Racing days over but Rosen still finds time to hit 110,000-mile run mark

Neil Rosen, a standout on the Bucks County racing scene for decades, recently passed 110,000 career miles while on a run where he now resides in Tucson, Arizona.

      Upon learning the venerable Neil Rosen recently ran his 110,000th mile, one would think he had hardly missed a day of pounding the roads over the past 40-some years.

      So would it surprise you to discover the former Bucks County Roadrunners Club great, now residing in Arizona, once gave up running altogether in the late 1990s?

      It took him nine months of keeping his running shoes locked in the closet to realize something was missing in his life. When he stopped, perhaps it dawned on him that he was never going to run 1:12 half-marathons again. And then it required the better part of a year to come to grips with that.

      Now, having entered his 70s, the Philadelphia native is more at peace with doing about 25 miles a week and at a slightly less frantic pace. It gives him time to appreciate all that the Arizona outdoors has to offer.

      “I had reached a point where I wasn’t really competitive anymore,” he explained in a recent telephone conversation from his home just outside of Tucson. “I didn’t have speed or anything and I was very frustrated.

“Injuries were bothering me and I said, ‘you know what? I think it’s over. I’m going to stop.’ And I just stopped. I stopped for those nine months.”

Not a day went by when Rosen didn’t think about how much fun running had been. It provided him with the opportunity to make so many new friends in and around Bucks County, plus it kept him healthy as a horse (with a body fat percentage somewhere around three percent).

“It just got to the point where I said, ‘This isn’t working, I have to make the best of it’ and that’s what I did,” he said. “And I started back again. I just kept running again.”

He passed the 100,000 mark in October of 2014. At that time, only 65 people in the United States had achieved that incredible total. It’s taken him almost 10 years to add another 10,000 but he believes there’s still something left in the tank.

      “When I get up in the morning, believe me, there are days when I don’t want to run,” he said with a chuckle. “The first thing I think of is: ‘Is it mental or do I really need a day off physically?’ If it’s a mental thing, I just say ‘stop being a crybaby.’ Just shut up and run. If I’m really hurting and something is bothering me, I’ll take a day off.”

      Rosen didn’t start running until his late 20s. He says he probably would have about 15,000 more miles registered in his logbooks had he started earlier but then again, starting later might account for having so few injuries.

      Some of that goes back to his three-percent body fat. Even now, he’s not too far over his racing weight of 130 pounds.

      Staying light on his feet cuts down on the wear-and-tear which can lead to problems such as osteoarthritis.

     “I think the main reason that I’ve gone this far is I keep my body weight really low,” he said.  “I weigh pretty much what I weighed in high school, which is around 130 pounds.

      “Also, I think the low bodyweight cuts down on the wear-and-tear of your joints. I eat well, although I do eat my share of junk. If I get on a scale and if I see I’ve started to gain weight, I’ll cut it out because I know it’s going to be more wear and tear on my joints.”

      A lot of runners battle the scale as they get older and that can lead to slower times out there on the trails.

      “I think that makes me distinctive from most of my running friends, guys and peers I raced with,” Rosen said. “I really think weight control helps.

      “I just don’t have the leg speed anymore. I average like 25 miles per week. I’ve thought of cutting it back to 12 to 15. My thing is I  enjoy getting out there for 50 minutes to an hour everyday. I really do like getting out and being out there in the fresh air and just running.  I enjoy the motion.”

      Neil keeps an eye on all things running back here in the Delaware Valley.

      “I follow the Roadrunners website,” he said. “I look at race results. I’m very interested in what everyone is doing.”

      He also keeps in touch with local running great Mike Patterson, who’s been out to visit a few times. Others on the contact list: Mark Fite (who ran the Philadelphia Distance Run for 41 straight years), Frank Clarke, Justyna Wilson, Tom Fuoco and Jeff Acker. He also keeps an eye on BCRR mainstay Joe Boyce via Facebook.

      “I really miss people from Philly,” he said. “Especially from the running community.”

      But not enough to want to go back. Arizona is a great place to live a running lifestyle.

      “The weather, the scenery, the fresh air,” he said. “It’s not crowded. People are very friendly here. Philly is a tough town. It took awhile for me to take that Philly edge off.”

      The one drawback is a good cheesesteak is “nowhere to be found.”

      Don’t worry, Neil. As soon as you hit 120,000 miles, we will have one airmailed to you from Pat’s in South Philly.

      >Race calendar

      Sunday

      Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup 4-Miler, 10 a.m., Churchville. Contact www.runsignup.com


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About Wayne Fish 2426 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.