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Keeping up the pace

Running is part of nearly every day for 80-year-old Sara Robinson of Shelbyville and former local resident Larry Martindale, who celebrates his 80th birthday in November. Both run solo and are the patriarchs of the Shelby Roadrunners group that was formed in 2004 by local runners Gretchen Knopp and Mike Wallace.

By LUANN MASON - For The Shelbyville News

The pace may have slowed but the running remains intense, consistent, and a discipline that Sara Robinson and Larry Martindale will not give up.

Just recently, their “family” of runners honored them with an 80’s week, complete with cupcakes before one of the group’s weekly scheduled runs because Robinson celebrated her 80th birthday in June and Martindale marks his in November.

They are the patriarchs of the Shelby Roadrunners, a local running group that started pounding the pavement together in 2004. Robinson moved to town that year and has been running with the group since 2005. Martindale joined in during 2014.

“It’s largely because of the Roadrunners that we are still running,” said Robinson. “I try to go five days a week. Three of those are with the group. I try for 20 miles a week.”

Martindale, formerly of Shelbyville, strives for at least 15 running miles a week, and also collects part of those miles three days a week with the Roadrunners. He rarely misses a run even though he travels here from his home in Rushville.

“It’s amazing and we get new people on and off,” Robinson said about the Roadrunners. “You develop a bond with others with a running group. It’s like family. They’re wonderful.”

Words just cannot describe the way fellow runners care for each other, Robinson said. She lost her husband Don in 2016 and just a couple weeks later, Martindale’s wife, Carole, died. The Roadrunner “family” supported both of them, along with their families.

“You can’t explain it in words,” Robinson said. “It’s magical.”

Marsha Apsley, coordinator of Shelby Roadrunners, said the group radiates its sense of community.

“Running is more than just going for a run. We all know that someone’s going to be there if you need something or just need someone to talk to,” she said. “Words are not needed. We’re just there for each other. We’ve prayed together. We’ve shared births, deaths, divorce, injuries and more.”

Just like with every family, there’s some discord, she admitted, but members patch it up.

The runners affectionately call Apsley their “running mom,” Martindale said.

An avid runner herself, Apsley publishes an e-newsletter every Monday morning to keep members informed about each other and events. She’s also there to start the weekly training sessions.

“We start on time,” she stressed, followed by gentle laughter. “We never cancel. NEVER cancel. We are like the mail. Nothing stops the mail!”

Shelby Roadrunners’ current schedule includes: Mondays, meet at Morrison Park, 5 p.m. start for a 3-mile run; Wednesdays at Kennedy Park, 5 p.m. start for a 3-mile run, and Saturdays at the downtown circle, 7:30 a.m. start for a 7-mile run.

All ages may join the free group, Apsley said, and on average, between eight and 10 runners show up at each run, ranging in ages from teens to 80.

“Once we take off, there’s no promises that everyone will show up together at the end. There are lots of paces and ranges in this group. You compete against yourself.”

That competition could be to improve the time a runner takes to go a specific distance or to take fewer breaks.

“I mostly try to at least do as well as the previous run or do better,” Robinson said. “I judge by the number or walking breaks I take, too. I’d like to take less.”

Martindale, however, seems a bit on the competitive side. “I’m competitive against others and against my time,” he said. “As you get older, your times drop. They get lower. I usually push it pretty good.”

The octogenarians seek out running events in Shelbyville and surrounding communities. Maybe it’s an opportunity to compete against each other?

“I ran my first race in 1996 in Rushville,” Martindale said. “It was a 5K. Willkie Days, I think. Sara was in it, too. Sara beat me in that very first race I was in.”

Martindale ran track in high school, the mile, but said he was not a serious runner at that time.

“I did it to stay in shape for other sports,” he said.

As an adult, he played on independent basketball leagues and utilized various fitness regimes. In late 1999, the running he did came to an abrupt end when he tore an Achilles tendon while on the basketball court. Martindale did not run for a couple of years. He started running again in 2006 to relieve stress.

He ran the Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon for the first of five times when he was 70 years old. “The first time you run the Mini, you get a rush out of it,” he said.

Robinson has also run in the Mini Marathon. She started running when she was 38 years old.

“I ran my first race in Indianapolis, Warren Township,” she said, adding that she has run the Mini 32 times. But, running with lofty goals in organized races is no longer a priority for her. “It was exciting, but it’s not a top priority anymore. The nice thing about racing all the time was it gave you a chance to reconnect with other runners that you got to know.”

For now, she strives to start her mornings outdoors running.

“I like the dedication and discipline. (Running) has given me confidence. I feel real good about myself that I got out and went. It’s a great stress reliever and it just makes you strong, and spiritually, it’s great,” she said. “When you get back (home) you feel so good about yourself. It makes the whole day go better.”

Martindale agreed. “Running relieves stress,” he said. “It keeps you healthy. In my Dad’s family, all of the men died rather young, so I try to eat right and stay active.”

But, setbacks can still happen. Martindale has four stents in the arteries of his heart. “I was out running and my arm and neck hurt,” he said. A trip to the doctor resulted in an initial stress test that led to another stress test in three to four months, which led to placement of the stents.

In addition to his running regime, Martindale said he does weight training during the week and rides his bike. He recently participated in a 31-mile bike tour and in September he will ride in a 50-mile event that will start in Rushville and continue on a tour of five covered bridges in the small towns around the area.

Robinson also does weight training two days a week along with playing tennis twice a week.

“The biggest thing for older people is that no matter what they choose to do, do it on a regular consistent basis,” she said.

“Just do something,” Martindale said.

And, of course, there are days when neither Robinson nor Martindale wants to run or exercise in any way. On those days, Robinson agreed with Martindale when he said, “At least go out and try. I talk to God. It’s just you and Him out there. Or a song may go through my head.”

“It’s very comforting,” said Robinson.

When looking beyond each day, Robinson and Martindale include running. Martindale’s goal is to run the Mini Marathon in May “as an 80-year-old.” Robinson, while releasing a gentle laugh, said, “I’d just like to get down to a 12-minute mile range again.”

“They’re such an inspiration,” said Apsley. “We all want to be like them when we grow up.”

For more information or to join the Shelby Roadrunners, contact Apsley at marsha.apsley@comcast.net or by phone, 317-512-4876 or visit the website www.energy2action.com.