Episode Number 61 - 05.03.11

A Triathlon at 90.

Rated one the best in the country - Put on by Blue Sky Sports. Click to find the next race.

A 600 meter swim, a 13.8 mile bike ride, and a 5k run. A “sprint tri” in the triathlon world. Could you do one? Could you finish?

What if you were 90? And had osteoarthritis in your back? And a knee replacement?

Pre-swim stretching.

This past Saturday, Dr. John C. Taylor completed the Tri the Parks Triathlon in Carrolton, GA put on by Blue Sky Sports. In doing so, he lays claim to being the first 90-year-old triathlete in the history of USA Triathlon competition. Amazing.

John picked up the sport in 1981 at age 60. I’ll say that again … at age 60. But that’s typical for the Atlanta resident. He also received his doctorate in Health Education from Southern Illinois University 3 days after turning 75.

John told us about the times he’s retired, but each was really just a transition to the next thing. He Pastored churches for 45 years. Along the way he got his masters in Journalism. After “retiring” from the ministry, he taught college-level Journalism for 18 years. After retiring from education, he taught Wellness Lifestyle Seminars for Seniors for another 12 years.

He and his wife Sally have been together for 12 years. They’re inseparable, and slowing down doesn’t seem like part of the plan. As we followed John during his race setup, Sally was everywhere: part assistant, part-trainer, part-cheerleader. He affectionately calls her his performance-enhancing drug. Sally still runs 5 miles a day … which is pretty amazing in itself.


John's favorite segment. The bike.

Triathlon training is a daily thing for John. Which is good, as he’s got another triathlon in early June. Then later in June he’ll have an 8-day stretch in Houston where he’ll have 2 cycling roadraces, 2 cycling time trials, and then another triathlon. Wow. The secret to competing at his age? Simply this, “Just keep on keeping on. Don’t ever quit.”

Competitors. Friends.

While blessed with a great sense of humor, he’s also competitor. There was no resting during transitions. And just like everyone else who took a fall, he got up and kept going. He brought it the whole way.

John’s closest competitor age-wise was Bud Frankenthaler, 78. A marvel himself, Bud still pointed to John as his role-model, saying he hoped to be doing triathlons when he’s John’s age.

Off on the last leg.

Triathlons have been around longer than we might think. French runners in the 20s, 30s & 40s did “les trois sports” as a distraction from the grind of marathon training. The first U.S. triathlon was held in 1974 in San Diego. 46 athletes competed. One of those competitors, John Collins, took the concept to Hawaii and created what we all know now as The Ironman. 12 out of 15 athletes finished the first Ironman.

Triathlons are now booming, becoming an olympic sport in 2000. Today there are over 135,000 USA Triathlon members, up from 21,000 in 2000. This year there will be close to 2000 triathlons all over the U.S.

One thing I was inspired by on Saturday is that triathletes are not all uber-fit 20-somethings. Some are uber-fit older people. Some are simply quasi-uber-fit irrespective of age. Actually, one of the highest growth segments within triathlons is the over 40 crowd. This past Saturday, over half of the 500 participants were 40+ and there was close to 100 athletes over 50. Saturday’s overall winner was a 40 year old. You’ve got to love that.

The 1st 90-year-old triathlete.


John won’t know for certain until early 2012 whether or not he was the first 90 year old triathlete. Regardless, I can tell you that this past Saturday, he was a record-setter in every sense of the word. Hundreds cheered him on during the race.

And maybe the 2nd coolest thing all day was the inspiration you could see in people’s eyes. Mine included. Compliments of a 90 year-old who just keeps on, keeping on.

A great team.

Blue Sky's got some awesome sponsors


29 Responses to “A Triathlon at 90.”

  1. Phil May 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Unbelievable … what an inspiration.

    • Doug May 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

      Phil … once I get over this Plantar fasciitis thing … we need to do one of these.

  2. George Greven May 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm #


    • Doug May 3, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

      George! Me & Phil are going to do one … c’mon down & join us.

      • George Greven May 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

        Doug- Now that I’ve got both of my hips resurfaced, keep me posted.

        • Doug May 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

          Other than stuff in Dr. Taylor’s vid … I think that’s the quote of the day, George …. “Now that I’ve got both of my hips resurfaced …” YEAH!

  3. Noemy Clayborn May 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    “His determination. It’s a drive that won’t stop!”

    I hope one day to be remembered by those very same words!

    What a true inspiration …

    • Doug May 3, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      Noemy … I loved that quote too … and agree, hope I’m able to “bring it” like John 40 years from now. Thanks for your note!

    • Doug May 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

      When’s your tri, Noemy?

      • Noemy Clayborn May 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

        Which one?
        Sprint = 6/4/11
        Olympic = 8/13/11
        Half IronMan = 10/23/11
        Take you pick …

        • Doug May 3, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

          Ah … um … hmmm. Way to go Noemy!

  4. Marsha May 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Well that certainly is inspirational. Love it!!!! And it is so true!!!!! Thanks, Dr. Taylor.

    • Doug May 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

      Thanks for your note, Marsha. So … when will you be doing your first tri?

  5. Donna May 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    I enjoyed, and was inspired by, the video and write up on Dr. Taylor’s lifestyle at age 90 and his participation in the triathlon. “Keep on keeping on” was a phrase my dad would tell us often. Thanks for posting this.

    • Doug May 3, 2011 at 4:49 pm #

      Thanks for watching … and thanks for sharing your reaction. That whole “keep on keeping on” idea is a good one. Glad it inspired you … that’s what we were hoping for!

