Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Keaau’s Robert Karp Staying Fit at Age 77

Karp running Hilo half marathon in March

What would it take to get sedentary people out the door to start exercising?  Many people find it difficult to locate the necessary motivation to begin and stay with a regular exercise program.

     For Robert Karp the spark plug of motivation came from his annual physical checkup when it was revealed that he was overweight, had high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure.

   “In the mid 1970’s my doctor gave me some pills and told me to lose about 40 to 45 pounds,” Karp said.  “Not wanting to take pills for the rest of my life I started running.”

   Karp was in his 40’s when he realized that he would need to exercise regularly if he was to avoid all the trappings of over indulgence and the health problems associated with it. 

   Starting out was no easy task for a man that could barley run 100 yards.  “At first I could only run the distance between two telephone poles before I had to walk to catch my breath,” he said.  “Slowly I was able to increase the number of poles without slowing to catch my breath and eventually I switched to timing and increasing my running increments.”

  Before long this middle aged man was jogging for 35 minutes straight and he had even started to take his running shoes on work related trips to Oahu.  It was on Oahu, at one of his management seminars, that Karp discovered an even better way of getting into and staying in shape.

   “I was at a seminar in Makaha for a few days and there I learned that running for an hour is only part of the picture.  We were told that when running, the body will shift from burning carbohydrates to fat after about 40 minutes,” he said.

  The following morning Karp went out for a one hour run for the first time.  Since that time Karp has never gone out for less than an hour, except when doing short races.

   It didn’t happen overnight, but with a little patience and perseverance Karp’s weight came down and he was off the pills that his doctor had prescribed.  In July 1981 Karp ran his first marathon, a distance of 26.2 miles, in Hilo. 

   “My doctor was so impressed with what I was able to do that he and his wife started running,” Karp said.

   Karp grew up in West Chicago during the ‘30’s and played football and ran track while in high school.  “I ran the high hurdles in my earlier years in high school and during my senior year I earned my letter in the mile and half-mile,” he said.

    It was during his senior year of high school that Karp broke the school record for the half-mile and came within three tenths of a second of breaking the mile record.

    Karp enlisted in the Air Force in 1952 during the Korean War and got his BBA in accounting at the University of Hawaii, Manoa in 1960.

   “My working career was entirely in Hawaii and primarily in the accounting management and financial controllership in the sugar and macadamia industries,” he said.

    In the late 60’s Karp was transferred from Olokele Sugar on Kauai to Pepeekeo Sugar on the Big Island and eventually worked at Paauhau Sugar, Laupahoehoe Sugar, Hamakua Sugar and finally Ka’u Sugar.  It was in the mid 70’s working at Laupahoehoe where Karp started to run and earned his Manoa MBA.

   Eight years ago Karp was returning to Hilo from the Kona Toys for Tots Parade on his motorcycle when he got into a serious accident.

    “The last thing I could remember was rolling back on my throttle as we crossed the bridge at Papaaloa around 3 p.m.  The biker behind me said that for some reason after we started to accelerate on the bridge my head moved forward, down and to the left and I started to cross the centerline,” Karp said.

   Karp slammed his bike into the guardrail on the opposite side of the road after crossing the bridge.  An ambulance took him to Hilo Hospital where he spent the next two weeks in intensive care and the following two weeks recovering.

   To continue to exist, Karp needed two pints of blood, stitches and pins to secure his crushed left hand, two metal plates were installed to stabilize and strengthen his broken left arm above the wrist and his broken left leg above his bolted left ankle.

  There were three broken ribs, a collapsed right lung, along with scrapes and bruises almost everywhere.  Had he not been wearing his helmet his story would have ended that afternoon in November 2001.

   Karp retired in July 2007 and today this 77 year old as he continues to exercise on a regular basis.  “I’ll walk briskly for over an hour two to three times a week with an occasional two hour jaunt,” he said.

    “On those mornings that I’m not on the road I’ll do about 45 minutes of exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, weights, toe-touching, a little stretching and HealthRider time,” he said.

   Karp will also keep an eye on what he eats, although he will eat just about everything, he controls the amount that he eats and when he eats.

    Eight years following his near death accident Karp is preparing for a half-marathon (13.1-miles) that will be hosted by the Big Island International Marathon Association in March.

    “My goal for the half-marathon is to complete the race in a reasonable time, all things considered.  When you have set definitive goals and reasonable goals you have developed a guide or map to follow for your achievement and success,” he said.


November 23, 2009 Posted by | Profiles, Running on the Big Island | , | Leave a comment