When Nathaniel Finestone turned 60, he began to sense his mortality: As a teen in Canada, he nearly froze to death on his paper route, and the resulting kidney inflammation led doctors to believe he would live a short life.
Finestone wanted to prove them wrong, and was determined to make some healthy changes to ensure it.
Now, at 90, he keeps up with the best of them. He is competitive in U.S. Track and Field Events, and continues to race for points and set records in his 90–94 age group. In August, he won the 90 and up age division at the USATF Masters 5KChampionships in Atlanta, clocking a time of 39:06.
A few weeks later, on August 26, he ran at the Masters 1-Mile Championships in Flint, Michigan, in the 90–94 age division. His 12:50 time set a new USTAF record.
This year alone, the Mountainside, New Jersey, resident boasts a race calendar that would put many a recreational runner to shame: He has completed nine 5Ks, four 10Ks, one 10-mile race, one 5-mile race, and the Michigan Mile. And Finestone plans to keep the competition coming.
With his 90th birthday in the books and his 50th anniversary coming later this year, Finestone took some time to reflect on all the factors—aside from good genes, of which he admits he has a bunch—that allow him to keep racing.
Here, Finestone spills his secrets to running success. Incorporate his five main ones into your own routine so you too can run strong for life.
Hone Your Discipline
When your alarm blares for your early-morning run, be honest—how likely are you to hit snooze and back out of your workout?
Finestone knows the temptation, but keeps his predawn run an unshakeable part of his routine. He gets up at 5 a.m. every day to run, and attributes maintaining that habit as vital to his success.
“I believe discipline is a key part of the reason I can do what I’m doing,” he said.
Eat a Hearty Breakfast
While Finestone doesn’t eat the same thing every day, he sticks to a similar eating plan. That’s a smart move: Having a plan for what you’re going to eat—and knowing how you’re going to properly fuel—can help make sure you make good choices when you eat pre and postrun and not get tempted to stop for some fast food on your way back.
“My view that a healthful breakfast is a key element in living a long and healthy life,” he said.
For breakfast, he typically eats Trader Joe’s Multi Grain Hot Cereal every morning with milk, raisins, and 12 ounces of water. For lunch, he sticks to fruit and nuts, and for dinner, he incorporates protein of some sort.
As he typically get up up before 5 a.m. to run, he goes straight into it and then eats after. On race days, he eats a couple of hours before the run.
Find Peace of Mind
Find something that brings you peace of mind and helps hold you to your routine.
“I believe that my faith and trust in God and trust in the Lord gives me a certain peace of mind that is important in my regimen,” he said.
When he turned 70, he said it was the most emotional birthday of his life—he couldn’t believe how great he felt. He decided to keep going, and now at age 90, the same inner drive has yet to cease.
Finestone said he is constantly looking over his shoulder to see how others in his age group or of similar ability are doing—and makes sure he trounces them. He likes to beat them by as many points as he can.
He also sticks to distances he knows work for him. Longer distances give him more of an opportunity to do better than the competition.
Listen to Your Body
Pushing past your physical limits can spell disaster, leaving you injured and off the track in more ways than one. That’s why it’s important to let how you feel guide your workouts, especially as you get older.
“I am a great believer in listening to my body,” he said.
Sometimes, he’ll feel great when he heads out the door, and will run for 10 to 13 miles before he heads back home. Other times, it’s not so smooth: If he feels like his body is not having it that day, he will run less than a half a mile before packing it in and going back to bed.
He also realized that it’s important to acknowledge your body’s changes as you do get older. For example, he knows that running longer distances is going to take him longer than before, and he won’t be able to run the same distance every day. But getting consumed by that would only distract from his ultimate goal—being able to run well and run long for as many years as he can.
“I have goals, and I know that unless I put in the miles, I’m not going to be able to do them,” he said.
Those goals will carry him on for more runs this year. Currently, he has two 12K races coming up. And, he plans to focus on his family as well. He credits much of his success to his biggest supporter, his wife.
“Start off from the day you’re born with a good diet, exercise, and have peace in your heart as result of your faith—and marry a good wife.”