6 things you can learn from an 84-year-old marathoner

Jules Winkler (photograph courtesy of the Winkler family)

The oldest participant in the 2016 Boston Marathon said that with a little luck and some common sense, you too can enjoy a long, healthy running life.

“It’s not that difficult,” said 84-year-old Jules Winkler from Medford, New York, who ran his 41st marathon (and second Boston) this year. (Katherine Beiers, 83, of Santa Cruz, California, will be the oldest female Boston participant.)

How does an 84-year-old continue to run 26.2 miles? Here’s what this experienced runner had to say about staying strong in the long run.

1/ Stop stressing

Winkler says he was as performance-conscious as any other competitive guy during the 1970s running boom. As time went on, though, he found himself putting pressure on himself to race well - and feeling disappointed if he didn’t reach a time goal. After re-booting his marathon career as a fund-raiser, he said, “I decided to leave the watch at home. Completing a marathon at any speed is an accomplishment. That’s especially true when you get older.”

2/ Pay attention

“I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve always listened to my body, and it’s never steered me wrong.” Whenever he has been out on a run and feels a twinge or a pain, Winkler says he will slow down, or if it persists, he’ll cut the run short. “I’ve never said, ‘Let me push through this,’” he said. “And I’m glad I didn’t.”

3/ Eat carefully, but not obsessively

“I drink a lot of water and eat a lot of fibre,” he said. “Bread, walnuts, almonds, fresh fruit... those are some of my staples. And I eat some junk food, too.”

4/ Be consistent, stay strong

There’s nothing fancy about Winkler’s regimen. He runs four days a week, including a long run on the weekend, some hills during the week, and a tempo run or some repeats on the track to vary the pace. Equally important: cross-training. Winkler has lifted weights since he was a teenager. He leads exercise classes at local assisted-living facilities, and continues to skip - a vigorous exercise he learned from the boxers in the McBurney YMCA in Manhattan, where he worked out decades ago.

5/ Keep learning

Even after five decades of running, Winkler is still hungry for new information. Back in the 1970s, he attended lectures in Manhattan by the late author and running-philosopher George Sheehan. Later he became a coach himself, earning a certification with legendary coach Jack Daniels. He continues to attend the Craftsbury Running Camp in Vermont every summer, where he renews old friendships and picks up new pointers from the likes of Lynn Jennings and Dave McGillivray. And he reads everything he can find about running. “There’s always something new to learn,” he said.

6/ Finish strong

Winkler battled an IT band injury during his training for Boston. Regardless, he intended to have enough to muster a sprint across the finish line. “When I’m about a football-field distance away from the end of a marathon, I pick it up,” he said. “I love having a strong kick.”

“People ask me if I’m ever going quit running,” he said. “My answer is that I’ll stop when something stops me.”