Eighty-one-year-0ld Clarence Hartley is the oldest runner in today’s Boston Marathon. But unlike his competitors for whom 26.2 miles is quite a feat, Hartley has faced physical challenges that make the marathon seem like mere child’s play. He survived the Korean and Vietnam Wars as a Distinguished Lieutenant Colonel for the Air Force and battled both lymphoma and prostate cancer in his later years, emerging from all this no worse for wear.
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The Boston Marathon sets a qualifying time of 5 hours for men 80 years and older — a standard that Hartley made by over 20 minutes last May. Today marks his first start in the race: he qualified for the first time back in 2005 but had to forfeit his place in order to undergo chemotherapy. Now that he’s cancer-free and no longer in combat, he can set his sights on more spirit-lifting goals: instead of fighting for survival, he’ll be fighting to beat “several thousand younger runners,” he tells Runner’s World.
Hartley is certainly a fighter, and it’s that competitive spirit that has allowed him to pass tests of his life with flying colors. Despite all he’s endured, Hartley remarks that he’s far from past his prime. “The last time I felt so good was on my final combat mission in the Air Force in 1969,” he says.
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