The 12 Octogenarians Running the 2015 Boston Marathon

A dozen runners in their 80s are signed up to make the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton to Boston. Want to follow in their footsteps? They each share their secrets to long-lasting, long-distance endurance.

–Courtesy of MarathonFoto

Left: William Iffrig was captured in this iconic photo after the first bomb detonated at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Right: Iffrig runs a race prior to 2013. —Left: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe. Right: Courtesy of Iffrig’s running club, Club Northwest.

William Iffrig was knocked down by the first bomb at the 2013 Boston Marathon. Then, he finished the race. “Before I hit the ground, I knew it must’ve been some kind of terrorist attack,’’ Iffrig, who ran 4:03 that day, told Boston.com. On his way home to Washington after the race, Iffrig saw the latest Sports Illustrated at Logan Airport – he was on the cover.

Iffrig suffered hearing loss in the bombing, and the force of the blast completely detached one of his quad muscles. “It rolled up into a ball,’’ he said of the muscle, which has since healed. After missing Boston in 2014, Iffrig said he’ll be “happy to be back,’’ calling his return “no big deal.’’

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Goal: “I’d like to run around 4 hours.’’

Daniel Shuff runs a marathon every few weeks. —Parvaneh Moayedi

Daniel Shuff runs 20-30 marathons a year. Daniel Shuff is 80. (We’ll let that sink in.)

Shuff has run 373 marathons in his life, the vast majority in the last 15 years. He said it’s a great way to travel. “I enjoy running marathons, too,’’ he said.

When you try to tell Shuff what he’s doing is incredible, amazing, mindboggling, insane, he responds, “You have to understand, I’m not running them very fast,’’ as if to plead his case.

Goal: “I want to try and do as good as I can. I was hoping to do well enough to qualify again for next year’s marathon (4:55), but I don’t think I’ll be able to. I’d like to run around 5 hours, but I’ll most likely be a little above.’’

Things have changed since Marblehead’s Jimmy Green finished third in the 1960 Boston Marathon, in 2:23. “If I got two cup fulls of water the whole way, I was lucky,’’ Green said.

Green’s running career is full of what he calls “almost dreams.’’ He was in better shape in 1961 but pulled a hamstring a month before the race. He was the first alternate on the 1960 Olympic team in the marathon, losing a tiebreaker for the final spot. And he was the first alternate on the 1964 Olympic team, getting pushed out when Billy Mills decided to double up in the 10,000-meter and marathon. (Mills would win gold in the 10K in Tokyo.)

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Green’s final marathon most likely would’ve been in 1997, but the 2013 bombing brought him out of retirement. “I had some very good friends who had died, and I think if they had been around, they would’ve done [the 2014 Boston Marathon],’’ he said.

After a post-marathon beer in 2014, a tradition for Green, he was taken to a medical tent with dangerously low blood pressure: 54/28. “I’m not used to running that long,’’ he said. “I took Gatorade and some water, but not enough.’’

Fellow Marblehead resident Steve Flanagan, Shalane’s father, has been advising Green on how to better fuel for this year’s race.

Goal: To finish.


Katherine Beiers said nothing beats a Coca-Cola during a 50-mile race. —Dan Coyro – Santa Cruz Sentinel

The former mayor of Santa Cruz, California, Katherine Beiers is not only the oldest runner in this year’s Boston Marathon (she bests the three other 82-year-olds by at least four months), she’s also the only woman over 80 in the race. For Beiers, a marathon used to be a relative sprint. “I’ve done three 50 milers and 20 50-kilometer races,’’ she said. “I got a body that runs.’’

Beiers said her younger running buddies got her into the longer distances, which she stopped doing in her late 70s. “I got into my later 70s, and trails are just too scary,’’ she said. “I didn’t want to fall anymore, so I picked up doing more marathons.’’

Next month, Beiers is running a half-marathon in Portland, Oregon, with seven of her 10 grandchildren.

Goal: “Oh gosh, it has to be to finish.’’

Harold Wilson has already run two sub-4-hour Boston Marathons in his 80s. —Mike Venable

In 2013, at age 80, Harold Wilson broke 4 hours in the Boston Marathon, winning his age group in 3:53 (a time 5 minutes faster than the 80-84 American marathon record – however, the Boston course doesn’t qualify because of its net downhill). Last year, at 81, Wilson did so again, claiming his fifth age group title at Boston in 3:58.

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Wilson said he loves coming back to Boston, and he’s going to try to win his age group again, even though he’s been dealing with arthritis in his knees. “I think any runner that’s able to (run Boston) should do it at least once,’’ said Wilson, calling the race the “granddaddy of them all.’’

