Local Runner Lets Age Slow Him Down



At an age when most of his peers are slowing down and becoming less active, one local runner is doing that as well.

Ralph Furley turns 78 next week and he says that, for him, age is a barrier.

"I ran competitively back in school," said Furley during a recent interview in his modest two-story home. "Gave it up for a while, but got back into it in my 30s. I ran some marathons here and there, but mostly just did it for enjoyment and to stay in shape."

In recent years, however, injuries and illnesses have taken a toll.

"I've always tried to take care of myself," Furley said, "but let's face it. You can only do so much. Eventually the body just starts to give out on you."

Experts said Furley is correct. As we age, bones and muscles weaken, the immune system is less able to stave off infection and illness, and incontinence becomes more common.

"It makes perfect sense that age would slow down a near-octogenarian," said Janet Wood, Ph.D., director of the Ritter Institute for Aging. "Even one who had been an avid runner for decades."

People who know Furley confirmed that age is more than just a number for the retired mechanical engineer, who earlier this year had a hip replacement. 

"Ralph mostly just sits around watching TV and reading," said Helen Roper, a longtime friend. "Getting older has definitely limited what he can do physically. For him, age is a real constraint."

The last time Furley laced up his running shoes, he said, was about six months ago.

"I got about three blocks before my sciatica flared up," he said, "and I thought, Jeez, f*** this."

Furley said he hopes to serve as a role model for others, showing them that it's OK not to be an inspiration to others, adding that he also has no plans to skydive on his 80th birthday, in case anybody was wondering.

"I'm tired," he said. "Tired and old."