By Taylor Dutch, @TaylorDutch
HONOLULU (07-Dec) -- Almost 30 years ago, Roger Hauge ran his first mile. On Sunday morning here, the 87-year-old will race to complete his fourth round of running 50 marathons in 50 states at the Honolulu Marathon. The effort of running a total of 200 marathons highlights a journey not only towards physical health, but also as a member of the road racing community that continues to inspire him in pursuit of tough goals.
PHOTO: Roger Hauge out out for a training run in an undated photo (photo courtesy of Roger Hauge)
"We're not really like a club, we're more like a family. It's really true, you know?" Hauge told Race Results Weekly over the phone on Wednesday. "That's what running is about, it's really a social thing and it's about the friendships and the support that you get from other runners."
Hauge grew up on a farm in Dawson, a rural area of Western Minnesota with little access to sports (also the hometown of 2004 Olympian Carrie Tollefson). While he yearned to play football and basketball, his family lived far away from school and the bus wouldn't travel to their area. There was little opportunity to try any athletic pursuits.
During the Korean War, Hauge joined the Air Force and served in the United States military for four years. After the war, Hauge returned home to Minnesota where he earned his college degree. When he graduated, he started working for Northwest Airlines, which was later merged into Delta Airlines. He remained at the company for the majority of his professional life and received a promotion as Vice President of the Atlantic region, which required him to move his family to London in his late 50's.
The demands of leading a team in a corporate environment started to weigh heavily on Hauge who had begun to adopt unhealthy habits. He daily routine involved a long commute home after which he would lie on the couch, watch television, and drink beer. By the time he turned 60 years-old, Hauge had put on weight and didn't enjoy the way his body felt.
While complaining about his recent weight gain to his coworkers, one of his hires --Alan Hutson, an avid runner-- encouraged him to take up running. Living through the running boom of the 1970s, Hauge had briefly attempted to run as far and as fast as he could years ago, but quickly turned around at the end of the block and vowed never to try the activity again. Years later in the mid-1980s, he was being encouraged to try once more.
At first, Hauge resisted but Hutson was persistent.
"The thing about runners is, they're like ducks. They nibble you to death," he said with a laugh.
Eventually, Hutson wore him down and he started running and walking around his neighborhood. He started slowly, running half of a mile and walking the distance back. Over time, the running increased and in a matter of 10 to 12 weeks, Hauge lost 21 pounds. In the process, his habits also evolved into those of an athlete.
After working his way up to an eight-mile run, Hauge was encouraged by Hutson to run his first-ever half marathon in Hastings, England. In 1990, the two coworkers completed the race side by side, and Hauge was immediately hooked on the atmosphere of the running community.
"I was shocked at the crowd of people and I could feel the electricity," he said.
From that point on, Hauge continued to pursue bigger running goals. As a retiree of the airline company living between Florida and Minnesota during the year, Hauge enjoys airline benefits and can fly to whatever race he chooses. He also trains with running groups in both communities.
After meeting other runners who completed the 50-state goal, he became inspired to pursue the effort himself. When he first started running marathons at 63 years old, Hauge clocked a personal best of 4:10. These days, he runs in the 5:15 range while also enjoying races with his family.
"I've gotten slower with age, but I'm also tougher," he said.
On Sunday, Hauge will run the Honolulu Marathon with his son who is completing his first round of 50 marathons in 50 states, and his two grandsons. While the number of miles run at his age is inspiring, it's the connections he'd made along the way that keep Hauge on pace.
"The people that you associate with are very inspiring. Two runners who've never met each other can sit and talk for hours," he said. "It's a commonality. It's kind of like being a marine. Once you're a marine, you're always a marine."