PROFILE--Douglas Finley has been running for 59 years

2:57 marathon, Saginaw Bay, 1979
 (Aug. 2020) These days, Flint, MI, is sadly known for its pollution, unemployment and urban blight. But back in 1961, when young Douglas Finley was looking for an athletic outlet, Flint Northern H.S. was known as a track powerhouse. So Finley joined the team. Five years later, in 1966, he finished his first marathon in Detroit. Nearly 60 years later, at age 75, he retains the work ethic he learned in school and community. At his gym, others often shake their heads in wonderment at the "sweat dripping off my nose." Finley has a marathon best of 2:57, has won a few weight-lifting titles, and now spends much of this free time as a coach of young runners and editor of the online youth running publication, Children's Running.

Career-profession: I was Lansing MI parks and recreation director; chief, Michigan dnr office of communications and marketing; adjunct faculty at Michigan State University. Race organizer. Coached school and club-based childrens running. Editor of the Journal of Youth Running with subscribers in nine countries, and recently, the website. 

When did you start running and why? 1961. Track was the sport at Flint Northern High School; we were either state champion or runner- up in big school state finals 10 years running. Track is what kids did if too small for football and too short for basketball. Lettering in track was like the gold standard. 
35 miles into 50 mile, 1979

How much did you run in your peak years? As an adult  ages 30-35, I averaged 60 miles, peak was 80. As a teen, 30-35 miles. 

Top performances? In 1978, I ran identical 3:00:48 marathons at Saginaw Bay and Grand Valley. The next year at Saginaw Bay, my 2:57:36 felt great. But my most memorable race was probably a 7:36.58 50 mile in 1979 with a top 10% finish in a very good field. On that day I walked away, allbeit very slowly, knowing I was a good runner. 

How much are you running and cross-training now? I do 90% cross-training, mostly treadmill alternating with strength work--10 minutes tm / three core exercises, 10 minutes tm / three upper body exercises, 10 minutes tm / three lower body exercises, etc. Strength work, not lots of reps but going heavy, maxing out 6 reps or less. 

I actually won more than a few bench press competitions along the way, including even a Michigan state title (age and weight division of course)! In 2006, at age 61, I benched 235 pounds "natural" in our state championships, meaning judged and without a reinforced shirt.

Recent races? Have not raced in years. Some 5ks, but never racing or even aware of my time. Some with young kids I coach. Keeping them together, moving up through the pack after starting at the back.

Does it bother you that you are getting slower?
I work out harder than most people my age so who cares how fast (or slow) I am? Motivation is internal. But I do enjoy seeing my peers (those even younger than me) shaking their head when they see me in the gym, sweat dripping off my nose. 

Diet and weight changes? My weight goes up and down. At no time am I the slim runner I once was. I still look good, so that is enough. 

What injuries or other health issues have you faced through the years? Prostate cancer played havoc with my running--the weakened bladder versus the pounding of running. Then it was arthritis of both big toe joints. Jogging, treadmill running and walking, along with working with weights, define what I can do. Jogging on a treadmill that is set on a slight incline reduces the pounding. 

Favorite inspirational quote? Borrowing from Emil Zatopek, I tell my young runners that what counts in running isn't finishing a race while mom and dad are there cheering for you. What really counts is what you do on a run when no one is there to cheer. 

Tips for hopeful lifetime runners? 
1--Enjoy it. The day running becomes an obligation, stop running for a while. 
2--Run with others. Relish a sense of belonging. 
3--Discover running is more than what you did yesterday. Run in different places, on different turf, at different times. 
4--Cross-train often. 
5--Collecting finishers medals is great, but entering the run is greater. Let the running experience be the reward. 

How does running & fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? After 60 years, fitness is as much a part of my life as eating and sleeping. I just do it. It defines me, and then redefines me the next day. 

What are the biggest lessons (life lessons and running lessons) you have learned from running? Being fit, being active, discovering our potential, are the dessert, the sugar coating, of life. Be sure to enjoy the treat every day. 
Finley tells kids to leave practice with an empty water bottle.
They listen.