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Vienna's Marathon Man

Eighty-year-old Vienna man breaks two marathon records.

Even if Walt Washburn doesn't know the other runners, they like to stop and compliment him at marathon meets. They tell him that when they're 80, they hope to be like him.

"It feels good," replied Washburn, when asked about the people who come up to him.

Although Walt Washburn is 80 years old, he won't stop running marathons. For the past 30 years, the Vienna resident has run 35 miles a week, or 50 miles if he's training for a marathon. Sometimes he'll run on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and use the horse path because of its ups and downs.

"I have known Walt at least 25 years, having run with him in local races in past years," said Washburn's friend Dixon Hemphill and fellow runner, in an e-mail. "He is one of the running legends in this area. Walt is a great guy and a sincere and dedicated runner."

Washburn recently broke two marathon records. His time of 3:25:55 in the Northern Lakes 30K set a record in the age 80 group and the age 80-84 group. He also set the record in the age 80-84 group in the Kensington race.

"I could've run a lot faster if I had been feeling good," Washburn said.

Washburn began running 30 years ago, at age 50. His two sons prompted him to start to rid him of his 30-year smoking habit. Washburn had run in high school but stopped.

The competition bug bit him in 1974, when Washburn was running a marathon. He had been running for fun, but as he neared the finish line, he had heard friends of the younger runner next to him say that Washburn was old.

"There were some of his friends, rooting for him to beat the old guy, and that's when I started competing," Washburn said, adding that he beat the younger man.

Washburn averages two marathons a year, although in 2003, he'll run four. In January, he ran the Houston Marathon, while in April, he ran the Boston Marathon.

"I'm glad he does it," said Washburn's wife, Marie. "It's better than not being active."

Besides running, Washburn also lifts weights and does some labor in the house and yard to stay in shape. He also meets for lunch monthly with six other runners his age.

"I along with many others are thrilled at Walt's accomplishments and, frankly, wish we could be as physically able to do what he is doing," said Hemphill, who organizes the monthly lunches of the runners over age 76. "I hope he continues to break more records."