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“I take a lot of pride in my streaks.”
by Pat Ruff
Paul Christian is a former longtime sports writer at the Post Bulletin. The 70-year-old has had an even longer run of staying active, dating back to when he was a teenager. Christian is a “streaker.” He went 24 years without missing a single day of running at least 3 miles. Once that streak was broken, thanks to back surgery, he went on another six-year streak of no missed running days. That one was interrupted by prostate cancer surgery.
Now, at 70, he finds himself in the midst of a new running streak, this one dating back to August of 2015. He’s also taken on a streak of walking. He and wife Sue haven’t missed a day of strolling at least 30 minutes together since March 18, 2020.
Christian keeps moving. Otherwise, he says, he feels “icky.”
I saw you the other month from a deep distance at Mayo High School and I mistook you for a teenager. How have you stayed this fit, this late in life?
Well, I’m not a sit-around kind of guy. People say, “Don’t you get bored now that you’re retired?” And I tell them no, because I just keep going.
When do you get your exercise in? Do you have a favorite time of day to run outdoors?
When I first started running (in his early 20s), my older brother John asked me why I don’t just run in the morning. That way you can get it over with. And that’s what I do now. If I run in the morning and get it over with, I feel good all day.
Do you ever have times when you don’t want to exercise but do it anyway because you want to keep your “streaks” alive.
I take a lot of pride in my streaks. When I had to miss a day to have back surgery, it was heartbreaking. But I was in a lot of pain. I kept thinking, “I should be out there running.” Also, if I don’t exercise, it’s on my mind all day that I didn’t do it. I start thinking, “If I’m going to skip this one day, am I going to start skipping more?” It plays with my mind. Then I get out there and do it.
You and wife Sue have been abroad countless times, including multiple mission trips to Tanzania, Africa. You kept up your daily run in all of those places. What’s it been like running in other countries?
In Africa, I was running on dirt and rocks. Sometimes the footing is not the best. I got some stares when I was there running, like, “Is this guy crazy?” When we were in Athens (Greece) a couple of years ago, I was able to run around the first Olympic Stadium track. I ran around the stairs there first and then the track. It was all a part of my 3-mile run.
What is your advice to someone who is toying with becoming more active and maybe even become a runner like yourself?
I would tell them to take it slow right away and that you don’t have to run seven days per week. Maybe start with two days per week and then up it a little bit later. And walking is great; that’s easy. You don’t need any special equipment to walk. You don’t quite get the runner’s high from it, but you feel good when you’re done. I see a lot of people who are my age or even younger and they are out of shape or obese. Overall, my advice is that they just need to get going and move around. When you do that, you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
“Being active has been key for my resilience in life overall.”
by Heidi Overson
Dr. Amy Clayton has juggled a career, kept a household, raised children, and still found time to spend quality time with her husband, best friend and adventure partner, Drew [last month’s
]. She’s been a pathologist at Mayo Clinic for more than 30 years, and she’s worked hard at her career development. Dr. Clayton has obviously successfully balanced it all, as this 60-something woman could easily pass for someone many years younger. Her secret? Keeping active at doing things she loves with the ones she loves. It’s worked for her, and it can work for you.
Can you tell us about your family?
Drew and I have four children, all in their 30s, and we have one grandchild (and one on the way). We are a blended family; each of us brought two kids to our marriage 20 years ago. Our kids have always kept us active, and we embraced many outdoor activities (backpacking, skiing, hiking) with them as a way to bond while we were getting used to each other. We are very fortunate that after twenty years, our kids are closer than ever to each other and still seem to like us, too!
What kind of activities do you do?
I prefer to embrace what the season or location brings: cross-country skiing in the winter at our cabin in northern Wisconsin, hiking in the spring and fall in the Rochester area, biking, kayaking and paddleboarding in the summer, adventure trips to Europe or out to the western part of the U.S. for bike trips, backpacking or hiking. Three of our four kids live in the Seattle area, so we are always prepared to hike when we visit them. We recently purchased an RV to visit our family across the country and have explored many areas from our RV campsites. One of my other favorite activities is riding my e-bike. This summer, I passed the 2,000-mile mark on my e-bike odometer. Drew has one, too.
What is your favorite activity?
I’d have to say e-biking or regular biking in our area. My favorite destination activity is hiking in the mountains.
What is your favorite area for doing your activities in nature?
Oxbow Park is only five miles from my home, and we love hiking there. We also enjoy biking on the county roads south of Byron. But nothing beats cross-country skiing in Cable, Wis., where we have our cabin.
Are there days when it’s hard to fit in your activities?
Yes, many days when I’m working (especially during winter when it’s dark before and after I work), I keep myself strong with short workouts at home (can be as little as 15 minutes when I’m pressed for time) and climbing stairs to my office on the eleventh floor at work. I like to call it “playing the long game,” or investing a little bit every day to make sure I am healthy and strong enough to continue doing the big things that are exciting and fun (often with other people).
