Walter Stack - Ultramarathoner

Before becoming the world's most famous senior-citizen distance runner, Walt Stack (who died in 1995 at age 87) first got into shape the old fashioned way: He worked as a hod carrier, ferrying supplies to bricklayers, stonemasons, and the like on his broad shoulders. But in 1965, at 57, he decided that eight daily hours of hard labor just wasn't enough. So he ran the first of what would eventually become 62,000 lifetime miles, crafting a highly visible training routine that made him a San Francisco institution - though many a Bay Area commuter was heard to mutter that he instead should've been committed to one. "I'm going to do this till I get planted," he'd say, and indeed he nearly did. Every day for 27 years, until sidelined by failing health in 1993, Stack would set out on his> bike and ride the six hilly miles from his Potrero Hill home to Fisherman's Wharf. There he'd strip off his shirt - to display the tattoos of peacocks, wild horses, and bathing beauties muraled across his broad, rawhide chest - and run over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and back, 17 miles. Next, Stack would jump into the Bay for a one-mile swim in choppy water he called "colder than a landlord's heart." Perhaps even more impressive than his daily routine, however - and a timeless reality check for those who may feel compelled to boast of their fitness exploits - was the perspective with which he viewed it. "All this work I'm doing," Stack once said in the midst of a bridge crossing, "it don't mean shit."

 

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