PROFILE--David Cook has been running for 42 years

No better prize than fresh lobstah.
(May 2020) David Cook started running in 1978, and didn't win any prizes for almost 40 years. He didn't run for the glory, he ran for the feel-good. Maybe that's one reason he's still going strong. Cook never ran more than about 22 miles a week, but he mixed it up with modest doses of cycling, swimming, and good humor. The latter is crucially important; don't we all know it! Cook's advice for other runners: "Don't take yourself too seriously," and "Be humble, and treat others kindly." We'd like to second those emotions.

Your career-profession? I spent the first 19 years of my career in shallow water oceanography working for Raytheon Co. in Newport RI. I switched to the environmental field in 1989, set up my own company, and have been an environmental consultant since that time. I do inspections of commercial properties, testing of soil and ground water, and cleanups. Before work, I grew up in Morristown, NJ, graduated from Hamilton College, and got a doctorate in geology from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I moved to Connecticut in 1969, and have lived in Lyme since 1971.

When did you start running and why? I got into exercise early, and did swimming and cross country in high school and college. In my early working career, my exercise came from swimming during the lunch hour at the Newport YMCA. My brother in law talked me into trying a 5K
in 1978, and I’ve been running regularly since then. I guess the motivation for exercise started when I wasn’t good at athletics as a child and I’ve been making up for it the rest of my life.

How much did you run in your peak years, miles/week, etc? In my peak years, my 40’s and 50’s, I did 18 to 22 miles per week.

What were some of your best race performances? I am not a fast runner. When I started, my race pace was 7 to 8 minutes per mile. That pace has slowed regularly with age, and now I’m about 11 minutes per mile. I’ve finished close to 300 races over the past 40 years, and only started winning some prizes in my age group after I turned 70. It seems I’m a survivor and there are fewer runners in that group.

An estimate of your total lifetime running miles? Roughly 30,000 miles.

How much are you running and cross-training now? Strength work?
Stretching? Now I do two 4-mile runs during the work week, and a 6 to 7 mile run on the weekend. I have a weight routine 5 mornings a week, I swim a half mile two to three times a week, and I bike 8 to 10 miles twice a week (stationary bike in winter)

Any recent race results? Last June I ran the Tour de Noank 5K in 35:18.
That's where I won the lobster as an age-group prize.

Are you bothered by getting slower? For my first 12 years of running, I averaged my annual race mile pace, and plotted the average against time. It was distressing to see the mile pace inexorably increase from 7 to 8 to 9 minutes per mile. I realized that running pace and overall physical ability will keep declining with age. However, by continuing to run, swim, and bike, I can preserve much of my health, and gain a continuing source of enjoyment and satisfaction.

I am inspired by my late wife’s uncle Chet Savicki, who ran in races into his 90’s. Uncle Chet, now deceased, was a wiry, quiet guy who qualified for the Boston marathon after picking up running in his 60’s.

Diet and weight changes through the years? I grew up on meat and potatoes, but in my adult life I have had a reasonably healthy diet. My wife passed away in 2017 after a four-year illness. I am very fortunate to have hooked up since then with a wonderful woman who shares my love of exercise, and is big on organic food! I never got into supplements. 

Injuries and/or other health obstacles? I have had injuries over the years including plantar fasciitis, medial meniscus tear, and broken ribs. These have necessitated taking time off from running. I have been able to substitute walking and biking (road and stationary) during these periods.

A favorite in spirational quote: “Keep on punching!”

Three short tips for would-be lifetime runners?
1. Take time off running during injuries – don’t try to run through them.
2. Make a place for running and other exercise in your daily schedule.
3. Don’t take yourself too seriously – smell the roses.

How does running and fitness improve your life? Without running and other exercise, I feel listless. Stressing my body gives me a sense of well-being and provides the energy to tackle life’s tasks. Running, swimming, biking, and other exercise are an anchor in my life. Running especially is something that can be done at any location – on travel, work assignments, and vacation.

Biggest life and running lessons?
1. You don’t have to be fast to get satisfaction from running.
2. Aging is unavoidable, make the best of your situation.
3. Exercise promotes physical and mental health.
4. Be humble and treat others kindly.