Profiling the Boston Marathon’s Octogenarian Runners

A runner

Sam Roake

Age: 81

Residence: San Francisco, Calif.

Number of marathons completed: About 20

Age when running career began: Teens, then a hiatus before returning at 35

Occupation: Retired mechanical engineer 

When Sam Roake ran Boston last year, finishing in 4 hours and 39 minutes, he thought it would be his last time. 

“I was thinking, ‘Oh, ‘I’m eighty, I’m it calling it quits,’” he says. 

But Roake is back for one more run in Boston. Maybe.

“I keep saying it’s going be to my last, but who knows.”

He started running in high school, but then took a break before picking it back up again in his 30s.

Roake believes modest mileage—about 25 to 30 miles a week—and training mostly on soft trails has prevented him from being sidelined with injuries over the years. Still, marathon training is getting harder on his body as he gets older.

“I don’t think I would be doing it if I was doing it by myself.”

“I’ve got a knee that’s a little bit sore,” he says. “I’ve run 18 (miles) on it already. If I can run 18, I can run 26."

Roake says he sometimes struggles with motivation, but his team, Dolphin South End Runners—coincidentally, the oldest running club in San Francisco—keeps him running. 

“I don’t think I would be doing it if I was doing it by myself,” he says.

It also doesn’t hurt that he has a lot of fans on the local running scene who marvel at his resilience. “Now I’m getting to be sort of a celebrity,” he says, laughing.

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About the Author

Theresa Juva-Brown

Theresa Juva-Brown is a New York City-based journalist and former Gannett reporter who has covered a variety of topics, including breaking news, transportation and health. Theresa ran cross-country and track competitively for The University at Albany and has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University. She contributes to ACTIVE.com, Competitor Running, and Runner's World/Zelle. Follow her on Twitter at @TJuva.
Theresa Juva-Brown is a New York City-based journalist and former Gannett reporter who has covered a variety of topics, including breaking news, transportation and health. Theresa ran cross-country and track competitively for The University at Albany and has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University. She contributes to ACTIVE.com, Competitor Running, and Runner's World/Zelle. Follow her on Twitter at @TJuva.

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