Most adults cannot even remember the last time they lined up waiting for someone to shout “Ready! Set! Go!”
But for Norwalk’s Doyle Salsberry, such races have been a focal point of his life for more than 20 years.
In fact, he has participated in a footrace every single month for the past two decades. That’s right, since 1998, exactly 20 years — 240 months — ago, the Parsons Street resident has lined up in a competitive race.
Salsberry started big with the Indianapolis Mini Marathon, a 13.1 mile extravaganza that features more than 20,000 runners and includes a lap around the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“My running career started back in 1993 when I was 45 years old,” Salsberry recalled.
“Running gave me a very good workout and was something I could do on my time. As my love for running continued I found I was doing a race every month. In 1998 I had started out the season by doing the Indianapolis Mini Marathon with my son, his fiancée and her father in May. And when December arrived, I had not missed a month of doing a race.
“So I set a goal for myself. I would run a race every month for one full year. Having a race to go to every few weeks just seemed to motivate me. I loved having a date on my calendar with my next race posted,” the father of three said.
For much of the year, races are available every week. But winter and work schedules sometimes made it challenging to meet his monthly racing goal. Occasionally, Salsberry would find out-of-state venues with wintertime races to meet his personal commitment.
Once he set the every-month goal, “I was determined to continue. And, in time it became routine. It became a part of who I was. And with every year that passed I would celebrate having accomplished another full year of monthly consecutive racing,” he said.
A race that sticks out in his mind occurred Dec.12, 2012 — a date that is abbreviated 12-12-12.
“This was my retirement date after working 43 years in a medical laboratory,” Salsberry said with a laugh. “My last day at work was December 12, 2012 and there just happened to be a race in Toledo called the 12-12-12K.”
The race distance was 12K (about 7.5 miles). And the starting time was 12:12 a.m. — just after midnight.
“What made it special were the friends and family who joined me that morning. And would you believe that I was late to work on my last day,” he said.
Salsberry hit the 20-year mark — 240 consecutive months of racing — within the same 12 months that he turned 70 years old.
“I really don’t think I ever would have made it to this 20-year mark without my friends and family running the many races with me. I have raced with my wife, my two daughters and my son, my sister, two of my nephews, my daughter and son-in-law, six of my seven grandchildren (one is only 9 months old), my mother and many good friends.”
“The big thing that has hit me as I age is how important it is to keep moving, exercising the muscles I have in my body,” Salsberry said.
And he has progressed beyond running.
“With the passing of time I have had to incorporate different activities. I have mixed in swimming and biking along with some weight lifting. And can tell you that all this stuff has helped me in many ways. I would strongly encourage anyone to stay active. Don’t give up on things just because of your age,” Salsberry said.
“Over the years I’ve been extremely fortunate in not having any serious sports injuries.
“The one injury I did have was a broken collar bone from a bicycle accident. Due to this injury I was not allowed to run. So I searched and found a race in Toledo called the Wabash 5K Run/Walk. This was my only walking race, and I even placed 4th in my age division,” he added.
“Every time I do a race I hope to place. But I am also aware of my limitations. I don’t want an injury from over training. I want my main focus to be having fun and staying healthy.”
So what’s next after achieving his extraordinary 20 year goal?
“I think it’s very clear what I need to do. Same thing I have been doing for the past 20 years — continue for another year. Why mess with something that works?”
And, unlike the rest of us, it will continue to be easy for Doyle Salsberry to answer the question: When was the last time you were in a footrace?
Answer: Every month for the past 240 months — and counting!