This is just part of our coverage of this year's Philadelphia Marathon. You can read all of the articles at www.philly.com/marathon2012. And don't forget to join us there on race day to follow the action.
By Justin D’Ancona
That’s what Hugh Campbell’s doctor told him a year and a half ago, when the now 88-year-old man, decided he wanted to take up a new hobby—running.
Campbell grew up in Canada on Prince Edward Island, playing hockey like pretty much everyone else north of the border, before moving to Wilmington, Del. After he retired from the DuPont Company in 1985 he says he started playing golf every day, weather permitting of course, for 27 years.
In the spring of 2010, Campbell had that doctor’s appointment, and against his physician’s wishes, he started to run anyway.
Like all first time runners he started out small.
Campbell ran throughout his development at first, then gradually built up to a few laps around the neighborhood. He had clocked the distance with his car to keep track of his progress.
He says he’s entered “about a half dozen races,” with his greatest distance being the 10K he did in a pair of races, most recently the “Run the Bridge” event he ran last week in Philadelphia.
“I felt fine, but it was cold. I wasn’t satisfied with my time,” Campbell admits.
Although he still considers himself a novice, the 88-year-old is no stranger to competing in these contests. In just that year and a half span since he began running, Campbell set a 5K record for the 85-89 age group in September at the United States Track and Field National Masters Championship in Syracuse, N.Y., with a time of 26:45.
He currently has a record pending at the 8K distance from a race in Moorestown, N.J. with a time of 48:24. Campbell’s pretty confident it’s a record, but unsure of why it’s considered pending.
“I’m healthy and it’s a challenge,” Campbell said. “I enjoy the fact that there aren’t many 88-year-old runners.”
For an athlete achieving this kind of success so early in a new sport, surely it would be credited to a rigid training routine, right? Think again.
Every morning Campbell says the first thing he does is stretch. There’s a park about 10 minutes from his home, where he’ll go jog the 1 1/3 mile trail before heading back home.
His successes can also be contributed to a lack of injuries. But then again, his running helps keep him in optimal shape. One race however, he did suffer a nasty fall. He stumbled and went head-on with the ground, “smashing up my face and hand pretty good,” he said. The coordinators of the race suggested immediate medical attention, but Campbell simply went home and had his wife patch him up.
This Saturday, Campbell looks to conquer the Rothman Institute 8K, a subsidiary race of the Philadelphia Marathon. He has set a personal goal of finishing under 50 minutes, a feat that would rival his previous pending record.
Campbell is as old-school as they come. You won’t see him in fancy running shoes or expensive running attire. He doesn’t buy into the hoopla.
“Just get out and run,” said Campbell, matter-of-factly.
That’s all he’s concerned with, and so far it’s been working just fine for the 88-years-young man.