Rockford Road Crew teaches smart running

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118477970727710.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of‘, ‘The bodies of runners older than age 50 are still able to endure the stress and exertion of long-distance running, but also because they are able to compete at high levels and maintain strict training regimens. ‘);

Interested in finding ways to relieve the effects of senescence? Talk with the Rockford Road Crew.

In an era when many lives are dominated by extensive work hours, when entertainment is found through technology’s constant innovations and people eat less healthy and work out less often, several members of one of Rockford’s running groups have managed to stay fit, trim and capable of competing at speedy paces in marathons and local races.

Their results are not only impressive because, at ages 50 and older, their bodies are still able to endure the stress and exertion of long-distance running, but also because they are able to compete at high levels and maintain strict training regimens.

“We have very few runners who are in their 20s in this area,” Ron Leonhardt, who coaches the Rockford Road Crew, said. “I wonder if we don’t get a greater number of 20- and 30-year-olds, what will happen to the local groups that we do have. At a certain point, the 50- and 60-year-old groups will age up, and what will happen to the races in town? I don’t know.”

The Rockford Road Crew is available for intermediate to advanced runners of all ages who are looking to improve their performance and fitness. Leonhardt and his assistant coach, Garry Kirk, work weekly with about 50 runners on speed training and hills. They create personalized training programs based on members’ overall running goals and also publish a weekly newsletter. Information about the Rockford Road Crew is available at the Rockford YMCA.

Paul Pinzarrone, 55, said he has been running for about 30 years. He won the 55- to 59-year-old division and placed 12 overall at the Byronfest 5K Saturday, July 14. He attributes his success to doing more speed work and learning to run smarter.

“People like Ron Leonhardt teach you to run smart,” Pinzarrone said. “The first marathon I did, I did it without training properly, and it wasn’t pretty. It was dreadful. I barely finished. I didn’t do enough long runs, and I went out way too fast, and I wasn’t drinking throughout the race. Somewhere around mile 21 or 22, I wanted to just die.”

Another member of the Road Crew, Steve Korn, 58, is starting his third year with the group. He supplements his running with weight training and dieting to maintain a physique that would suggest he’s much younger than 58. As race coordinator for the Rockford Road Runners, an organization for local runners, Korn organizes events throughout the area and said he hopes to bring a marathon to Rockford at some point in the future.

“I’m not that competitive anymore in my age bracket,” Korn said. “There are a lot of fast old guys out here. But I enjoy running in a group. After moving out here from the Chicago area, the first thing I did was look for a group like this. I met a great group of friends, and I couldn’t pass it up.”

Korn also said he was very surprised with the level of competition among individuals in his age group.

“I was in a group like this back in Chicago, and I was the oldest guy in there,” Korn said. “That was when I was 52, 53 years old. When I came out here and started running, I’d go out to races, and I’d say, ‘oh man!’ They were nowhere in sight, they were so far in front of me. If most of the guys from my age group show up to races, I know at best I’m sixth or seventh place. But, hey, I’m out there having fun. I’m doing something most guys my age wouldn’t even attempt.”

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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