PROFILE—Dr. Andrew Lovy has been running for 36 ultra years

(Oct. 2019) Dr. Andrew Lovy is an ultra-runner and board-certified psychiatrist. For the last 30 years, he's been helping runners stay on course, literally, during various ultra races. "We all are at the interface between dedicated, persevering, OCD, stubborn, and just plain crazy," he says. At 84, Lovy is still running ultras, having recently completed the 24-hour Cleveland Nationals with 28.2 miles. 

Career? I’m still working 3 jobs, in Kirksville MO.  I also volunteer medical help to runners during ultra races. Was team physician for the US World 24-hour team for 11 years and medical director for the US 24-hour championships for 15 years.

When and why did you start running?  In 1983 I miserably failed my annual physical. I had been a surgeon with the 101st ABN battalion--the first DO in the Army with a commission in the Medical Corps. I made 13 jumps, etc. . We had to be very fit. 

But when I got home, I let myself go until I decided to get fit again to enjoy my life,
my family, and friends. So. so started walking/running, and after a while enjoyed the motion.  I didn’t experience my PTSD while I was running. It was just me and the world and a great way to complement my life, my mind, and my body. I was at peace. But was also told I wouldn’t live too long because I had let myself physically deteriorate.

So I started running and got better. Then I got curious about the medical aspects of ultra-distances, did research, and continue to do so to this day.

Any early inspiration? My Dadwho always encouraged me to do my best. Then I read about and met Greta Waitz and her story of how she got into running. Very inspirational and she became my hero and spiritual guide throughout my early running career.

Training and racing in peak years? Now? I would do 20 miles during the week and a longer one on the weekend in my prime years. So up to 40-50 a week. After prostate surgery 7 years from Agent Orange, I shifted to running for time. I usually do an hour at a time, with some intervals, and 2 to 3 hours in longer runs. 
Volunteering at a children's hospital during
the Vietnam War.

My former 3:50 marathons increased to 5 and 6 hours, and my 24-hour run totals went from 90 miles to 30-45 miles. So I run pretty much same amount of time, but the mileage has gone down as I got older and got treated for the cancer that had been in my system for 30-plus years. 

I received a permanent radioactive "seed" in my prostate about 9 years ago, and so far no symptoms. But it slowed me down although I work just as hard. I seem to have lost lost first, second and overdrive. I seem to always be in third gear except when someone goes down in a race, and I have to get to him/her quickly. That is the adrenaline flowing, not me being fast.

Most memorable races or achievements? 1988 Grandmas, 3:33:33, fastest ever. Can’t remember year of first Boston but ran it 5 times. Qualified 4 times and was a speaker at the medical symposium one year and ran it as a guest. Also, the 1984 US championship 20 years ago, where I covered 92 miles. I am a much better doctor than I am a runner.

All told, I have completed 197 marathons and 234 ultras. One year I did 49 marathons and 10 ultras to see what the limits are for running at my age. I don’t think there are any!

Has your diet/weight changed through the years?  My weight is the same as it was 50 years ago (152). I watch my diet carefully and load weeks before an event. Not much change in what I eat, just how much.

Cross Training?  About 4 weeks before an event, I add weight training and upper strength training so I can be more efficient when I work on other runners who need medical support.

Obstacles along the way?  Hip Injury, foot injury, rotator cuff injury, and treatment for that prostate cancer. After dealing with the anger and depression over the issues, I see them as challenges now.

A favorite quote:  “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”― Theodore Roosevelt

Has running helped you with the aging process?  Yes, it helps me deal with the inevitability of aging, and understanding that age is just another challenge. Only God knows how long we will live. We can determine how well we live, and running helps me with that focus. Also, I have met some of the finest people I know as a race participant, and a medical volunteer. 

Biggest lessons learned from life and running? Never give up. Each event is a different challenge. You are not competing against others, you are competing against the best you can do. Always strive for the best in you.

Three tips for other potential lifetime runners? 
1--Aim high. With training and practice, almost anything can be achieved. 
2--Run, because it is fun! It is one of the things you can do for a lifetime. 
3--Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Find people who will help you do it!