At a time when age begins to reveal its true colors and some find themselves slowing down, Tim Brooker, J.b. Yonce and Sally Russell are picking up the pace.
In April, the trio competed in the world's oldest annual marathon: the Boston.
Brooker, 60, a lifelong runner, finished in sixth place in his age group of 700 runners with a time of 3 hours, 7 minutes and 8 seconds.
Yonce, 64, and Russell, 58, qualified for the prestigious 26.2-mile race despite their relatively short running careers. In fact, Yonce, a rodeo team roper, took up running a year ago and hasn't stopped, competing in four marathons in the last 12 months.
"I ran in the '60s when I was in the Marine Corps, but that's only because someone was chasing me," he joked.
All of them enjoy the camaraderie and social aspects of running. It's a way to "stay 50 when you're over 60," Yonce said.
There's the colloquial saying that with age comes wisdom and there's truth to that in terms of running, too. There's more attention paid to weight training, stretching, resting, fueling appropriately and listening carefully to the body, they said. Maybe it is smarter training or maybe it's just necessary, or both.
"As you get older, you won't be as fast as you were 10 years ago, but maybe I can be faster than last year," said Brooker, who ran his first marathon in his 40s.
A lifelong runner, Brooker, co-owner of the downtown Missoula Runner's Edge, found time to train for marathons in his later years. Before that, family and business took priority. Plus, running marathons is a good excuse to travel, he said.
"You become smarter as you get older ... at least I know what I should do," Brooker said.
Russell became a runner by accident.
Endurance sports were never her thing and, in fact, she disliked running.
However, leisurely bike rides with a friend eventually transpired into 100-mile bike races. Around the same time, Russell's husband became ill with emphysema and training for long-distance bike races was too much of a time commitment, she said.
In an effort to spend more time with her husband, Russell took up running.
Not only did those long runs relieve stress, but they made her feel energized and free.
"I felt like I was trying to breathe for him," she said. "Subconsciously, I think I wanted to oxygenate my lungs."
Russell's husband, a huge supporter of her and her new sport, died several months before she ran her first half marathon at the second annual Missoula Marathon. Since then, she's gone on to run the Missoula Marathon, the Portland (Ore.) Marathon and recently the Boston Marathon.
"It's not about competition," she said, "It's about doing something that's good for yourself. I've learned so much about life. I have nothing to prove to anybody, and I learned that through running."
Two years ago, Yonce watched runners training for the Missoula Marathon and thought he, too, could do that. It became a bucket list item of sorts, he said. The very next year, at age 63, he accomplished that goal.
"I latch onto something and that's what I do," he said.
Yonce went on to run marathons in Phoenix, Ariz., Portland and Boston. There was never any consideration given to possible sore joints, poor knees or an aching back.
Training for the Boston Marathon often involved running 55 miles a week. Yonce doesn't want to
run his knees into the ground, but as long as running is enjoyable, he'll continue pounding the pavement.
"You're punishing your body, but you're doing it among friends," he said.
Russell is nursing an injury since the Boston Marathon. Her knee buckled on a recent run and doctors found torn cartilage in her knee. It's too early to tell whether surgery is necessary. Still, she has no regrets and is eager to lace up her running shoes again soon.
"Running far outweighs any injury in terms of benefits," she said, rattling off a long list of positive things that result from running - among them, overall strength, energy, friendship, weight loss and self-confidence.
Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.