JULY 2015 - ATHLETE PROFILE
Residence: Hoosick Falls
Profession: Retired, Independent Contractor
Family: Wife, Edee; Children: Mark, DJ and Karen; and Five Grandchildren
Primary Sport: Running
Secondary Sports: Golf and Skiing
Leisure Activity: Reading Biographies and Non-Fiction
What’s Age Got to Do with It
By Christine Bishop
Every time Richard Schumacher wins a medal in his 80-plus age category he proudly hangs it on his car visor replacing the older one. A guy in a pick-up truck saw him do this and said sarcastically that he was glad to see that Richard had won at least two medals, to which Richard responded, “Two! I have at least 200.” He may be in his 80s, but he’s not slowing down.
He credits Frank Shorter with inspiring him and others to run long distances. Before Shorter medaled in the 1972 and 1976 Olympic marathons, most people were unaware of the event, but not after Shorter’s feats. People were no longer content with running a mile, and so began the running boom. The numbers of runners climbed from 10,000 in 1968, to 27 million ten years later in the United States, and Richard was among them.
He was the fastest kid in the city of Buffalo in the 60-yard dash when he was in grammar school, but he didn’t pursue track as a sport. Instead, he played basketball and baseball. In college he took up alpine skiing, which became his lifelong winter passion. He says of his time at Paul Smith’s College in the scenic Adirondacks that he majored in skiing and minored in hotel management. He also took up golf. In Richard’s 40s, Frank Shorter revolutionized his life and running became his number one sport.
During this burst of enthusiasm, he raced all the distances. His best 5K time was 19:12 at age 52, and his best 10K was slightly over 40 minutes to his chagrin. His 5-mile PR is 32:11 at the Amsterdam Amble. He ran his best half marathon in 1:33:00 (7:10 pace), at age 54 in Plattsburgh. At age 48 he did his first marathon in Buffalo, where he ran 5:03:00 with frigid winds howling down from Canada. At Lake George, he did his second and last marathon in 3:56:00 (9-minute pace) with his kids following him on their bikes. He decided to forsake the marathon because it took too much time and he was afraid of injuring himself.
Richard is an obsessive chronicler of his sports career. He has scrapbooks filled with articles, photographs, race results, cartoons with captions and fun memorabilia. He has lists and detailed descriptions of every race he has completed. His total now is 576 and running. He is goal oriented and plans his year to include 18 5Ks all with an 80-plus category that range from spring to fall ending with the Troy Turkey Trot, which he does yearly, and then skis at Gore Mountain in the winter. In between, he plays golf three times a week weather permitting.
When in his 70s he was plagued by physical problems. At 72, after a full day of skiing at Gore with shoveling snow in between, he was stricken with chest pains. After a lengthy exam, the doctor said he had good news and bad news. The good news was that he had not had a heart attack, but the bad news was that he needed a triple bypass. Paralleling this, he began to experience stomach pain every time he ran, so he switched to bicycling. His biking career was marked by success and hard work. He did the ADA Tour de Cure for eight years straight, biking and personally raising thousands for the charity.
During this time he had other ills from which he bounced back, but truly transformative surgery came when he was 78. It turned out that the pain he felt in his gut for years was from a kidney stone. Within two weeks of the surgery, he felt like a phoenix rising from the ashes. There was no pain and the world was golden again. He decided that it was time to trade his bicycle for his running shoes and he began to plan his comeback. It took a while to get back into running shape but he did it! His goal was to “knock them dead” when he entered his new age category of 80. In his first comeback race, at 78, he ran the 5K at an 11:10 pace! He was well on the path to success.
As Richard stated, a new age category is a terrific turn-on for any runner. He examined the 80 and above field and realized that he could give them all a good run for their money. When he turned 80, he celebrated for three days straight with family and friends.
Richard is a lean, mean running machine. Every one of his 142 pounds is packed with competition. He has a twinkle in his eye as he talks about his aim of “promoting the hell out of the 80-year-old age group to encourage ‘young’ senior citizens.” He notes that people are running longer, are healthier, and they pay attention to their age groups. Today, he says that 80 is the new 70. Race age groups that only goes up to 60-plus, experience his wrath. He will ask the race directors if they have a case against senior citizens, and if they are not careful the AARP could be calling.
His daughter Karen who also runs introduced her father to the Jeff Galloway training program. Richard follows what is recommended for his age group and does one long run of up to six miles and one short run with a day of walking in between. The running is supposed to be alternated with intervals of walking, but none longer than 30 seconds or else walking predominates. Richard has noticed that other runners walk too long losing their focus.
In skiing, Richard is a proud member of the 70-plus group at Gore Mountain, and he makes it his goal to ski at least 20 trips a year.
As to his diet, he follows no strict rules but eats smaller portions as he has aged. However, before a race he only has a piece of toast, a banana and some coffee. Every time he varied this, he had a disaster.
When asked about running tips, he responded in two ways. For running in general, always be competitive no matter what your age, try to avoid injury, and make sure you get plenty of rest. For older runners, he recommends that they do what he calls the “senior shuffle.” This method of running involves keeping your feet low to the ground using short strides with a light touch, thus allowing the ankle to do most of the work reducing muscle fatigue, and sparing knees and hips. He sees many older runners flailing their arms as they run wasting energy and putting strain on their body that the shuffle avoids.
He has done well with this shuffle. He is very proud of his 2012 race where he finish in 30:58 (9:58 pace) at the Run for the ROC in Saratoga Springs. During 2014, Richard’s 5Ks were all in the 11-minute-per-mile range, except for the Run if You Dare 5K in Mechanicville that he did in 32:58 (10:37 a mile), and Run for the ROC in 33:56 (10:56 pace).
Richard ended his 2014 diary with, “Another great year. Good luck in promoting the 80-plus category.” With Richard’s limitless energy and campaigning zeal, we look forward to seeing more senior runners, and 80-84, 85-89 and 90-plus age groups abounding in regional races soon. Way to go, Richard!
Christine Bishop (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Schenectady is a retired media specialist who loves running, photography and bird watching.