There are alarm clocks to wake you up in the morning and then, on occasion, there are life’s bells that go off as a way of opening your eyes to reality.
Bob Boland learned this on one single visit to a doctor’s office a little over 10 years ago.
The 65-year-old Warrington resident knew he had fallen somewhat out of shape but really didn’t know to what degree until the tests came back.
What the medical people told Boland made him reassess the road he was taking with his life.
They informed him he had become diabetic, that his A1C was over 8.0. That his fasting blood sugar was over 400, that his cholesterol was too high, his triglycerides off the chart and on and on. And he was about 40 pounds overweight.
Then came the news that really made him sit down. Tests showed he was suffering from a “fatty liver’’ and would have to give up beer.
Now that’s a challenge.
The doctors told him he either had to start taking medication or start exercising and making changes to his diet.
Having been a track and cross country runner for Archbishop Wood High School back in the early 1970s, Boland realized the decision wouldn’t be hard to make.
“I had incentive to get back to running because I’ve had uncles – diabetes runs in the family – and one uncle had his legs amputated,’’ Boland said in a telephone conversation. “And he was younger than I am now. That was the initial driving force for me to run.’’
It was the old run-walk, run-walk for awhile. But within a few months, Boland was back to one of the passions of his youth.
“Well, I already knew how to run, so I got back into it slowly,’’ he said. “Then you can run six or eight miles. I would just go out and run five or six miles every day.
“Then my daughter, Kelly, in 2011 asked me if I wanted to run in the Broad Street Run with her. I said sure. We got in the 2012 race and I ran with her. Together we ran about 1:22 and I really enjoyed it.’’
The love of running was back and this time around he put just about everything he had into it.
“So I started signing up for other races,’’ he said. “Gradually I got better. When I first started running 5Ks, I was running 24, 23 minutes.
“And then the more you run, the better you get. I knew how to run but I never thought I had that natural ability. In high school, I was at best average. We had guys like Mike Patterson, who went on to run the Olympic marathon trials in 2:16. And Kevin McGarry, who won Broad Street and earlier ran a 4:10 mile in high school.’’
Which brings us to Boland’s 5K performances over the past year. He’s broken the 20-minute mark at least a half-dozen times and at the Bookin’ for Lookin’ 5K race a couple weeks ago in Newtown, his 82-plus age-graded score was the highest in a field of more than 250 runners.
“You do know how to run and that comes back a little bit,’’ Boland said. “I do all right in half-marathons now and it took a while to get to that point.’’
A Philadelphia native, Boland moved to Horsham with his family when he was age 8. His own family has been in Warrington the past 34 years.
It’s safe to say a return to running has changed his life.
“I did change my diet but running was the biggest factor (to good health),’’ he said. “They say you can’t outrun a bad diet – I don’t have a bad diet – but the running helps every bit as much as a diet and probably more so, I think.’’
Boland is quickly moving to the top of the class among Delaware Valley senior runners. He posted a 1:31 in the Bucks County Roadrunners Club’s Winter Series half-marathon.
In the Broad Street 10-Mile virtual race, he clocked an excellent 66:40 (6:40 mile pace).
Boland’s career work involves sales of compression molding presses. He’s traveled to all 50 states but that hectic schedule is starting to wind down now, allowing him to do fun stuff like running.
Now competing for the Greater Philadelphia Track Club, he likes his chances in the Broad Street Run’s 65 age group this fall.
Moral of the story: Something like running can be a life-saver.
“It was a life-saving revelation,’’ he agreed. “Once I got started, it’s like a second chance at running. I’m way better for my age group than I was before. I could never get near 80 percent. Maybe not even 70.
“I keep getting better because I keep running and I have enthusiasm for it. It’s unbelievable. If you told me 15 years ago I would be running these kinds of times, I would say you’re crazy!’’
In addition to his daughter, Kelly (an accountant), Bob and his wife, Diane, have a son, Rob, 32, who is also in sales.
Bob runs between 45 and 50 miles per week. He wants to make it clear running went a long way toward saving his life but it’s also opened doors to new friendships, training partners and camaraderie.
“I’ve met a lot of people and had a lot of fun,’’ he said. “You get to talk with people. I train with my partner, Vitaly Belotserkovsky and it is so much easier to complete a hard workout when it’s with other runners.
“So I’ve really come to enjoy the sport. The motivation to run every day comes from the overall enjoyment of running and the positive effect it has on your mood the rest of the day.’’
And to think it all came about from little wake-up call.
School Lane 5K, 10 a.m., Bensalem. Contact www.runsignup.com
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