December 3, 2020

Septuagenarian Still Running

... and running and running
By Ross Boissoneau | Oct. 31, 2020

If you see Mickey Fivenson out running, it must be a day that ends in d-a-y. The veteran racer not only runs every day but also runs a 5K every day — rain, snow, sunshine, spring, summer, fall, winter, you’ll find him loping through his neighborhood, greeting his neighbors, making sure his dog, Rebel, is keeping up — every single day.

Oh, and he’s 78 years old. (Fivenson, that is; Rebel is in fine fettle at 11.) 

STARTING LINE
He's also been at it for a while. “About 50 years ago I was looking for a way to get in shape and lose a little weight,” Fivenson said. “I read a book by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, 'Aerobics.'” The book detailed exercises that people like Fivenson could do to get and stay in shape and reduce their health risks."

Fivenson said the concept of aerobic exercuse was really interesting to him, and running itelf held some appeal; other than some good shoes, he didn’t need special equipment, and he could do it by himself any time he wanted. 

So he immediately started running marathons and — well, no, he didn’t. “I was not in shape. I started running a block or two and gradually built up,” he said.

It took time, but eventually, Fivenson actually did begin to train for a marathon. Then another. And another. “I did over 60, including doubles,” Fivenson said. (Doubles are two marathons in a single weekend.) 

WORLD RECORD TRIO
Among his accomplishments is setting a world record in 1986 with a three-person marathon team in the Detroit Free Press Marathon. The trio's time — 3:57. The other members of his team? Sons Adam and Zack. 

Their training started early; Fivenson started running with his eldest son well before he could walk, using a racing stroller. But when the second one came along, he had a problem: No one was manufacturing racing strollers for two babies.

“So I had a canvas company make a sidecar. I’d carry toys for them or drinks,” he said. Fivenson said they were a hit with other runners, who would encourage them. 

Apparently Dad's passion stuck. Today his sons remain avid runners, one in Washington, D.C., and the other in Vancouver. And both of them recently had daughters, and the proud grandpa expects the girls will be joining their fathers soon. 

KEEPING PACE
The former director of the National Cherry Festival Runs (of course), Fivenson estimated he has hit the roads and trails for some 150,000 miles in 48 years of running. Along the way he found himself getting in the best shape of his life, losing over 100 pounds. And loving every minute of it. So much so that he began a blog where he interviewed and then wrote about fellow runners. 

He would approach them and find out a bit about their story. Those he found most interesting he would profile on his site, TraverseCityRunner.wordpress.com. He found many of them turned to running to overcome other challenges, from heart attacks or cancer to psychological problems. “One had melanoma twice and had a 15 percent chance to live,” said Fivenson, adding that the man's doctor believed the reason he survived was because he was running. 

“Another was an alcoholic who owes his sobriety to running. Veterans with PTSD have been able to go out running. Guys with diabetes have been able to get off their meds.” 

ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER
With the advent of the pandemic, Fivenson is no longer running in a community with other racers. “Prior to the pandemic I’d run 30 or 40 races a year. Now I’m not running any, so I’ve got to find another way to make it fun.”

While the loss of races disappoints him, he hasn’t given up on running — he and Rebel are still logging the miles together. And he doesn't intend to stop anytime soon. What keeps him going is simple: “Staying alive. That’s what keeps me running,” he said. Fivenson — and his doctors — credit his daily regimen for helping him survive a number of strokes.

There is another factor, too, he said. “I enjoy it,” he said. Though he admitted in the next breath: “I don’t recall if I always did.”  

*** FIVENSON'S ADVICE FOR NOVICE RUNNERS ***

1. Be safe. If you’ve not run before, check with your doctor before beginning running. “I always tell people to make sure ... you consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.”

2. Start slow. Begin with running just a couple blocks, as Fivenson did. Gradually build up the distance and/or speed. “You want to run the rest of your life. Don’t go too hard or too fast and get injured. Take your time and have fun.”

3. Wear the right clothes. In addition to a good pair of running shoes, Fivenson said he always wears bright clothing. If he’s running in the early morning, or dusk or later, he says reflective clothing, which offers great visibility, is critical. 

4. Running with a friend is great. But if you’re running with a four-legged friend, keep a couple things in mind. For one thing, treat them as you would anyone else just starting to run. “My Lhasa Apso is 18 pounds. I broke him in with short distances. Now he runs a 5K with me every day.”

5. And make sure you keep your dog with you. Fivenson said one time he was running in the woods with his dog (a previous canine, not Rebel) without using a leash. They became separated. He eventually found the dog, but just to be safe, he recommends using two leashes in case something happens to one of them.

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