  6. Maggie May 3, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Truly inspiring Doug! It brought tears to my eyes…one day maybe I could do one…maybe.

    • Doug May 4, 2011 at 2:03 am #

      I think you should try one, Maggie. Thanks for watching!

  7. Shayla May 3, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    He is not the first and only 90 year old triathlete, but he is in rare company. 90 year old Arthur Gilbert just completed his 20th Sprint triathlon in England.
    Congrats to both and hope to see more competing!

    • Doug May 4, 2011 at 2:06 am #

      HI Shayla! Thanks for watching. And thanks for letting me know about Mr. Gilbert. That’s fantastic! Maybe we need to cover a tri in England!

    • jctdand@bellsouth.net May 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm #


      The triathlon Arthur Gilbert of Somerset, England did is NOT considered in the USA as a “bonafide,” “registered,” approved by the USATriathlon Association–184,000 member and fastest growing Tri Asoc. in world. Most associations accept a “Regulation SPRINT,” or longer, as acceptable “triathlons.” Not the little unregulated “MiniSprints,” or “Super Sprints” of less than 600 meter swims, 13.8 mile cycle, and 3.1 mile runs.

      My friend, Charles Futrell (we have competed against each other for 12 years) in The Villages, Fla., turned 90 August, 2010 and did a “Super Sprint (200 swim, about 5 miles bike,and 2 miles run) last October in Clermont, Fla., (where I lived in 1930-33 and returned for 3 to 5 triathlons a yeas from 2000 to 2007, including Olympic-size–International distances in 2005, 2006, and 2007).

      Any triathlon less than official Sprint distances are NOT entered into the computer records of the USATriahlon Association, or most other associations in the USA because they say any small triathlon director can promote any size,, for instance, two pool lengths swim, a couple miles bike and around the block run. Therefore, the official SPRINT has been established.

      Gilbert is to be commended. Futrell, also. And anyone else who does the three sports together. But a regulation SPRINT by the USA Triathlon Association has all their regulations approving an event for their records. Their regulations include: distances checked by an official; a USATriathlon hired referee (official) from another town than the event, present to supervise and check all rules, etc. A police, ambulance, or official must follow the last runner, etc.

      A Triathlete friend of mine from Canada, and another from Ireland, both told me that they do not, yet, have the strict national rules associations in England or other countries as in USA. (I do not know if that is so or not.) I only know that the USATriathlon Association is strict, uniform, and great. Chuck Dunlop of Marietta, Ga., is on the board. another triathlete in Peachtree City is on the board. Fred Sommer of CFT Sommer Sports in Clermont, Fla., is on the board.

      I commend you for searching and bringing Gilbert to our attention. I’m sure he can beat the socks off me. I’m just endurance, not speed. I’m just hanging in there. I set a goal at 60 years of age to do one in my 90s. My motto is, “Keep On Keeping On.” I merely try to encourage all triathletes to “Keep On Keeping On.”

      If you are a triathlete, “Keep On Keeping On,” because your heart, then, can continue to be strong in your 90s, something many of the medical profession know little about–healthy heart from aerobics in 80s and 90s–except some of the doctors at Resurgens in north Atlanta.

      Also, getting a Ph. D. after turning 75 can also hep keep the mind healthy after 70s and 80s. I know. Dr. Oz was very interested in me for that and flew my wife and me to New York for his program.

      “Keep On Keeping” on, especially with aerobics exercise (also good nutrition, stress management, mind growth and attitude, social relationships, and spiritual (not religious) growth. “Keep On Keeping ON MOVING the body, mind, and soul.

      – Dr. John C. Taylor

      • Doug May 16, 2011 at 10:25 am #

        Thanks for weighing in, Dr. Taylor!

  8. David May 4, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    I was standing at T2 when Dr. Taylor was getting ready to start his 5k. With a huge grin on his face, he jokingly asked me “Is it still Saturday?”. What an inspiration!

    • Doug May 4, 2011 at 9:46 am #

      Classic. Thanks for sharing that David. I think in the video you can hear him saying, “See you tomorrow.” I knew Saturday would be good day. I had no idea just HOW good. Appreciate you watching and taking the time to leave us a comment. Thanks!

  9. Fran May 4, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Amazing!!!! Think i’ll go for a walk for petes sake!

    • Doug May 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

      Yes. Walk Fran, walk.

  10. lilifx May 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    I ran the duathlon that day, and I’m sloooooow, but I do it. I’m a not-so-fit 30-something & I am the only Athena who races the du.

    I am almost always on the run course at the same time as John, and he never fails to cheer for me when we’re running past one another. I can say first hand that John’s such an inspiration to everyone out there on that course.

    I want to also say that Tri the Parks is a fantastic series and extraordinarily well-run and well-managed.


    • Doug June 6, 2011 at 2:24 am #


      I’m sorry I missed your comment when it came in … (I was out for my 25th anniversary) … But thanks so much for sharing. It’s cool to hear 1st hand the impact Dr. Taylor has on fellow competitors. Congrats on your du.

  11. Doug June 6, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    Thanks for your comment. Sounds like maybe you were there yesterday? It was amazing … I was on the run with Dr. Taylor and he pushed through an enormous amount of pain to finish. I was blown away.


  1. Other People’s Handiwork « Change Is Possible - June 5, 2011

    […] A triathlon at 90 from 2nd Half Lounge: He completed another triathlon, this one at age 90 — with osteoarthritis and after a knee replacement — after picking the sport up at 60. What’s your excuse? […]

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