At one point a heavy smoker, fitness now Haney's viceWarren man shows it is never too late to start running
Warren — The time for action is now, it is never too late to do something. Or so said Antoine de Saint-Exupery, an early 1900s French aristocrat, writer, poet and pioneering aviator.
That saying essentially means that, regardless of age, one can still make a positive life change.
And Ron Haney of Warren did exactly that about a decade ago.
Haney, 56, an avid Midcoast road racer, grew up in West Newbury, Mass. The Pentucket High School graduate competed in football, wrestling and track. However, despite his athletic background, in his adult years, Haney stopped running and began smoking. At one point, he was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day.
The first life change he made was to quit smoking. However, when he made that change, he began to gain weight because he started eating more. The turning point for his next life change came a decade ago.
"I was just too heavy and not feeling right," Haney said.
Haney, who moved to Warren 23 years ago when his wife's job caused them to need to relocate, has lost 125 pounds since the start of his journey. He said the benefits have been great. He is sleeping well, enjoying the taste of food, and life is better.
"Smoking is so terrible, it makes you tired all of the time," he said.
To start, he began dieting and walking. From there, walking turned into running. "All I wanted to do was one 5K," he said.
That first 3.1-mile road race was Mother's Day 5K in Rockland. After training for about a year, losing weight and working up his courage to run the race, his final time was a little over 28 minutes. Several years later, he would run the same race and finish at just over 19 minutes.
Haney credits Bob Hillgrove, a legendary Rockland distance runner and a member of the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame, for getting him to run, and it is because of Hillgrove and many others, that Haney helps other runners if he can.
"It was one of the best runners in the area that actually got me running," Haney said of Hillgrove's influence on his running. "He ran with me, and started me off. That's why I try to be very encouraging to other people because he was so encouraging to me to take the time to work with me."
"I had run with so many good people when I wasn't [a good runner], faster people, good people, marathoners when I wasn't a marathoner," Haney said. "And they took the time to run with me. I'll take the time to run with people who are slower and work with them if I can."
Haney has had other runners tell him it was because of him they had done so well in a race.
"I have a friend now who just began doing races and she claims it's because of me that she's doing so well, because I put the time into it to run with her," Haney said.
Haney also said he feels that if you want to be a better runner, you run with better runners. Adding that if you're running and talking with someone, and they're running faster than you, it makes you work to keep your pace matching theirs to keep your conversation going.
"You're getting better all of the time and not even realizing it," he said.
Over the past decade, Haney has become a member of the Midcoast running community. "It's a great community," he said.
They will meet up for runs, then after, go out to lunch, dinner or breakfast.
"I run long runs on Sunday. We meet at the [Penobscot Bay] YMCA and run 10-20 miles, then we all meet at Marriner's [Restuarant in Camden]. That's kind of my Sunday thing now," he said.
His favorite place to run is the hills of Warren, adding that there is a motto that goes along with running hills. "Hills are your friend," he said, adding, "Even though you hate them when you're doing them."
Haney said he has lost count of how many races he has run. He also added that he does them as they come, and there is never one particular race that he looks forward to over others.
To date, his favorite race has been the Strawberry Shortcake 10K that he did two years ago, and won.
The annual Strawberry Shortcake Shuffle, which has 5- and 10-kilometer courses, is held in Damariscotta. At the eighth annual running of the event, Haney finished the 10K portion, or 6.2-mile distance, in 45:14, to place first.
Running the Sugarloaf Marathon and qualifying for the Boston Marathon have been the most exciting things to have happened to him since he began running. Despite qualifying for the Boston Marathon, Haney did not run the event.
The most challenging race that he has ever run was in 2012, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler. The 10-miler, which happens annually in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., is a 10-mile course that begins at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, takes runners through Disney's Hollywood Studios and back to the ESPN Complex. The terrain varies between pavement, grass and sand.
"It was 88-degrees with 85 percent humidity, and there were 8,000 people," Haney said of the year he ran the race, which started at 10 p.m.
Haney placed 116th overall and second in his age group in 1:18:59.
He also was drawn from a lottery in 2013 to run the ultra challenging Mount Washington Auto Road Race. The nearly eight-mile race, which has significant elevation changes, is open to 1,300 runners that are drawn from a lottery to compete.
"You can't run the whole thing, it's impossible," Haney said of the race. "It's run, walk, run."
The day of his race, the base temperature was 68, and the summit temperature was 32, which is freezing. Haney said as soon as the runners reached the summit, there were people there to wrap them in blankets. His time was just under two hours.
"It isn't great, but I finished it," he said, adding that he vowed, at the time, that he would never do it again. This year, his name was drawn again from the lottery to run the race.
On June 21, Haney ran his second Mount Washington Auto Road Race, as he finished with a total time of 1:51:11.
For a man whose life is filled with running, one would think that his family runs with him. That is not the case. His wife, Pam, has done a few 5Ks, but has never run with him. And, while his son, Brett, who lives in Warren, runs with him on regular runs, he does not participate in the racing end of it. His daughter, Bethany, who lives in New York, will cheer him on at the Turkey Trot run he does in Long Island, but she does not run with him.
Haney said he plans to run until he cannot run anymore.
"Physically, it's one of the best things that you can do. It challenges every muscle group really," Haney said. "Yeah, it's something that I hope to do as long as I can. We plan our vacations around races. We go to Florida, we go for a race, we do Disney."
Haney said he sets goals at the start of each year.
"It depends on what you want to do," he said. "If you want to do better in 5K and 10K, you do more speed work and less long distance. And that's what I'm trying to work towards. I'm trying to get faster in my shorter races."
For Haney, he said that, and bettering himself each year, has been a challenge. "It's getting harder and harder, because I'm getting older and older. That's been a little frustrating for me, because I can't accept it."
However, just because it gets harder, he has no plans to stop. Haney said he plans to run until he can no longer do so.
He also still plans to do half-marathons, but is no longer going to do any marathons. This will give him the time to focus on the shorter races and bettering his time.
"The longer races, there's so much training involved," he said. "It's like you're training all of the time for one race. I enjoy going to a race every weekend, so I just want to go and run these short races, and have fun with friends."
Ultimately, Haney would like to become involved more in local Couch To 5K programs. He has taken part in one before in Susan Ware Paige's Energy 4 Life, and he said that it is something that he enjoys doing.
He wants to encourage all to run, no matter their age. "If you're somewhat physically fit, I mean if you have a good heart, this and that, it's going to improve your life, with the more weight you lose, the cardio part of it, you're circulation. If you've been healthy all of your life, you don't know what I'm talking about," he said.
Haney said if one has not been healthy and been overweight, and feeling lousy all of the time, it is a world of difference. He said it is like comparing apples to oranges.
Haney should know how valid his words are, because he speaks often of how running has improved his life and its quality.