PROFILE--"Flamingo Joe" Edgecombe has been running for 35 years

(Nov. 2020) Flamingo Joe Edgecombe has been running for 35 years and has never met an ultra he didn’t like. At 71, Joe Edgecombe is living large and still dreaming big. He made it to the “Big Dance” of the Boston Marathon, his first big dream, and then dared to dream even bigger and started doing ultras. As a race director, volunteer, and friend to every runner on the road and the trail, Joe, from Panama City FL, is famous for handing out tiny plastic pink flamingos. “When I see someone struggling I give them one of my little pink flamingos and twist it on their hydration pack. I tell them all will be ok and that they will never have to run alone again!” He figures he’s handed out over one thousand though the years. 

Career/Profession? I was the Director of Respiratory Care in a local hospital for 28 years and also did diagnostic pulmonary testing for an additional 10 years. I retired in 2014 and am loving it. I’m also President of the

Panhandle Runners & Triathletes Club and Draggin’ Tail Runner’s Club in Panama City, FL, where I live.

When did you start running and why? I started running in 1985 after purchasing physiology equipment for the hospital. I did a test on myself and discovered I had some issues that I was not aware of. I slowly started running, ½ mile run and ½ mile walk. That progressed to 5Ks. I started doing half Ironman (IM) competitions in 1987 and did the local Gulf Coast Triathlon for 31 years. In my early days, I would do 45 road races per year, 6 triathlons, three 100-mile bike rides and directed 3 races. When I turned 50, I participated in the inaugural Ironman in Panama City. If you have a local, you must attempt it! It went better that anticipated and I managed a sub-12-hour time.

Most memorable race/moment? It took me 5 attempts to BQ and I finally did at the Tallahassee Marathon with two other friends also looking to BQ. We stuck to the plan and everything happened just as I visualized it.

How did you get into ultras? As my age started to increase, so did my distance running. An ultra-runner friend, Richard Cozart, convinced me to do my first 50K. He is now 91 and was still doing ultras into his 80s. He initially dragged me over to the “dark side!” My first 50K happened to be on my 55th birthday. It was a trail run and I was hooked. I fell in love with trail running! When I was 60, I finally qualified for Boston and have run it 5 times. At 62, I did my first 100K. Surprisingly, I came in 10th overall in 13:23:00. I loved geezering all the young runners!

Volunteer aid station, TranSelkirk 5-day race

I had a friend ask me to volunteer at the TransRockies 6 Day Stage Run in 2008, and it changed my life. The atmosphere and people were intoxicating. The following year I decided to run the 120 miles in 6 days. Tough for a flatlander but I managed to cross the Rockies without getting injured. I have worked and run the TRR for 12 years now.

I had always dreamed of running a 100-miler. Be careful of your dreams because they can come true. At 68, a month shy of my 69th birthday, I signed up for the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler. It went well even though I blistered at 85 miles. I cross- trained with cycling, weights, push-ups, sit-ups and all the normal strength training. The blisters slowed me down but I was able to do 28:20:41. I was on target for a 25-hour race but hobbled to 28. I beat the 30-hour cut off!

Peak running and what are you doing now? I normally ran 25-30 miles per week. But in these later years, I'm doing more. My normal now is around 40ish and up to 65 miles per week. These virtual events during Covid craziness have kept me running. I just did 120 miles in 15 days for the TRR 120 mile virtual event. 

Injuries or setbacks? Even with all this running, I have been injury free for all these years.

Diet? I have a normal diet, which sometimes blossoms into a lot of food preparing for IMs or Ultra events.

Favorite Quote? “Dare to Dream.” If you stick to your plan and work hard, you may be able to realize your dream.

How has running helped you with the aging process? Are you a social runner? I thoroughly enjoy all the runners and significant others. I love being with or surrounded by runners. I usually don’t know their occupation, married status, income or anything. They can be who they are and I can likewise. I have a little philosophy: Accept people who will add to your life and don’t hold on to those that suck the lifeblood from you.

One of Joe's famous flamingos

All of these things help my perceived aging process. Never give up or give in. Give it your all! Being around all ages gives one diversity and helps keep you young. Age is just a number! I never look at an age but at the individual.

Three tips for younger runners who want to be lifetime runners? My tips for younger runners would be: train smart, surround yourself with “like” people, and strive to keep it fun!

What is your philosophy of life and running? I have been directing races for over 25 years and this is the type of work I enjoy. It can be hectic but worth every bead of sweat or nerve I have left. It allows me to draw people into my life style. I have volunteered at the TransRockies 6 Day Run and the TranSelkirk 5 Day Run in Revelstoke, BC for years. So I guess my philosophy is to do what you enjoy in life and you will be rewarded many times over. Maybe even 100 (miles) times over.