PROFILE--Jim Austin ran 3:07 in the 1968 Boston Marathon ... and then some

(2-19) Jim Austin is too humble to say much about his career, as you'll see below, so we're going to fill in a few details here. Since 1972, he's been a professor at the Harvard Business School, from which he graduated. He was co-founder and chair of the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative, which has worked with nonprofits and socially oriented businesses around the globe. He has been the author or editor of 16 books in his area of expertise, and one--Gone Running--about his passion. In 2008, Austin received the Aspen Institute's Ashoka Award for professors who integrate social and environmental issues into their work. Gone Running describes runs he has taken in far-flung places, including Oaxaca, MEX, where he and his wife, Cathy, now live half the year. In 1968, Austin, now 76, finished 84th (3:07:21) in the Boston Marathon.

What was your career/profession? University Professor, Harvard Business School

When did you start running and why? In elementary school. I thought I was fast in my school, but finished last in our first track meet against other schools. Decided I wasn’t really much of a sprinter. Didn’t really start competitive running until high school cross-country and track (on the swimming team in between).

How much did you run in your peak years? When training for marathons, about 70. Otherwise about 40.

Top races or achievements?
*Boston Marathon – 1968: It was my first marathon, I had little idea
how to train or race, and I ran in low-cut tennis shoes. The result: I finished in 3:07 (with big blisters). And I got to be a piece of Amby Burfoot’s historic win.
In this 2017 battle of the beards, Austin (right)
wins by a wide margin over Burfoot.
Both also ran the 1968 Boston Marathon;
Austin didn't win that one.

*NYC Marathon – 1988:  My second marathon, two decades after my first. Could an older but wiser runner beat the youthful rookie’s Boston time? This time I knew how to train, had real running shoes, and a pacing plan. I ran a disciplined race and avoided the hitting The Wall as I gutted out the last stretch through Central Park. The Time? 2:57. I was really proud to become a Sub-3 hour marathoner.

*Boston Marathon, 1996: Since this was the 100th running of the race, I wanted to be part of it. My goal was to have fun and smile the whole way. But my Harvard Business School fellow racer and I turned this into a benefit fundraiser for a local public school, with donors pledged to double their amounts if we beat our previous best times. This mean I had to train seriously again, so I racked up 1,256 training miles over 27 weeks. I started pretty near the back of the pack and was carried along by the unending cheers of the over million watchers. I ended up passing 22,000 fellow runners, smiling all the wa, and crossed the finish line in 3:20. My Marathon Trilogy was complete.

*Chilmark 5K – My favorite race.  I’ve run in this Martha’s Vineyard race every year since its inception in 1968. It became a family tradition, which introduced road racing to my children and grandchildren. I began winning my age divisions in my 50s, and had an undefeated string in my 60s. But my favorite was one year when the race organizer unexpectedly gave me a special recognition: “The Spirit of Chilmark Award.” Wow! The most savored awards are the unexpected ones.
* Beyond the races, my life has been enriched with running adventures around the world….dodging elephants in Africa, running the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, following the mountain forest trails in Mexico, and many more. Every run offers a new adventure, big or small.

Estimate of your total lifetime miles? Rough estimate: 70,000

How much are you running, cross-training, stretching, strengthening now? 6-7 days a week. Modest running due to a permanent ankle injury. A mix among elliptical, EliptiGo, biking, running in pool, all of which are easier on the ankle; some modest stretching and pull-ups.

Any recent race results? I ran sub 10:00s barely in a Boston 5K to finish in 30:47. Another surprise award: I got the "oldest runner" prize. I thought, "Wow, this is great. And I'll automatically improve next year, because I'll be a year older."

Does it bother you that you are slower now? Hey, aging happens. The battle is to slow down the slowing. It's still satisfying when you improve your recent time on a running route. And when that’s no longer happening, the slower times need to become the new benchmarks. It’s me against me, so just doing it and going all-out is motivating. Regardless of one’s time, there is intrinsic joy in just going out and running.

Have your diet and weight changed? Not much diet or weight change. I do try to keep my weight down when I am in my summer racing season. I take multivitamins and calcium. Don’t know if they do much. Haven’t discovered any super-pills that make any noticeable difference, although I’ve tried a few.

Injuries and health issues? I’ve had my share of strains and sprains, but it's a big difference when you are hit with an irreversible structural injury. In my case it was crumpled ankle cartilage. After a few years, arthritis set in, and it is bone-on-bone. That means pain every step running and even walking. Speedwork is hardly possible, so I'm faced with a big slowdown in times. The presence of pain reduces the pleasure of going out for a run, but I just endure it. Pain tolerance becomes a constant. Running is too much a part of who I am to stop.

Got a favorite quote? “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”  -Juma Ikanga, great Tanzanian marathoner

Several short tips for prospective lifetime runners?
1--Listen to your body - Don’t run hurt -  Rest when you need it.
2--Stretch before and after; you will always need this.
3--Enter races to keep your competitive juices flowing and absorb the collective power of the running herd.  
4--Savor the act of running, at whatever speed and for however long. Have fun.

How does running & fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis?  It strengthens the body and mind, increasing physical endurance and mental acuity (mens sana in corpore sano). It provides you with sense of accomplishment.

Biggest life lessons? Jim’s Big Ten:
1--Run for fun.
2--Run for health.
3--Run to relax.
4--Run to race.
5--Run to win
6--Run to excel.
7. Run to discover.
8--Run for friendship.
9--Run for joy.
10--Run for adventure.

However long life’s journey is, continue to enjoy each step.