August 7, 2008

66-Year-Old Pine Man Runs Word ‘Can’t’ Out of Life

By Brian C. Rittmeyer, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Aug. 7--Don't tell Tony Mauro what he can't do.

Don't tell him that he shouldn't have begun running marathons in his 50s, or running in 50- and 100-mile ultra-marathons in his 60s.

"My keystone through life is, What can you do when you try?" said Mauro, 66, of Pine. "I hate the word 'can't.' That word doesn't exist in my book. If you say you can't, you won't. If you say you can, you very well may."

A semi-retired construction business owner, Mauro in February finished his second 100-mile ultra-marathon in Texas in 22 hours and 5 minutes, breaking the record for the 60-and-over age group. He finished his first 100-mile race in Vermont in 2006 in 23 hours and 38 minutes, under his goal of 24 hours.

Before that, he won in his age group and was crowned a world champion in a running and biking duathlon in Georgia in 2002.

Now he plans to run a 50-mile race in Maryland in November, and a two-day marathon at Disney World in Florida in January.

"I don't do this to live long. That's not my goal. None of it is to live forever," he said."I do it to enjoy life. I milk life to death. When it's time for me to go, I want to say I did everything I could do. I don't want any regrets."

That Mauro can do what he does at his age is amazing, but it is achievable, said Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine who specializes in aging athletes.

"One way to get into the autumn or winter of our lives and still be vital and active is to always be that way. The second way is to make a decision that you are not going to slide down what seems an inevitable slope to frailty. It doesn't have to be that way," she said.

Mauro, a divorced father of two, has enjoyed bicycling since childhood. He ran his first race, a 10K in New Kensington, in his early 50s, taking third place.

He ran his first marathon in the early 1990s in Pittsburgh, intending to stop after 10 miles but completing the 26.2-mile course in three hours and 12 minutes.

Mauro since has run in marathons across the nation, including the New York City Marathon in 2002, where he won first place in the 60-64 age group.

He began participating in ultra-marathons -- races of more than 26.2 miles -- four years ago. The first was 31 miles, and then he moved on to 50- and 100-mile races.

"It changes you. It changed me," he said of the longer races. "You have to dig so deep to accomplish this. It alters the way you think. You perceive things differently. It gives you more of an understanding of life.

"It's amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it."

Standing at 5 feet, 11 inches and a lean 140 pounds, Mauro starts his days at 4 a.m. He runs six days a week, averaging 65 to 85 miles weekly. On Mondays, he rides a bike for 20 miles. He lifts weights twice a week, and stretches two to three times each day.

There is another side to Mauro's fitness.

"My friends are all much younger," he said. "I don't have anything to say to people my age."

Jeff Gleason, 50, of Marshall is one of Mauro's regular running companions. Mauro is the oldest of six who run the long-distance marathons.

"He's a world class-style runner for his age. He's probably better fit than any of the guys that run with us," Gleason said. "I hope I can do it half as good as he does it when I'm his age."

Mauro is a role model to Lou D'Angelo of Hampton, who at 46 is the youngest in the group.

"He's showed me the level you can get to if you stay focused. He sets a pretty high bar -- not to mention he's beat me head to head in marathons before," D'Angelo said.


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