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Marathon man still running strong in his 70’s

Posted on 10 April 2018 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Long distance runner John Concannon (photo right by Margie O’Loughlin) is on a mission. The resident of Lyngblomsten Apartments, a retirement community in Como, plans to run a marathon in every state before he dies. A marathon, for those who don’t know, is a 26.2-mile foot race. This year, between his 70th and 71st birthdays, he plans to complete four.

Last October, Concannon ran the Baystate Marathon in Lowell, Massachusetts (his 45th). In January, he traveled to Baton Rouge and ran the Louisiana Marathon (his 46th). In a couple of weeks, he’ll lace up for the Hogeye Marathon in Fayetteville, Arkansas (his 47th). In September, he’ll travel to Nebraska for the running of the Omaha Marathon (his 48th). Next year’s destinations haven’t been finalized, but Concannon knows this. He’ll return to Ireland, the country of his birth, to run his 50th marathon in 2019.

Concannon was born in the village of Timree, Ireland, in 1947. “We grew up poor, on a farm that had no running water or electricity,” he said. “I was the oldest of six kids. I had to quit school at 13 to help support my family by going to work for a blacksmith. I was never a natural athlete, but I’ve been physically active all my life. As a kid, I loved playing two of Ireland’s national sports: hurling and Gaelic football.”

“When I was 16,” Concannon explained, “one of my aunts sponsored our family’s immigration to Boston. Although I hadn’t been formally schooled for three years, I tested into the 11th grade and was the strongest student in American history, geography, and political science. The teachers didn’t quite understand me, but they could tell that I knew my stuff.”

Concannon has learned some stuff about the sport of running along the way too. He said, ”Running has been a vital part of my recovery from alcoholism and my overall health. I decided to quit drinking in April 1994 and ran my first marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon, in October of that same year. When I crossed the finish line, I felt so great that I knew I’d never drink again. I limped away, and every muscle in my body hurt for a week—but I decided then and there to keep running marathons until the day I drop.”

“I didn’t know much about running or how to train when I ran my first marathon,” he said. “If somebody asked me now, I’d tell them to start with 5K races. Work your way up to half marathons, and take your time. See if you can cover 20 miles in a walk/run combination once a month for a while before you even think of running a marathon.”

“At the age of 70,” Concannon said, “I don’t worry about my time at all; I focus on distance, not speed. If I feel something pull or tweak in my legs or back, I just start walking. I train year round because I love running. I don’t own a car, so I walk two miles each way to the gym to run on the treadmill several times a week. If somebody asked me what my philosophy of exercise was, I guess I’d say just to keep moving. If you don’t use something regularly, whether its brains or muscles, you’re going to lose it.”

Shirley Erstad

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