Old Age Catching Up With Marathoning Duo

  • By Duncan Larkin
  • Published Nov. 22, 2010
  • Updated Nov. 22, 2010 at 8:01 AM UTC

As two marathoners reach older age, the 26.2-mile distance becomes increasingly difficult.

Don McNelly, a 90-year-old serial marathoner, had to pull out of a marathon last week in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after only 12 miles.

“I hate to say it — it was just not my day,” he said. In that race, McNelly had hoped to finish his hoping to finish his 745th marathon.

McNelly says he has at least one more marathon up his sleeve and has an extra reason for giving it a shot: the failing health of his longtime friend, 79-year-old Norm Frank, who with 965 marathons behind him has run more than anyone else in North America.

McNelly and Frank met at a race early on in their running days and were old hands at marathons by the time 1972 Olympic gold medalist Frank Shorter helped ignite the U.S. running boom. Now, they find themselves united in one more goal: running more marathons even as their aging bodies protest.

“When we get together we talk about running. That is the No. 1 thing we have in common,” McNelly says.

For More: Wall Street Journal Online

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Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin

Duncan Larkin is the news editor at and a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released last July.

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