As we age, it’s easy to think we no longer have the time or stamina to embark on new physical challenges. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth for George Hernandez, 70, who ran his first marathon at age 50 and 100 marathons since.
While George stayed fit throughout his life, he describes himself as not particularly competitive and not much of a runner. So when his stepdaughter asked him to train with her for the St. Jude marathon in 2003, he thought it would be a one-time venture they could do together for fun.
Little did George know he’d quickly become hooked, even qualifying for the exclusive Boston Marathon the following year. As George continued to develop his passion for running, he set the ambitious goal of eventually completing 100 marathons.
George realized that though he was embarking on this pursuit throughout his fifties and sixties, he felt much healthier than he was in his thirties and forties, noticing a significant improvement in his agility and flexibility.
George attributes his running stamina to several motivators. His love for running started at St. Jude Memphis Marathon weekend, a cause he is especially proud to support, considering his stepdaughter is a nurse practitioner at St. Jude. He’s also not too competitive with himself and enjoys the experience and camaraderie rather than focusing exclusively on setting personal records. George has also been active with several running groups and communities and has traveled as far as Berlin, London, and Copenhagen to join in their marathons.
“People may think I’m crazy, but why stop now!”
“It has been amazing getting to know people from so many walks of life, who all have the common bond of continuing to put one foot in front of the other,” he says
During these years running marathons, George served as the CFO and eventually CEO of Campbell Clinic Orthopedics in Memphis. Seeing so many patients receiving treatment for injuries and various ailments and ultimately getting back on their feet inspired George and reminded him to be grateful for his good health. Set on the original goal of running 100 marathons, the 2022 St. Jude Marathon was expected to be his last.
However, he unexpectedly qualified for the 2022 Berlin Marathon in September and knew he had to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As fate would have it, this also happened to be the race during which Olympian Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record. This major athletic achievement, combined with George’s feat of completing his 100th marathon, was particularly moving for him.
“What is so unique about marathons is that elite, record-breaking runners are sharing the same stage as average Joe runners like me and being cheered on by the same spectators,” he recounts. After completing the Berlin Marathon, George knew he wanted to finish at St. Jude in December, so he has completed 101 marathons, but he doesn’t think he will stop yet! “People may think I’m crazy, but why stop now!”
By Zoe Harrison
Photo by Tindall Stephens