This weekend during the Valero's United Way Bridge Run/Walk two familiar faces will be competing in the 70 and over age group, Amelia and Arthur Gassen. At 78 and 81 respectively, these two have climbed Hale Boggs Bridge numerous times, with Arthur winning the event several times.
"I used to win all the time, but they go 70 and over. I'm 81, so I'm competing against 10 guys younger than me," said Arthur.
Twenty years ago, the Gassens' love of running began when they were in their 50s, when Amelia ran in a race and won for her age group. Arthur said that spurred a little jealousy, so he picked up the activity.
Running became infectious. Now, the whole family -- grandchildren included -- participates in running competitively. This Saturday, three generations of Gassens will tackle the steep climb of the Hale Boggs Bridge.
As for his training regime, "I walk a lot, and I walk about 30 miles a week. I do better than 130 miles a month," said Arthur, adding that the river levee is hisfavorite place to exercise.
Amelia, who has diabetes, also works out regularly. Both said that the active lifestyles are the secret to keeping them young and happy. Arthur still runs about a 12 minute mile competitively, and Amelia runs about a 15 minute mile.
The bridge run is only one race each will compete in this year. As members of the New Orleans Track Club, they run in races all over the South. At 78 and 81, they said that they will run in about 20 5K and 10k races this year, with the rising cost of races being the only deterrent.
Working for years in the Avondale shipyards, Arthur was looking for an activity to keep him fit after retirement. At 55, he picked up running and has never looked back, believing that that running has helped him avoid health problems.
As for how long they plan to continue running, the Gassens said as long as they can, as fitness is a lifelong commitment.
|Arthur Gassen, Jr. prepares for the Bridge Run this Saturday by running on the Mississippi River Levee.|