What have you learned about the importance of staying an active person?
I know that being active has been key for my resilience in life overall (as well as my overall sense of wellbeing). As I faced many of the challenges in my life, both small and large (raising children in medical school and residency, blending a family of teenagers, and balancing that with my own career development), I came to understand that a good workout or walk would calm my stress level and provide me with the reassurance that I could make it through that hard day, support those around me in ways that I hold myself accountable for and get up and face the world with optimism the next day. There’s also a bonus—it allows me to laugh more (especially when things don’t go as well as I hoped).
Why do you believe being active is essential for one’s mental/spiritual/physical health and longevity?
It gives me the energy to keep exploring the world and learn about new things, which is such a gift for us as we age. I have more patience with myself as I’m aging (I gave up perfectionism long ago!) and focus more on how my activities allow me to keep up with my kids/grandchildren, have wonderful discovery experiences with my friends, allow me to do a better job at work and other life challenges (stress relief and positive outlook) and just have FUN. There’s a lot out in the literature about longevity and wellbeing being associated with continual discovery/learning and meaningful relationships. Being active is integral for me in that regard. I have also learned that I need to adapt to my own changing capabilities as I age. I don’t run long distances anymore, and my asthma requires some consideration for cold weather activities—but I find that I can still meet my body where it is, if I am willing to adapt.
What is one thing (or two or even three) that you want people to remember about you?
Definitely that I never stop trying to learn and discover what’s in this world and how I can be a small part of impacting positive change.
“One day a week is for me only.”
by Lydia Hansen
Joan Blakley-McCoy’s retirement plan is simply not to retire. At 70, she’s still having too much fun.
The Rochester native and owner of gift and oddity shop Tangerine at Wildflowers—a local favorite—describes herself as “not that interesting really.”
Not many who know her would agree.
And her self-assessment doesn’t quite line up with the social calendar she keeps: serving on the board of her condo, working with a personal trainer at 125 Live, and staying in touch with a wide-ranging network of friends and neighbors. All on top of running a business for the last 23 years.
The secret to her seemingly boundless energy isn’t her eclectic sense of style. She’s found a balance of “rest and run” in her life that keeps her going week after week.
Would you consider yourself an active person?
I work every day except Saturday and Sunday. Physically, in the store, it’s a lot of lifting boxes and that kind of thing. Back and forth to the prop room, whatever it takes to get the merchandise out as fast as it comes in. Privately, I work out with a trainer, it’s been five years now, at 125 Live.
How about social activity? Any clubs or community organizations you’re involved with?
I’m not, really. I spend so much time working. I hope to cut back and start doing something other than working all the time. I think for me, four hours a day would be perfect. It seems like after that four hours, I just go “okay.” I feel guilty about leaving somebody by themselves. I have devoted much of my career, 23 years, at Tangerine, day by day. And I’m lucky if I can do something at night. Sometimes I just go home and crash.
That’s very relatable.
The condo I live at now, there’s plenty to do there. We have coffees and we have happy hours and we have dinners and I participate in those.
Does it help to have that condo, that built-in community, close to home?
Yes! And you can just go over to somebody’s house for an hour, have a drink and go home. You don’t have to worry about driving. I do have some close friends there I’ve made in the seven years I’ve lived there. And I’m on the board.
I call these older ladies every Sunday, folks who lived in the condo before. I have this little list that every Sunday I call these people. I get up, I sit down, and I go, “Okay, I’m going to make my calls.” And they look forward to the calls! I always say when somebody’s leaving, well I’ll put you on my list.
Have you always tried to stay busy throughout your life?
Oh yeah. I always have something I’m doing, and I have a bucket list.
What’s still on your bucket list?
I have never been out of the country except for Canada. I would like to see Barcelona and Greece. I do want to get more involved with 125 Live. There’s so many senior citizens there that, they just seem like they’re having a good time. I never consider myself a senior citizen but I am.
You sound active in the communities you’re part of.
My husband was sick for 10 years. He died recently, but every ounce of energy went to him that I had left. I don’t know how to do anything else. I’ve just always been work, work, work, my husband, my husband, my husband.
Since he passed, where have you redirected that energy?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out right now. That’s why I say four hours a day at Tangerine, or I’m going to Florida for 30 days in March. And before, I never would have done that. I’m going to try and do more trips.
Any advice for people wanting to be more active?
What works for me is one day a week is for me only. That may be not even getting out of my PJs. I take a day and I don’t do anything, other than my phone calling in the morning. I don’t leave the house and I get regenerated by that, whether it’s watching movies or reading or something like that. By Monday, I’m all set to go again.
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