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Archives: Larry Eaton Runs for Life

Updated: Apr 4

Larry Eaton is 83 years old and is proud to say he is a runner. He’s especially thankful for the outsized role running has played in his life. 

“In rather significant ways I owe my education, my marriage and the start of my job/career to having run in college,” Larry said. “All of these have worked exceedingly well for me and our family.”

A desire to win a student-athlete award in high school led him to try the mile run in track, and to his shock, he found he excelled at it. It turned out running was his best sport, and he never would have known it if he hadn’t tried to win that award. 

He ran track in college at Alfred University, a small, private college in western New York state. It was there that he met his wife of 60-plus years, at a preseason training session. 

Career advice from his college track coach led him to apply for a job at 3M, where he worked for 38 years in a number of different roles at a variety of locations, including Texas, Italy, Japan, and Saint Paul.

Larry considers himself a competitive runner, and one who still trains up to 10 hours per week if he’s really focusing on a race. His drive and determination resulted in nine (yes, nine!) age group wins at the Twin Cities 10 Mile throughout his 60s and 70s. And in case you think he’s lost his touch, he finished second in the 80 and up age group at the 2019 TC 10 Mile.

The issue here is quite simple,” Larry said. “It’s ‘thinking about an upcoming race’ which gets me out most mornings. I would almost surely not run if there was no race to think about."

Larry doesn’t forget that everyone has their own reasons for running, and their own level of dedication to it. 

“I respect every runner regardless of how fast they run,” Larry said. “Every time I see someone finishing a race who is disadvantaged in some fashion, I actually choke up.”

But Larry’s advice to runners looking to continue their running into their 70s and 80s is simple: wear good running shoes and change them regularly when they start to show their wear. Running on soft and/or flat surfaces also helps.

Despite his lifelong relationship with running, Larry still experiences the love-hate dynamic, or the moments of self-doubt that all runners experience from time to time. 

“But like many, possibly most serious runners I have a love-hate relationship with racing,” Larry said. “Mostly I enjoy the hard work required to properly train for races. However, a day or two before major races I often wonder, why am I doing this? After all, soon I will be asking my aging body to perform to its very limits, sometimes even exceeding them.”

"How do I feel during a race? I hate it. I want to quit over and over. But, I keep going. The challenge of battling my age group peers and trying to reach as close as possible to my full potential keeps me picking up one foot after another, trying to forget the growing stress by mostly thinking of nothing mile after mile until that finish line finally comes into sight.”

But then there’s the classic rush of accomplishment that comes at the end of each race.

“Soon however, I look back at the discomfort that I have just experienced as a mere fleeting moment,” Larry said. “Instead of dwelling on how much stress and pain I have just gone through I have the feeling of accomplishment. I’m motivated and inspired to train and race once again.”

A lifetime commitment to running is Larry’s anchor, and it’s something he encourages everyone to find.

“In today’s world every young person needs an anchor,” Larry said. “‘Run for Life’ has been a defining anchor for me. I truly hope it might be so for you."

This article orginally appeared in the TCM's weekly e-newsletter, The Connection, in 2021. Subscribe to the Connection here.

Story by TCM Association volunteer Spenser Bickett.

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