Running through the steady rain in St. Paul, Minnesota last week, Black Mountain resident Dawson Hunter was doing what he truly enjoys.
The 86-year-old completed the road 5K at the National Senior Games, recording a personal best time of 43:18. He finished fourth in his age group.
“I had a great race,” he said. “It poured, and we decided at the last second to throw off all our rain gear. We got soaked for the first two miles.”
A decade ago when he moved to the Swannanoa Valley, Hunter wasn’t a runner, though he had been. He was reintroduced to the sport by local running enthusiast Don McMahill. Hunter was originally reluctant to commit to running but began participating in races throughout Western North Carolina with his wife, Barbara.
Consistently improving his pace, he later qualified for the biennial Senior Games in Houston in 2011 and Cleveland in 2013.
“Being in the National Senior Games is something that, at first, I was a little apprehensive about,” he said. “It requires time and preparation and all of that. I didn’t feel like I would qualify. I thought I was too old for this stuff, but I’ve really surprised the hell out of myself.”
To help prepare for the races, Hunter used a training program designed specifically for seniors.
“Once you’ve been running for a number of years, you begin to know what you can and can’t do,” he said.
The arrival of the torch for the 2015 games took place on the Fourth of July at Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis.
“We went to watch the lighting of the cauldron on the Fourth,” Hunter said. “That was followed by the fireworks and after that was a day’s rest before the race on Monday morning.”
The following week, Hunter made his way to the St. Thomas University track as a runner in the 1500 meter dash.
His time of 12:33 was good enough for fourth place in his age group.
Hunter plans to continue running well into the future. He said he has been inspired by his fellow athletes at the Senior Games. He is already planning to participate in the 2017 games in Birmingham, Alabama.
“I see guys out here doing the same thing that I’m doing that are 95-, 96-years-old,” he said.