Orville Rogers’ name may be familiar. He’s been featured on ESPN and Sports Illustrated. He also co-authored the book “The Running Man: Flying High for the Glory of God.” The 102-year-old former pilot and World War II veteran started his running career at age 50 after reading Kenneth Cooper’s book “Aerobics.” Since then, he’s set numerous records, including 18 world records.
What were your favorite races?
I was a member of the Cross Country Club of Dallas, now called the Dallas Running Club. Tal Morrison, the founder, recruited me about the first or second year of the running club’s history. They had a meet every first Saturday of the month. The distances always varied anywhere from a mile to a 15K. Whatever they were running, I ran. But I outgrew them. I got acquainted with USA Track & Field, which maintains U.S. records and is a repository for the applications for world records. I thought maybe I could set some records. This is 11 years ago now. I was approaching 90. I got a trainer at Landry. He worked with me about three or four months. I entered two or three races March 3, 2008. My wife was going with me to Boston for the meet. We had hotel and airlines placed. She died March 8, two or three weeks before. I miss her greatly. But I talked to my kids, who encouraged me to run. So I did. I broke the 800-meter run by about a minute. I slaughtered the mile record. I think it was 11 something. I did it in 9:57. That’s still a world record for 90-year-olds.
What distance is your favorite in competition?
It depends on whether it’s indoors or outdoors. May I explain? Outdoor tracks are 400 meters. Indoor tracks are 200 meters. So my favorite race is one loop. All you have to do is start out fast, turn left and hurry home.
What was your training schedule like?
I don’t think I’ll be running anymore. I have no energy, and I have no endurance. That’s not good for a runner. Back to my heyday, I ran five marathons. Four of them were White Rocks, and one was in Tulsa. My last was my best by far because I really trained for it. I think I was almost 75. I was running 80 miles per week for two months or so. Then I tapered down at the end, of course. My best time of my career was 3:49:50.
Do you miss running?
I do, like I miss flying. I never did enjoy much what they call the runner’s high. Two or three times I felt exhilarated for a few moments there. But it didn’t last very long. I always enjoyed running, which is maybe one reason I did so well. I ran 43,000 miles in the last 50 years.
How did you and your wife meet?
At Oklahoma University. We were both Baptist, and the church had a very active student program at OU. It’s called the Baptist Student Union. She was dating another boy at the time, and I had a difficult time winning her over. It took a couple years, but it was worth it.
How did you win her over?
Persistence. By the way, I think that’s overlooked in the list of things that contribute to long-term health and well-being.
Outside of running, what are your hobbies?
I’m active in the church. I’m still active in the stock market.
What did you like to do as a child?
I would meet three or four friends at the local swimming pool, and we would play tag for hours, running and swimming. I think that’s where I got my endurance.
What’s your favorite food?
Fried okra. It’s not the healthiest food in the world … I got them to put it on the menu here. I kept asking for it, and they weren’t listening to me. So I started asking all my tablemates, “Would you like fried okra on the menu?” They’d say yes, so I’d say, “Tell the waitress.”
Did you enjoy running marathons?
What do you call a guy that likes torture? A masochist? It’s kind of torturous. The halfway point of a marathon is the 20-mile mark. The last 6 miles are tough, but you tough it out. I noticed a lot of runners falter at the finish line. They see the finish line and say, “I’ve got it made,” and slow down. I power through the tape just as hard as I can do it. And I’m that way about life. I want to finish strong.
Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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