Race No. 1,000 no reason to rest for retired Judge Gould
In 1981, Dan Gould was an overweight 37-year-old who smoked a pack and a half of Marlboro cigarettes per day.
He had a stressful job working as a judge, and stayed sedentary most of the time. So, as he read a health and fitness article describing how deadly every element of his lifestyle was, he had an epiphany. He had to change, and fast — things only were going to get harder once he hit 40.
The cigarettes were first. On Oct. 31, 1981, he smoked his last Marlboro, and gave himself the next few months to adjust to that change. He decided that starting March 1, 1982, he would start working out daily.
Without Pinterest tutorials or Crossfit, Gould turned to his coworkers for fitness advice. Three men who were about 10 years younger and working in the state’s attorney’s office encouraged him to start running, as that’s what they credited for their health.
“I made a deal with myself that I would get out of bed a half hour early and start jogging my way back to some kind of fitness,” said Gould, now 74, and a Bourbonnais resident. “And on March 1, 1982, I just put on the shoes and jogged as far as I could, which was about three quarters of a mile.”
Despite feeling exhausted and defeated by his out-of-practice body, Gould continued this ritual every single day, until finally he could run a little further and a little faster. After three months, he decided to run competitively for the first time at the Performance Sports Five Miler.
Gould remembers that first race as a miserable experience — the late May weather was hot and steamy, and he started out too fast.
But he didn’t stop. He kept right on running, and by completing the course in the annual Jingle Bell Run on Sunday at Kankakee Community College, he now has run 1,000 competitive races.
“I started strictly for health and fitness and got caught up in the competition and the friendships,” Gould said. “My best friends today here and in Florida (where Gould spends his winters) are people that I met running.”
Charlie Grotevant, a retired farmer who also started running later in life because of health issues, is one of these friends Gould met through running. He said he first started noticing Gould in 1986 when he would run in cheeky shirts saying things such as “Here Comes the Judge.”
Since Grotevant only is two years older than Gould, they usually were running in the same age group, and would come across each other 15 to 20 times per year. They became close competitors — half the time Gould would win, and the other half Grotevant would take the prize. But they almost always were just within inches of each other.
Their competitive relationship has blossomed into a deep friendship throughout the years. They ran the Boston Marathon together twice, they’ve biked the longest linear national park in the United States together and after many years of visits, Grotevant bought a winter home neighboring Gould’s in Florida.
“He’s just been a tremendous friend through all these years,” Grotevant said. “We’ve shared personal things — the ups and downs of life.”
Gould has met so many people through running that 18 years ago, when he retired from the judgeship and started splitting his time between Illinois and Florida, he began writing weekly race reports to keep his friends updated on his racing career.
They’re long and detail everything from who was in charge of the race, to what friends were there, to the weather. His wife, Linda — who he described as his “running buddy, photographer, cheerleader, support crew and love of my life” in last week’s report — takes plenty of photos for the newsletter. The idea sprung out of fond memories of co-editing the Kankakee Running Club’s newsletter from 1988-89.
“It’s something to fill in the gap between Christmas letters,” Gould said. “Now it’s a compulsion. It’s a labor of love, and I enjoy trying to be a little creative.”
At the end of every race report, Gould urges his readers to “run for your life.” It’s a mantra he’s taken to heart since he doesn’t want to imagine what state his health would be in if he hadn’t started exercising 37 years ago.
“The runs sometimes feel good and sometimes they don’t,’’ Gould said. “What feels good is when I get up in the morning, get on the bathroom scale and like what it says.’’
And the dedication to being active doesn’t end after his morning run. Linda said a typical day for Dan involves nine holes of golf (while carrying his own bag from hole to hole), a 5 to 8 mile run and some sort of household chore such as mowing.
While most of the 14 marathons Gould has ran were between ’83 and ’97, he still hasn’t put away the idea of running another one (though Linda has some objections to that). Some of his fondest racing memories are from marathons, with his favorite being when he qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time, in Milwaukee in 1985.
Down in Florida, there’s a 92-year-old man named Walter White who the Goulds always see competing at races. He doesn’t go much faster than a walk, but no one cares — he has the biggest cheering section.
“When I’m 92, I want to be Walter,” Gould said. “I still want to have that excitement in life. I want to be going to these things and be a part of it all ... it was never my goal to run 1,000 races. My goal was to stay fit, stay healthy and enjoy the competition. I’d love to see the day I’m looking at 1,500 races. Maybe I’m not the best competitor that I could be, but I’d still like to be running at 90 and even 100.”