Often times in life people will intermingle important dates with other memorable events which makes for a super special occasion.
Such was the case with Patrick Donovan and his wife, Fran, when they decided to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary.
“I ran my first marathon in Dublin, Ireland in 1995,” Donovan said. “I wanted to combine our anniversary with doing my first 26.2 mile run, but my wife always reminds me of which one is the more important.”
It takes a special spouse to be supportive of someone that is heavily involved in running and Donovan was quick to point out that his wife has always been there for him in their 30 years of marriage.
“She never complained when I’d head out at 8 p.m. on a winter night for a 6 mile run or when I’d go off on a 200 mile roundtrip drive to do a 5K race,” he said.
Donovan is a 64 year old, retired mail handler from Providence Rhode Island who moved to the Big Island last year to retire in paradise.
“I realized that as I was approaching 60 that I had never spent a winter in a warm place,” Donovan said. “We visited Hilo in the late ’90 when I ran the Hilo Marathon and I knew that this was the place where we belonged.”
Donovan waited until his children were done with college before retiring and moving to East Hawai’i where they are currently building a home in Hawaiian Paradise Park.
Growing up on the East Coast, Donovan only dabbled in sports, playing Little League baseball and taking a swing for few years out on the golf course as a teenager.
It wasn’t until age 45 that Donovan laced up his shoes and began a regular running program.
“My only regret in life is that I didn’t start running when I was younger, as I think I would have been pretty good,” he said.
Donovan has tried to make up for lost time and has participated in races from the 5K to 15 and 20 milers, along with marathons and ultra marathons (distance usually ranging from 31 miles or more).
His longest continuous run was from the North-South Trail in Rhode Island to the Mass./R.I. state line and down to the ocean in Charlestown, a distance of 75 miles.
“I did that long distance run by myself and it was great,” Donovan said.
Donovan’s favorite race was when he ran in the 2000 Belfast Marathon with his older daughter.
“My fastest running time is 3 hours 28 minutes for a marathon and 8 hours 24 minutes for a 50 miler,” he said.
During his 50’s Donovan was able to clock a 40 minute 46 second 10K (6.2 miles) and 19:35 for a 5K (3.1 miles).
“I had about 5 years during my 50’s when I was running with times that I was really happy with,” he said. “Now that I’m in my 60’s I’m just happy that I’m out there.”
Age has also taken a slight toll on Donovan’s ability to run those long distances as he has cut back on his weekly mileage.
“My mileage is no longer anything to speak of,” he said. “I’m happy just finishing 5K’s and find that 10K’s are quite challenging to me now.”
Donovan continues to maintain a healthy diet, something that has stayed with him since age 20.
“In spite of having a sweet tooth, or maybe because of it, I’ve tried to eat the good things ever since learning about nutrition,” he said.
“These days it’s almost more about not succumbing to the barrage of junk food we’re subjected to than anything else. If I had to recommend a diet to someone, it would begin with plain yogurt.”
Donovan believes in the value of ‘real’ yogurt and will eat the ‘real deal’ at least once a day, preferably with fruit.
“I believe that yogurt is the magical food substance and I will also eat lots of fresh fish and take a multivitamin,” Donovan said. “Don’t smoke or drink and see a dentist on a regular bases.”
At least once per week you can find Donovan somewhere in Volcano or up at Saddle Road doing altitude runs.
“Recently I ran from the top of the Mauna Loa access road up to the 8000 foot marker and had a great time,” Donovan said.
And why does Pat Donovan continue to push himself in his mid 60’s?
“Exercise is important because the physical and the mental are intertwined,” he said. “I love being outside and I get itchy and twitchy without exercise as I start feeling low and my outlook and attitude change if I don’t get to exercise.”
Donovan also closely watches his weight, weighing himself daily to insure he is not putting any extra pounds on.
“If I gain weight, even it’s only a pound or two, that’s a bummer, and I will do something immediately to get back to my normal weight.”
Donovan also has an interesting outlook on health and fitness as he ages gracefully.
“My mantra is that 90 percent of success is just showing up,” he said. “I will keep up with the trail running as I believe it to be fun and will often tell people that I’m not just running, I’m exploring.”
The most interesting thing about regular physical exercise is that as we age we maintain a healthy, youthful vigor, especially from out counterparts who fail to exercise.
“It’s not that we look so young, it’s that everyone else our age looks so old,” Donovan said. “Exercise helps keep us young.”
And someday should you happen to see a youthful senior doing a jog along the back roads of East Hawai’i remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”
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