Runner going strong at 88

Sunday, June 22, 2008 | 7:59 p.m. CDT; updated 4:23 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Ed Burnham lines up behind 15 other men and women and prepares himself for the 6.2 miles that are ahead of him. He sets the timer on his watch just as the commissioner of the Missouri State Senior Games’ 10K run counts down. Three, two, one; and the 16 runners take off. It will be a long race for Burnham. His 15-minute mile pace will put him last in the race, but he says he doesn’t care about what place he finishes. He runs because of his love for it.

Burnham, 88, did not start running at an early age.

“I started running when I was 60,” Burnham said. “And I started running marathons when I was 70.”

Burnham, who is from Kansas City, said he got started because he thought he needed exercise. Once he started running, he became interested in running marathons and trained for about a year with a group called Big Miles for his first marathon in 1989 when he was 70.

After his first marathon, he met a group of people who ran marathons in each state, and he became interested in that.

“I ran one a month until I got a marathon done in each state,” Burnham said.

About 50 months later, he had finished his goal. He continued running marathons a few years longer in places such as London, Poland, Siberia, Finland, Canada and Mexico.

“I ran a Berlin marathon the year the wall came down,” Burnham said.

Burnham said he used the marathons he ran in each state as training runs for future marathons. The marathon-a-month pace helped him develop his running technique.

“You work up to it, and you get a patter,” Burnham said.

Now, Burnham mostly runs races in Kansas City. He said he runs mostly 5Ks but will occasionally run 10Ks or half marathons.

“It takes me too long to run marathons now; my pace has gotten bad,” Burnham said.

Burnham said he senses how unique his age makes him. He says there aren’t a lot of runners as old as he is.

Jack Uhrig, 54, met Burnham about 10 years ago. Uhrig said he had heard about Burnham because Burnham was always on the running scene in Kansas City. Uhrig said Burnham always wins his age group.

“It’s not because he’s older than everyone else; he’s just good in his age group,” Uhrig said.

He has gotten to know Burnham a lot better through the Senior Games each year, and every year Uhrig is amazed by his consistency.

“It’s like he’s not aging at all,” Uhrig said. “I’m trying to figure it out myself.”

Burnham said he has been participating in the Senior Games for about 10 years, and he plans on continuing to take part each year. He said he likes it because it’s a challenge to be outside running each year.

“I want to be able to participate when I’m 90 because I’ll go into a new age category,” Burnham said. “I plan on running as long as I can. I think it’s addicting once you really get into it.”

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