Goal: “I’m going to try and do the best I can. I’d like to break 4 hours, but I never know.’’

Colben Sime after finishing his first and only Boston Marathon so far in 2011. —Courtesy of MarathonFoto

In 1979, Colben Sime ran his first marathon on a dare. “My buddy (ran the Marine Corps Marathon), and I said to myself, ‘If he can do it, I can,’’’ said Sime, who served as a Marine for 25 years, including two tours in Vietnam.

“Then I was looking for something to do on my 75th birthday,’’ he said of his second, “so I ran the Portland Marathon and qualified for Boston that next year.’’

Sime finished third in his age group in 2011 and vowed to return when he entered the next age group at 80. After qualifying, this year he’ll have some company, as his oldest son, Billy Sime, will join him from Hopkinton to Boston. “We’ve been trying to do Boston together for so long,’’ said Sime, who has five children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. “It’s a lifetime dream.’’

Goal: To finish and run the qualifying time of 4:55.

Stephen Bogardo on one of his many runs along the boardwalk in his hometown of Ocean City, New Jersey. —Photo by Andre Malok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

After a long career in journalism, with time at the Associated Press, Esquire, and GQ, Stephen Bogardo retired and turned to his passion: running. “Without running, I wouldn’t be half the man I am,’’ said Bogardo, who often runs back-and-forth along the boardwalk in his hometown of Ocean City, New Jersey.

Bogardo coaches marathon teams running for charity and individuals. “If you want to accomplish anything in life, you have to get out of your comfort zone,’’ Bogardo tells his runners.

Goal: To be the oldest person to finish the New York City and Boston marathons in back-to-back years (he already ran New York City in 2014). To have a podium finish (top 3 in age group).

Thomas Marrin running the 2013 Boston Marathon. —Courtesy of MarathonFoto

Unable to qualify for this year’s Boston Marathon, Thomas Marrin booked a cruise with his wife for Patriots’ Day weekend. Then, he got an email. “They said, ‘You had such an outstanding time and place in your age group (in 2014), we’d like to invite you back,’’’ he told Boston.com.

Marrin canceled the cruise.

“I think it’s the most fantastic thing I’ve ever done,’’ Marrin said of the Boston Marathon. He said it’s all about the fans. “I’m not real fast, when I get done it’s in the 5-hour range, and the people are still out there,’’ he said. “Any time I can run it, I’ll run it. I’ve never seen another one like it.’’

Goal: To finish. Marrin said he’d like to run the qualifying time of 4:55 but doesn’t think it’s realistic.

Douglas Elgie is running his second Boston Marathon on Monday, 39 years after his first. —Courtesy

An Army veteran, Douglas Elgie remembers running his first and only Boston Marathon so far during the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. “Right at the beginning, we turned a corner and everyone was waving American flags,’’ he said. “It was a sight.’’

For some, the stress of training for a marathon can be daunting, but not for Elgie. “I just enjoy [running],’’ he said. “It’s just relaxation to me, I don’t worry about it. If I miss a day, I take a day off, so what.’’

Goal: To run 12-minute miles (roughly 5:15 pace). “I’ll be in no hurry,’’ Elgie said.

Jim Schleisman winning his age group at the 2008 Austin (Texas) Marathon. —Courtesy of Conley Sports

Iowan Jim Schleisman started running at age 50. “I was out of shape a little bit, a little bit overweight,’’ he said. Now 81, Schleisman has run 104 marathons, the last three on an artificial knee.

He said he used to run 50-60 miles a week but has cut back to 35 since the surgery. “I lift some weights on my off days,’’ he said.

Goal: First, to finish. Second, to run sub 4:30.

Christopher ‘Kit’ Smith running the 2014 Boston Marathon. —Margie Smith

Christopher “Kit’’ Smith can often be seen running around his neighborhood in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was born and raised. “Running is such an important part of my life,’’ he said. “Not a week goes by that I don’t run. Even soon after a marathon, I start training for my next race.’’

Smith said the Boston Marathon is a big deal for runners in Hawaii, and he’s happy to be the oldest participant in this year’s race from The Aloha State.

Goal: To finish.

Not featured: Koji Tsuchiya, 80, of Tokyo, Japan, is also signed up for this year’s Boston Marathon. Tsuchiya has run Boston at least each of the last three years, finishing in 5:28 in 2014. Attempts to reach Tsuchiya were unsuccessful.

Read more coverage of the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Graphics by Eric Silva/Boston.com

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