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City cardiologist-runner in awe of older winner

O’Shaughnessy

– Marathons, Mark O’Shaughnessy concedes, are a younger man’s game.

It’s why the Fort Wayne cardiologist never looks at the watch on his wrist during a race.

And it’s why this passionate runner was so impressed with Monday’s Boston Marathon victory by 38-year-old Meb Keflezighi, the oldest winner since 1931.

“He’ll be 39 (in two months),” O’Shaughnessy said. “That’s unheard of, really. If you look at the history of international marathons across the world, the runners are in their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s.”

O’Shaughnessy, now in his early 50s, runs 40-50 miles a week and has run a marathon in each of the 50 states, plus Antarctica.

Even in that kind of shape, he is nowhere close to where Keflezighi needed to be to cross the finish line in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds.

“They’ve averaging 4:45 per mile,” O’Shaughnessy said. “That’s a 63-second quarter. I could not do a single lap on the track at the speed they’re running the race.”

A 20-year member of the Fort Wayne Express Track Club, O’Shaughnessy ran the Boston Marathon twice: in 2000, at age 39, and in 2001, at 40.

“Runners there are the top of the top,” he said. “They’re world class. It’s a big deal. It’s a brutal course, a very hilly course, a very narrow course. For Meb to win that is a pretty phenomenal feat.”

The simple reason: physiology.

“You can’t stop Father Time,” O’Shaughnessy said. “As we get older, our times go down. There’s nothing you can do to stop that. It’s very rare that you have somebody approaching 40 be successful in these marathons.”

O’Shaughnessy said Keflezighi – despite having to work harder than others to decrease the effects of aging – was able to capitalize on brainpower.

“He’s been doing it so long that he can be that much more mentally tough,” O’Shaughnessy said. “He knows how to work harder than guys who don’t have as much experience.”

After competing twice on the famous course in Boston, O’Shaughnessy changed. He stopped formal training and timing. “I don’t need that pressure,” he said. “People say, ‘Well, how fast did you run that race?’ I don’t need to prove anything to anybody anymore.”

Yet he still keeps plugging away at a young man’s game, writing a monthly piece for the track club newsletter, competing at events such as last month’s Antarctica Marathon on King George Island. Perhaps that love of the sport is what can help out the legs in the body of an older man like Keflezighi.

“I was smiling ear to ear the whole time thinking what a kick it was,” O’Shaughnessy said of the South Pole run. “Exercise in general is very productive. I just run because I absolutely love distance.”

cgoff@jg.net

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