Running-training philosophy: My running-training philosophy of Hard-Easy Days was inspired from legendary coach Bill Bowerman. I use that with all my athletes. A hard day is followed with easy running.

How has running helped you with the aging process? Running has kept my resting heart rate at 48. I'm always told I look in my 50's. I'm 5'3" and 120 pounds, pretty much the same weight I’ve always been so running has kept me fit and healthy throughout the years.  Running has also taught me how to manage my time, which I need as I am still working and have lots of different coaching schedules to juggle.  

Summary of my running life: Running is my passion and what many people identify me with. I see people from years ago who will say, "Joel are you still running?" That always catches me as if I wouldn’t be running. I want to respond, “Am I sill breathing?” I feel we all have a purpose in life and mine is not just to run, but also to help all ages of runners achieve their goals. Running has shaped my life and I’ve been very fortunate to make a living out of my passion. What could be better?

Runner at right in top photo is Gary Fanelli.