PROFILE--Dennis Marsella--aka The Coatman--has been running for 39 years

(Apr. 2020) Dennis Marsella calls himself "the original stunt runner," and he might be just that. Or the most-enduring. Now 69 and living in Fort Lauderdale, FL, he started as "Coatman" in 1981--no easy feat, wearing a hot winter coat in the Miami Marathon. Through the years, he has evolved to pizza delivery and sometimes champagne server, particularly in the New York City Marathon, which he has completed 33 times. You could never call Marsella boring or colorless--maybe eccentric. But he's covered 130,000 miles by his count, and is planning on a lot more. "I want to run until I'm 100," he says.

Career-profession? I worked 15 years as lifeguard, also a security guard, and yes I have been paid to advertise for companies while I do training runs and races all over Fort Lauderdale.

How did you start running and why? I first ran track in 1967 at Rutherford High School in Fort Lauderdale. We also ran as part of lifeguard training. I was motivated to run my first Miami Orange Bowl Marathon in 1981 as a survival stunt
while wearing a bulky winter coat. I finished in 4:15 and was featured in The Runner magazine. That's when I became known as "Coatman." After that I got hooked on training and running marathons. I've also run five 50K ultras.

How much did you train in your peak years? I generally averaged 70 miles a week for 40 years. Overall, I've run more than 130,000 miles. I've never been injured in any sport. I also trained and boxed with Muhammad Ali in Miami Beach. He let me use his personal heavy bag.

Achievements-accomplishments? My most memorable marathon was the 1987 Moscow Marathon when Russia was still socialist. I went there with a group of peace activists called World Runners. I've run the NYC Marathon 33 times, and have found all of them fantastic. They have such a great crowd of spectators all along the route. 

I've completed over 60 of my 146 marathons in dress shoes. I have a marathon PR of 3:26.
Current training and cross-training? I'm still running most days, and I do muscle-toning work as well. I run three or four marathons a year.

Any recent races? I ran the 2020 Fort Lauderdale Marathon in 4:45 in January, and the next month ran Miami in 5:25. I ran 4:57 at New York City last November.

How do you motivate yourself against the aging and slowing process? I have a mantra, "Run To 100," and use it to keep training every day. I plan to keep running toward this goal. I don't believe in aging.

Diet and/or weight changes? I'm a 30-year vegetarian and thinner now than when I was younger. I feel this is natural. The only drug i take is caffeine.

Injuries or other health obstacles? I'm never injured or sick, but sometimes running affects my digestion. I've adapted to that. 

Three tips for other hopeful lifetime runners?
1--Stay loose.
2--Study the psychological aspects of running.
3--Set goals. 

How does running & fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? Running and training for 26 mile marathons has changed my life. I have a shamanist view of running where it has become my religion. I'm training to run to 100, and that gives me great incentive in my daily life. Running is the most natural, peaceful sport. As I run, I chant my mantras: "Run To 100" and "Live like a shaman."