Monday, June 4, 2012

BLOG INTERVIEW: Forrest Wise - Marathoner at the age of 65

This next blog interview is with a very special person in my life, Forrest Wise.  To say he has been influential in my life and running career is an understatement.  I first met Forrest and his family during the time I lived in Nashville, TN.  We were all (and still are) TN Titan football fans. We spent many home games together.  

When I first met Forrest, he was morbidly obese.  When he came to visit Vegas a few years ago, he had lost 100lbs.  At that time, I learned he became a runner.  (I was still not a runner). 

During my early months of running, it was Forrest who guided me through the maze of shoes, gear and what the heck is a hill interval?  

We have yet to run a race together, but it is my dream to run along side of him during a Half or Marathon.  We will make it happen.

I am more than excited and yet humbled to present to you this interview of the man who not only inspires me but everyone else he is around..... Forrest Wise of Hendersonville, TN

How did you begin working out/running?
My wife, Judy, was very concerned about our health. Being considerably overweight, she thought we should join the YMCA. In September 2004, she signed us up, and I went a couple times because she insisted. In February, 2005, she said, "If you don't start going to the YMCA, I am going to cancel our membership because it is a waste of money, if you are not going to use it." I went a couple times and walked on the track, and fiddled on the machines, but found I enjoyed walking more. I met a man, John, that was a regular attender and talkative. When I came back a couple days later, he said, "Where were you yesterday, I thought you would be here". I decided to be more dependable and starting going 4 days a week. John's routine was to walk two miles, then workout on the elliptical. Because he was tall and long legged, he walked fairly fast and I had to work at keeping up with him because I was a few inches shorter and weighed nearly 300 lbs. I met several more regulars and actually enjoyed our walks-n-talks.

2003 - The last time we saw Forrest and his wife Judy, before we moved to Vegas (Forrest is far right)

Please share your journey you went on to loose 100 lbs

During our walks, I learned to eat better, cut out junk food, and drink lots of water. I enjoyed walking, but some others walked faster, and I found a little competitiveness in me, and tried to pick up my pace and distance. I tried to walk between 4 to 8 miles each time at a faster pace. I stuck with it, and improved, and found by the end of March that I had lost 8 lbs. That motivated me to keep going and was averaging 8 - 10 lbs. per month. By August, 2005, I turned 61 and had lost 50 lbs. For my birthday, Judy, bought real jogging outfits, shorts, and tank tops. Because they were draw-string, I could now try to jog without my pants falling off. In September, 2005, I ran my first whole mile. A mile is 12 laps, and I was thrilled to run 2 whole laps, and dreamed of running a mile. My new goal was to run a mile in every workout.  A few regulars would show up and run for 40 minutes, then leave. I would try to run with them a little bit at a time and gradually worked up to two miles. I found out a couple years later this regular was a Lt. Col. in the Tennessee National Guard and organized a running club for kids in Dyersburg, TN. He gave me the slogan, "Age and cunning, will beat youth in running". That started a new goal to run 5k and more. He died in a freak automobile accident in 2007. I attribute a lot to him. By December 2005, I had lost 70 lbs. I ran my first 5k race in April 2006, and half marathon at the end of that month. By May 2006, I had lost another 30 lbs., making a total of 100 lbs. That changed my life. Did not get stuck in chairs, airplane seats, pop buttons, nor split my pants any more. That was my motivation to keep it off.

What other sports do you participate in?

I have learned to swim a little, and bought a road bike. I enjoy riding with the FOGBEES (fat old guys/gals on bikes) lite group and friends from church. They have a hardcore group, but I can't keep up with them. The lite group rides together, and will wait on the slower riders. May eventually do a triathlon.

Please Share your Most Cherished Running Moments:

That's a LONG story, be prepared!  Losing 100 lbs. was life-changing, running the full Country Music Marathon April 2009 was a tremendous victory (that was a story in itself, maybe I can tell you later), riding my bike for 67 miles, on my 67th birthday, with a lot of my friends was great, but I will have to say my walking 65 miles on my 65th birthday, in August 2009, has to be my crowning achievement so far. 

