An Instagram photo taken by Marisa Magnatta of WMMR’s Preston and Steve went wild on the Internet last week: a lone racer at the Broad Street Run, pacing forward long after the Philadelphia streets had quieted.
A picture says a thousand words, right?
Well, the story behind the photo is even better.
Philadelphia’s newest running hero, John Schultz, will turn 82-years-old this June (Happy early birthday from Be Well Philly, John!), and this past Sunday, a week after Broad Street, he completed the Delaware Marathon, his 60th marathon to date.
Not only has he run 60 marathons, but he didn’t start running until he was 59-years-old and ran his first 5K in Wilmington, Delaware. He ran his first 26.2, the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C., when he was 63 years old. “I didn’t know if I could finish it or not,” he recalls of his first MCM. For anyone out there who has ever wondered the same thing, Schultz has your answer—times 60.
John Schultz has completed over 1,700 road and off-road races, 60 marathons, three ultra-marathons, 27 duathons, and 13 multi-stair climbs. He has run every Delaware Marathon since the race began (11 years ago), and is a member of the Pike Creek Valley Running Club Hall of Fame—and all of this from a man who didn’t start running until the age of 59.
Schultz, a current resident of Villa Monterey, started running on a whim. He was wearing a business suit. “I worked downtown in Wilmington, and I lived about four miles away,” he says. “The bus didn’t come and I was walking home and the thought occurred to me, ‘I wonder if I could run home without stopping.’ So I did.”
He is also a chemistry PhD who worked as a senior information specialist in regulatory affairs at DuPont U.S.A. for over 55 years. Running from DuPont’s Wilmington office to his home in Gordon Heights all those years ago, Schultz had found a new love, as well as a new community as a member of the Pike Creek Valley Running Club.
“I do about 100 races a year, including four marathons. In the fall I will be doing a marathon in Delaware and the Philadelphia Marathon, which I do every year,” he says. “I plan on doing lots more. In the summertime, you can do four or five, even six or more races in the week. You can do them on weeknights.”
The 81-year-old athlete can’t count how many Broad Street Runs he’s completed since he started running, but he guesses it’s been at least 15.
“I keep going because I want to finish,” Schultz says. “I want to be able to say I did it.”
Magnatta’s snapshot of Schultz in his signature red shorts pumping past City Hall on an empty Broad Street was so inspirational because it captured the spirit of Schultz and, in a sense, the spirit of distance running itself: perseverance.
“It had thinned out by that time because my time is slow,” Schultz says of the photo. “What’s fun for me is you start out at the top of Broad Street and you look and you see this little stick on the horizon which is that little statue of Billy Penn. So I say to the people running with me, ‘Do you see that little thing in the distance? That’s our halfway point!’ I always say, ‘Say hello to Billy Penn when you go around the curve!’”
His fastest Broad Street time was 1:25—and that was when he was in his 60s. His 2014 run time, at the time of the Instagram photo, was 2:45:15. He loves running Broad Street just to pass through the neighborhoods to the cheers of locals.
If spectators want to catch a glimpse of him running his way towards another race on the books, they can just look for his red shorts. “I always wear red shorts, and if possible, I run without a shirt. I like red because it’s more distinctive. I’ve got four more pairs of the red shorts.”
With his 82nd birthday coming up, our favorite racer shows no sign of stopping.
“My philosophy is, Don’t stop doing it because of age. People think themselves into being old. People think themselves into not doing things. They think, ‘Well, I’m 40. I’m past all that stuff now.’ My philosophy is if you can still do it and enjoy doing it, well, then do it.”
As Magnatta wrote, “There’s plenty of photos of a crowded Broad St but how about this elderly gentleman at the very end, keeping his own pace #alwayskeepgoing #itaintoveruntilitsover.”
Always keep going. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
John Schultz can tell you.
Like what you’re reading? Experience Be Well Philly live at Be Well Philly Boot Camp fitness fest on June 7th!