George Etzweiler didn't come in last. Now, he's set to run next year's Arts Festival 10K at the age of 88.
After finishing yesterday's Arts Festival 10K, a 6.2-mile race, the 87-year-old State College denizen said he always told people he would stop running the race if he came in last. But his 61-year-old son, Larry, finished just behind him.
Other than his running shoes and yellow 1970s-era Nittany Valley Track Club T-shirt, Etzweiler looked a bit out of place.
The other runners wore stopwatches and athletic shorts. Etzweiler wore olive green Bermuda shorts, no watch necessary.
Etzweiler seemed to have no worries about the grueling race he was about to run. He nonchalantly chatted with fellow runners at the starting line before the race. His son was the only person who had any worries.
"I just hope I can keep up [with him]," Larry Etzweiler said.
Although George Etzweiler has run 13.8 miles in two races in the past month, he didn't run a complete mile until he was 49 -- five years after he received his doctorate in electrical engineering at Penn State and many years after he served with the Navy in World War II as a fire controlman.
"I was suffering the usual late-40s problem of staying awake in the afternoons," he said. He was a professor of electrical engineering at Penn State when he and some friends began reading a book by Kenneth H. Cooper called Aerobics. From there on, they began running.
"When I went and ran with them, I just caught on to it," he said.
George Etzweiler didn't run a race until 1973, at the age of 53. Only one other person in that race was older than 50. His name was published in Runner's World for finishing first in his age group for that first event.
Since then, he has run many community races. In recent years, he's run in the Arts Festival 10K and the First Night State College 5K Resolution Run.
Not all of the races are limited to this area, though.
In 1987, when he was 67, he completed the New York City Marathon. He finished in the top third of his age group.
He also ventured away from State College to run in the Mount Washington Road Race in New Hampshire in 1989. The race is a 7.6-mile uphill course on an 11.6 percent grade. He returned to the course in 1995, 2005 and 2006. He also completed the course on June 16.
When he ran the race in 2005, he broke an 18-year-old record by 30 minutes for runners 85 years and older.
"They just can't get people over 85 who can go over that mountain," George Etzweiler said.
If he runs the Mount Washington race next year, he already knows what his number will be: 88.
He said he plans to keep running until he physically can no longer do it.
"Something's gotta give sometime," he said. "I can't keep doing this for another 20 years."
A runner in yesterday's 5K race was baffled by George Etzweiler's feat.
"That guy's 87?" Glenn Kagarise, of Williamsburg, said. "I just hope I'm still walking when I'm 87."