Elmo Shropshire was already a champion horse trainer, longtime veterinarian, and singer of a “love it or hate it” Christmas hit when he started running at age 55.
By 70, he finished the New York City Marathon ninth in his age division. He found even greater success in short distances. And he spent this Christmas training in Costa Rica for the 2022 National Senior Games.
Oh, and his big song? “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” still making ‘em smile after 43 years.
Dr. Elmo, now 85, has legs – even more than that irrepressible novelty tune.
“All the time I was riding (race) horses, I never thought of running myself, the racing,” Dr. Elmo said. “Once I started running I loved the competition of it, and I love the competition more as I’ve gotten older, and I love the good health that it brings me.”
He’s Not Alone
Around the world, millions of people over 50 run on a regular basis, with countless more out there walking. Those numbers came before the pandemic, and it’s easy to think that millions more took up outdoor exercise in the last couple of years because of Covid. More than a million runners over 65 finish races each year in the US, with millions more across Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Running can bring substantial physical benefits, even if you’re not competitive. Running (or walking) is good for our lungs, heart, and mobility.
The World Health Organization recommends everyone gets 150 hours of moderate cardio exercise a week. And don’t forget that strength training is essential as we age.
The point is that we shouldn’t let age stop us from starting new activities or enjoying them safely and effectively, as Dr. Elmo shows.
In the Long Run
Dr. Elmo is currently ranked No. 1 in the US in the 3,000 meters for his 85-89 age group, and No. 3 in the world. Plus, he’s No. 2 in the US for the 400 meters.
“I’m really looking forward to 2022,” he says. He even trained throughout December, which he usually takes off to perform his famous comedy tune.
A friend wrote it back in the ‘70s while trapped in a blizzard, and it has drawn some controversy – along with countless smiles. Its chorus goes:
Grandma got run over by a reindeer walking home from our house Christmas Eve.
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa, but as for me and grandpa, we believe.
Critics should know it was sung by a practicing veterinarian, not an ogre, which is what the anti-ageist Gray Panthers labeled him back in the day.
Dr. Elmo believes running and Cross-Fit keep his arthritis at bay. “The more you use your legs, the more they allow you to use them,” he said.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.