Senior Running

by Dillon Kato

At this year’s Boston Marathon, his 10th, Missoulian Tom Halverson said he was surprised to run into a fellow Montanan who had also come across the country for the race, Governor Steve Bullock.

“It was during the legislative session. If a guy like him has time to train for a marathon, anyone does,” he said.

Boston is one of the three or four marathons Halverson runs every year, including never missing a Missoula Marathon. He said the nice part about being a runner is that he can always make time for it.

“The benefits are endless, and you can squeeze it into a busy schedule,” he said.

If anything, the Missoula real estate appraiser said he’s been running more the older he gets.

“It’s the fountain of youth. It just makes you feel so much better,” Halverson said.

The 54-year-old said he’s been running for more than 30 years, starting in the 1980s as a way to stay in
shape for skiing during the off season.

“I started out just completely not knowing anything. I was running in a pair of boots,” he said.

After racing in 10-kilometer races, Halverson did his first Governor’s Cup marathon with some in the
early 1990s.

“I could hardly stand up I was so sore the next day,” he said.

halversonNow, Halverson said he’s out on the road almost every day, with runs anywhere from six to 20 miles. The popularity of the Missoula Marathon and the running community in town has made it easier and easier for him to lace up his shoes and get out there, even though for most of his life, he has run with Type I diabetes, which he was diagnosed with when he was 38.

“It’s a constant battle. I have my insulin pump on and the biggest thing about running with Type I is you don’t want to get low,” Halverson said. “Honestly, though, the thing that will keep me from running is a
sore hamstring.”

John Fiore, 53, is an ultra-long-distance runner and the owner of Sapphire Physical Therapy in Missoula. He said while running isn’t for everyone, it’s a great activity for people who are in their 50s and 60s. The important part, especially for people taking up running later in life, is to do it in a way that is safe and leads to long-term health benefits.

“Running, because it’s cardiovascular, is very good for weight loss and your whole cardiovascular system.
It can also improve your skin by improving circulation, and helps your joints, like knee and ankle joints, that need motion,” Fiore said.

Running also generates endorphins, leading to overall mental health and well-being improvements. With Missoula being such a runner’s town, Fiore said, running is also a great social activity.

The biggest mistake new runners make is trying to do too much at once, the physical therapist said,
signing up for a long distance race right away instead of understanding it takes time to work up to that
point.

“Running is hard enough on your body that you need strength in the core and hips. If you’re not willing
to put in that time for cross training and strength training you run the risk of injury,” Fiore said.

In addition to getting overall health cleared with a physician, Fiore said finding a physical therapist who
knows about running will help a new runner develop better form and keep from injuring themselves.

“If somebody has the patience and has the dedication and trains step by step, a half marathon is a totally reasonable goal, even in just a year,” Fiore said.

At Sapphire, Fiore and his team can do video analysis of a runner’s form, seeing how they land on their feet, how their arms swing, or if their hips are staying straight while they move.

“We’ll show them things to work on, then they can come back and we’ll film them and we can show them
side by side the improvement,” he said.

One of the other health benefits of running is that because it is an impact activity, it can help to retain bone density, said Tony Banovich, the executive director of Run Wild Missoula, the organization that
puts on the Missoula Marathon every July. He is also the cross country and track coach at Plains High
School.

“A good weight bearing exercise, with some amount of impact retains if not improves bone density, which is especially useful for women,” Banovich said.

The mission of Run Wild Missoula is to provide running opportunities for people of all ages and abilities, and Banovich said the part about ages has been particularly apt. In the 2014 half marathon, he said 328 women age 55 and older ran, including 28 women that were 70 years or older.

“It is an event you can do for life,” Banovich said.

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