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85-year-old marathoner, veteran of 3 service branches, seeks change in older age brackets

Marine Corps Marathon runners start the race.

STARS AND STRIPES

By LEE CATALUNA | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: February 7, 2018

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — Ronald Todd has a simple request. He wants all marathons and half-marathons to post results equally throughout age categories.

Most races are broken into five-year age categories, but when it gets to athletes over age 79, everyone is lumped together in an “80 and over” category. Even the Boston Marathon does it that way.

The Honolulu Marathon is an exception, listing results for ages 80-84, 85-89 and 90-94. But, as he plans out his events for 2018, Todd is realizing that this bias is widespread.

“That’s just not right!” Todd says. Todd turned 85 in December. When he was 84 he was looking forward to moving up to the next age bracket. He had placed fourth in a race where only the top three were recognized but figured that the next year, he’d move up a group and be the young guy in the breakdown.

Todd emailed administrators of two upcoming half-marathons to ask for this change and was told they would “consider his request.”

“That, to me, says, ‘Maybe, but probably no,’” he said.

Todd only recently became interested in marathons. In 2015 his friends asked him to join them in the Honolulu Marathon. He liked the social aspect of it all, so he agreed to start working toward the goal, first walking 10 miles with his group, then gradually increasing the distance. In 2016 he completed the Honolulu Marathon for the first time. He did it again in 2017.

“My first opportunity to compete in the Hapalua Half Marathon was 2017,” he said. That was when he noticed the age breakdown in the results. He was surprised that while all other runners and walkers were divided into categories like men ages 40-44 or women ages 45-49, this stopped at age 80. The reason most race organizers give is that there just aren’t many participants past age 80. Todd feels that if the categories were broken down by five-year increments past age 80, more older people would want to participate.

Todd doesn’t do regular training, but he stays active. He hikes once a week with friends, walks 3 miles around his neighborhood several times a week and officiates at club volleyball games. He doesn’t run marathons; he walks.

His career is what’s most impressive: 20 years in the military in three branches, first serving in the Marine Corps, then joining the Air Force, then being recruited as a warrant officer in the Army. He did two tours in South Korea and two in Vietnam. After retiring from military service, he went to college, got two master’s degrees and taught for more than 20 years at Kamehameha Schools. He still regularly substitute-teaches middle and high school students.

His wife died five years ago, and since then he’s vowed to “keep myself occupied doing the things I enjoy.” His cardiologist told him to keep doing what he’s doing. “He told me, ‘Don’t stop. That’s what’s keeping you alive.’”

So he’s not stopping. He’ll do more marathons, and he’ll keep pushing for a change in the age brackets. He’s not interested in winning awards or “the glory,” as he jokingly puts it. All those years teaching business management, accounting and economics to students, all those years in the military — numbers matter to him. “It irks me,” he said.

lcataluna@staradvertiser.com.

©2018 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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