PROFILE: Billy Shea has been running for 51 years

(Aug. 2019) Though he now lives in northern California, Billy Shea is one of the many longtime runners from southeastern Connecticut inspired by the legendary John J. Kelley. Shea says he began running, in socks only (no shoes), the afternoon in 1968 when he first saw Kelley run a local road race. Shea was 11 at the time. Now 63, he continues training and racing hard despite hip replacement. He counsels others to run by minutes and feel, not by miles, and enjoys quoting Yogi Berra: "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Career/profession: I was a mental health counselor for 12 years at the Reliance House in Norwich Ct. I then moved on after taking another position within Charter Oak. But it was eventually shut down due to the state budget cuts. I then became employed by Foxwood's casino and retired in 2015. Currently working at Fleet Feet in Menlo Park, CA.

When and why did you start running? My running career began on the third Sunday in 1968. I read the morning paper and saw that there was a
road race in my hometown of Norwich, Ct. The Rose Arts 10.6 mile race was going to be run, and I was very interested in viewing this event. I still clearly remember seeing Amby Burfoot, John Kelley and Tim Smith coming up Broadway to the finish line. Yes Amby had his quick, short strides. Kell always bobbing from side to side and Tim coming up in his white singlet and sunglasses. I went home that afternoon and started running around the block many times in just socks, no shoes. My running career had begun.

How much did you run in your peak years? During my peak years I was averaging 100 miles per week. Back then it was all about LSD, no not the drug. But Long Slow Distance.

Best performances or achievements? The 2 races that stick out in my mind are the 1978 Boston Marathon where I ran 2:31:57, and the Manchester Road Race where I ran 24:57. But the biggest highlight of my career was running the Boston Marathon in 2012 in memory of our great friend John Kelley. I was very very fortunate to be one of the 5 who represented Kell in this epic event. Another highlight was just a few weeks ago when I ran the World Masters Athletics Championships in Toronto. Unfortunately, the week before the event, I fell and broke my nose, toe and had a concussion. Oh well life goes on and I continue putting one foot forward. I currently run for the Hoka Aggies out of the SF area. 

Guesstimate of lifetime running miles? Certainly over 100,000 miles of running on these young legs. 

Current training? I am currently running between 50-60 miles per week. Being older I now do much cross-training in the gym. Many many sit-ups and push-ups along with daily stretching. No doubt this is beneficial, and wish I had done more when I was younger.

Injuries/obstacles along the way? Last year I began racing again after a complete hip replacement. It took me a year to get into shape. Then I ran 7 races, winning my 60-64 age group in 6 of them. In an all comers meet in Hayward, I ran 18:50 for 5000 meters. 

Are you bothered getting older and slower? At first it bothered me. But as time moves forward I have accepted the fact that we all get slower. For me running is about giving back to our great sport, in thanks for what it has provided me. I keep it simple in that I run for my health and overall wonderful feeling it provides.

Has your diet changed? Yes. I had Sepsis and had to alter my diet. Its a very simple diet of chicken, pasta, eggs, peanut butter and on occasion beef. But I also cheat with pizza and sweets. I love ice cream and red velvet cupcakes. My breakfast always consists of oatmeal and fruit along with a glass of juice.

A favorite running quote? Steve Prefontaine: " To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." Somebody may beat me, But they are going to have to bleed to do it. 
Shea and John J. Kelley

Also my all-time favorite quote is from Yogi Berra: "It ain't over til it's over."
Tips for other prospective lifetime runners?
1--Enjoy the sport and play other sports to provide whole-body balance. 
2--Keep it simple. Don't get caught up in metrics and pace.
3--Run by minutes and feel. It's much easier to complete workouts by minutes than miles.

What has running contributed to your life and the aging process? Running on a consistent basis provides balance in both emotional and physical ways. A bad day of running is better than no run at all. Running has taught me to keep it simple, and be humble.

As for aging, we have no control of this process. Just be yourself and take care of your mind and body. This will allow for a complete and stress-free life.