Inside Walter White’s apartment at Brookdale’s Freedom Village at Bradenton, a senior living community in Bradenton, Fla. are walls covered in medals, ribbons and numbered bibs he’s accumulated over the last 50 years. Each item represents a race the 93-year-old runner finished. White chuckles when asked how many races he’s run.
“I don’t have a clue,” White says. “I’ve never kept up with it.”
He has kept track of a few things. White has run six marathons, one ultra-marathon (36 miles) and dozens of shorter races. He said that during his prime running years, which he considers to be his 50s and 60s, he preferred to run between 9 and 13 miles. White jokes that since he turned 90 he’s been finishing first in his age group a lot more. In fact, he never loses.
“I was a middle of the pack runner when I started, and stayed that way for a long time,” White says. “But, as I got older there was less competition. So I moved up. I started to win stuff. Now, there’s nobody in my age group, so I always win. I’m always first.”
Guess I’m a Runner
White has always been physically active. He played an assortment of sports as a child and competed in several intermural sports while in the Navy. After retiring from the Navy in 1969, he started a career in rehabilitation and began looking for ways to stay in shape. White moved to Sarasota, Fla. during the summer of 1973 and his new house was located on a mile long stretch of road that was relatively flat and straight.
“I’d run to the end of the road and back, then sit down and have my drink,” White said. “I got to where I could run at a pretty good pace.”
He later moved to a golf course community that included a pool. One day he went for a run, then came to the pool to find his wife. A man there asked if he was a runner.
“I told him, ‘Yeah, I guess I’m a runner,’” White said. “Then he goes, ‘Good, cause there’s a three-mile race on Saturday. I’ll see you there.’ So that was my first race. I damn near killed myself trying to show off. I didn’t know a thing about how to pace myself.”
Running is a Social Sport
White enjoyed the comradery he and the other runners shared. He realized running with others was a lot more fun than going it alone. So he joined a running club and in a few years become an officer in the club. His advice to new runners, or anyone who want to keep running well into their 70s, 80s and 90s, is to run with a friend.
“If you want to sustain your running career like I have, you’ve got to find running partners,” White said. “It’s a social sport. I get more out of the social aspect than I do actually running. I’ve never tried to set any records. I’m a schmoozer. I like to find people who run so I have someone to talk with.”
Walter runs three or four times a week, typically going on a three-mile course that takes him across Ringling Bridge over Sarasota Bay and back. He doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. He’s currently preparing for a 5K on Labor Day.
Asked if running could be the secret to living longer, White laughed and said, “Could be, but I think it has more to do with your genes and good luck.”