I first heard about running birthday years in 2007, when I met a man that was doing 50 miles on his 50th birthday. I always thought that was a great idea, but knew I could never run that far. In the first week of August, I retired from fulltime work and spent more time at the YMCA and running early morning group runs, when the idea came to me, "I have the time, and why not try it". I didn't want to tell anyone because, if I failed, it would not be so embarrassing. On August 16, 2009, I found the perfect 6.2 route not far from my house that had a little roadside park where I could set up my headquarters for food, changing socks and shoes, and communication. My wife tried her best to not try such a thing, but finally agreed for me to try it, and we bought our energy drinks, fruit, etc. I told my eldest son, Frank, and a couple friends in my running group that I was almost certain to try it. I started at 3 a.m., in order to finish before dark that evening. 

Forrest on his 65 mile Birthday Walk
I ran a little, but mainly tried saving my energy and took about an hour and a half for 6.2 miles back to my truck, drink water, and start another lap. It rained briefly, and about 7 a.m., my wife met me at the end of my lap to check to see how I was doing, my son called, and then a couple running buddies checked in to see if I was actually trying it. 

Ashley, and my daughter-in-law, called the news media to tell them that a many runners were walking 65 miles on his 65th birthday. Two TV stations sent film crews and even walked with me briefly and another one had their camera in the back of their vehicle in front of me and gave me a microphone to wear and said "talk". Around mile 30, I thought that I would try to run a little downhill since that was a lot farther than the marathon that I had previously done, when I noticed my blisters burning. I had already changed my cotton socks due to the rain earlier, but that didn't stop the friction in my shoes. Some people had to leave, but others came. As friends I was walking a helicopter appeared overhead. I thought they were looking for criminals, or something, but they were there for us. It hovered over us for nearly an hour. The noonday headlines on Fox Ch. 17, and News Channel 5, were both about me walking 65 miles. (I think you can still check the news archives for August 18, 2009 and see the video and story). A business man came out of his office and said he noticed us and wanted to know what was going on. Toward evening, I had about a dozen people walking with me. One carried water, and another with sports drink.  

What an awesome sight as the traffic would honk. Late in the afternoon, I noticed some chalk art along the route with smiley faces, "we luv you", "great job", "if you have to pee, turn here".  Good friend, Charlene Alcorn had gone around the 6.2 mile route drawing all of this, and while traffic was flying past her. She had a big birthday cake drawn in the parking lot and huge letters " H A P P Y B I R T H D A Y" across the parking lot. What a wonderful surprise. Just awesome! Brought tears to my eyes seeing all this stuff happening. My blisters were piling upon each other, and when I came back to my truck, Leslie and Ashley peeled my socks off and wrapped my feet in gauze, or something very thin, and felt wonderful, and sent me back out again. The walk was taking longer than I expected because of the TV interviews, sock/shoe changes, and food. With just a few miles to go, there were over 30 people hanging around the parking lot, and a dozen or more walking the last mile and a half. Doug's kids were lighting sparklers and cheered as I finished in 19 hours and 53 seconds. Done. Fell into a lawn chair, ate a little cake, and took pictures. What an awesome event this turned out to be. A couple weeks later, my friend at the YMCA, said, "How would you like to see your route from the air?" I kinda laughed and said, "Are you a pilot?" He said that he was and we could go now. I asked if my wife could go to. We picked her up and off to the airport and soon we were in the air. My first single engine plane ride. What a wonderful gift he gave to me.

What advise would you give to anyone who wants to begin a life of fitness and health?
 I have a lot of friendships that came about because I started running. Fabulous people that I would never otherwise met. When I was half a mile away from the finish line of my first marathon, a dozen friends, and even their kids, that ran with me in my year of training, ran beside me, firing up the crowd, and helped me cross the finish line. Unforgettable times. I not only love running, I love the sport. I realize how important it is for people to have fun running, and it takes a lot of people to put on a good race. I have run 54 races, so far, and have volunteered to help in 25-30 more. I love yelling to runners, encouraging people to try running, or at least walking, rapidly. I volunteer to work in the Expos at major races, help at local races, and organize community events. Don't get me started talking about running because I may talk your ear off.

After Finishing the Nashville Marathon

 (My sincere thanks to Forrest and his wife, Judy for being such wonderful friends and great inspirations to me and so many.  I love you!)

(c) C. Ragsdale 2011-12
Run F.A.B.,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
Running Coach, Certified Sports Nutritionist & Public Speaker
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  1. This is my favorite interview so far. Please do more like this. -Janet

    1. Janet - you are a busy one on my blog, aren't you? LOL

      Thanks. Forrest is a great man with a great family. I can't wait to run with him.


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