Nifty 50s: Carabello still at top of his running game

Chris Carabello (No. 48) competes in last Sunday's Covered Bridge 5K. (Photo by Steve White)

      Most runners don’t set personal bests in their 50s but then Yardley’s Christian “Chris” Carabello isn’t like most runners.

      Instead of gradually reducing the intensity of his training regimen, the 54-year-old Carabello is looking for new ways to strengthen and lengthen his daily workouts.

      That was evident this past Sunday when he finished sixth overall out of 255 striders in the Bucks County Roadrunners Club’s Winter Series Covered Bridge 5K opener at Tyler State Park. His time of 20:15.6 (6:31 per mile pace) put him right up among guys half his age.

      The numbers speak for themselves: He finished second overall in PLP (performance level percentage) at 74.33 and second in age percentage at 74.2. Pretty darn good over Tyler’s challenging hills.

      Carabello began running back in his youth at Camp Hill High School in central Pennsylvania and probably would have continued that phase of his career in college if not for the fact he attended running powerhouse Villanova for his university education.

      “I made districts, never made states or anything like that,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Villanova was a whole other level.”   Carabello had run a marathon on a whim when he was 18 but always thought about doing another, with the New York City Marathon on top of his to-do list. In 2008, he got around to accomplishing that and that’s when he sort of decided to recommit himself to running.

      “That’s when I got back into it,” he confirmed. “I connected to the (BCRR) club, started hanging out with other runners. In that timeframe I kind of re-dedicated myself to running. I found many benefits to it.

      “The last few years I’ve done the Boston Marathon, I’m doing my fourth next April.”

      Just a week before the Covered Bridge event, Carabello had run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon (a sparkling 3:07) down in Delaware and came out of that 26.2-miler none the worse for wear, so he decided to do the Winter Series race and the result was pretty eye-opening.

      “I wanted to be able to run (this past Sunday),” he said. “It (the series) is a great training tool for Boston.”

      Doing well in the Winter Series is one thing but in the bigger races there’s a lot of challenging competition out there. Middle-aged runners are getting faster than ever.

      “This 50-to-55 group is really competitive,” Carabello noted. “There are a good number of runners who are strong. That’s motivating to us. We kind of joke around and kid each other.

      “I think if you look at the (Covered Bridge) results, other than the 25-to-29 group, ours is the most competitive. If you look at the age-graded stuff, I try to be in the 75-to-80 (percentage) area.”

      His times at most distances continue to improve.

      “I’m actually getting faster,” he said. “You get out of training what you put in. More training, more miles, more quality workouts. You mix in some speed, some distance, some tempo. That’s usually the recipe for good, quality running.

      “Running these marathons keeps you honest. They get you out of bed for training. If you don’t put in the miles, you’re going to ‘bonk.’ I’m getting new personal bests in every distance.”

     The list includes: 5K (18:38), 10K (39:11 on trails) 10 miles (Broad Street, 1:04.59), half-marathon (1:24.33) and marathon (at Boston, 3:07.09).

     Carabello tries to do at least 20 percent of his training at high-tempo mileage.

     “That usually means two quality workouts (per week),” he said. “A long run on Sunday. Most training books say that’s sort of the formula.”

     Carabello is employed as a product manager at Microsoft. He defines products which Microsoft sells to communications companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

     He has two sons in college. Christian attends Penn State and Andrew is at Temple.

     This winter, Chris looks to sharpen his running skills in the BCRR series, which has 10 more races to run.

     “BCRR is a fantastic organization,” he said. “They make it fun and inclusive. If you want to be competitive, you can. If not, it’s a great way to meet people and enjoy the outdoors in a gorgeous environment.

     “It’s motivating to me because you have runners of any age that are really good. It’s amazing the quantity and quality of runners. There’s a little bit of healthy competition. You can work off each other. It gives you inspiration that you can keep doing this for many years to come. That’s what the club provides.”

     Race calendar

     Sunday

     BCRR Winter Series Jingle Bell 5.3-Miler, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown/Richboro. Contact www.bcrrclub.com

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About Wayne Fish 2338 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.