PROFILE--76-yr-old Gary Patton holds a lot of American Records

(Jul. 2022) If you're not in Tampere, Finland, right now, you haven't seen Gary Patton this week. He's in Finland competing in the 2022 World Masters Track & Field Championships. (We're not keeping up on the daily results, but can note that Patton has already finished second in the age 75-79 800 meters event--running 2:39.71--and tied-for-second in the 6K cross-country race. That's second in the WORLD.) Patton's list of American Record and World Record performances in the middle distances is about as long and impressive as you'd ever want to see. And the 76-yr-old from Rock Rapids, Iowa, does it on far less running mileage (and perhaps more cross-training) than most elite runners. His success stems in part from a positive get-back-in-the-saddle-again mentality. "Whenever I lose," he says, "
I pick myself up and try to do better the next time."

Career profession? My area of practice was as a consulting civil engineer in design of public water supply systems.

When and why did you start running? I started running at age 21 at the suggestion of a physician, who thought I should do so for my health.

How much did you run in your peak years? I don’t have training logs going back more than 10 years, but I don’t think I ever got over 30 miles/week, even when training for a marathon.

Top performances? My favorite record is my m75 road mile record, 5:56. Others--

800M M75 Outdoor AR: 2:37.06

1500M M70 Indoor AR: 5:07.11

1500M M70 Outdoor AR: 5:04.87

1500M M75 Outdoor AR: 5:19.87

Mile M70 Indoor AR/WR: 5:29.81

Mile M70 Outdoor AR: 5:35.03

3000M M70 Outdoor AR 11:19.29

Marathon: Honolulu Marathon 2011: 3:58:59

Any estimate of your lifetime running miles? Age 21-40: Weekend jogger with estimated miles, 8000 mi. Age 41-75: Competing in road races and track – est. 25,000 mi. total.

How much are you running and cross-training now? Running about 15 mi/week – about half are hills, intervals and speed work. Swimming, biking, elliptical about 4 hr/week, usually doing intervals. About 5 hr/week strength training with weight machines, free weights, body weights, pilates and swiss ball. About 20 min static stretching following runs, bike, elliptical.

Does it bother you that you get slower with age? When I rationalize it, slowing down does not bother me. I deal with it by looking at my American and world rankings in my age group. My motivation is seeing the great majority of people my age not being able to run a single step – killing themselves with inactivity and poor diet. I’m inspired by runners who can outrun me or who have middle-distance age-group records that I haven’t been able to beat – yet.

How have your diet and weight changed through the years, if at all? My wife and I have always had a relatively healthy diet, but more so in recent years. A little less meat and more fruits, veggies and whole grains. Never smoked. Used to have wine or beer occasionally, even less now. My weight has been fairly stable over the years at about 115 lb. (I’m 5’- 4”). What’s changed is a little less fat and a little more muscle due to more weight training. I quit the half aspirin, fish oil pill and glucosamine years ago. Now the only supplement is Vitamin D in the winter. With a good diet and relatively good health, everything else is just money in the pocket of drug/supplement manufacturers and their pill-pushing salesmen.

What injuries or other health issues have you faced through the years? Since limiting mileage to quality work and increasing cross training and strength training, injuries haven’t kept me out of action more than a month at a time. Every year or 2 I’ll get a bad calf or hamstring cramp (I wouldn’t call them strains) that slow me down for a week or 2 until the soreness goes away.  

A favorite quote? "Carpe diem."

3 tips for other lifetime runners?

1--Mix it up when it comes to training.

2--Rest an injury.

3--Eat right and get plenty of sleep.

How does running and fitness improve your daily life? We have a 2-story house and I can bounce up and down the stairs. Last winter, I scooped snow for 2 hr on my driveway with little increase in heart rate and no muscle/joint soreness the next day.  

What are the biggest life lessons you have learned from running? Whenever I fail--when I don’t come in first--I pick myself up and try to do better next time. I don’t do any navel-gazing. I mostly just take one day at a time and deal with life’s problems as they appear. I’m in complete denial of aging – I feel great. For which I’m very thankful.