Age is no match for Marion runner

By Tanner Harding | Jul 05, 2017
Photo by: Joe Viger John Cederholm at the summit of Mt. Washington

Marion — No matter what age his birthday brings, it seems that John Cederholm will be able to outrun it.

Cederholm, a lifelong runner, just ran his 35th Mt. Washington Road Race and was inducted into the Mt. Washington Road Race Hall of Fame on June 17.

“I was honored and humbled,” Cederholm said.

The race is 7.6 miles, and starts at the base of the auto road. The altitude gain between the starting line and the summit is 4,700 feet, and the angle of ascent is 13 percent – a tough challenge for people of any age.

Cederholm won the race in 1973 in his first attempt with a time of 1:08. He has finished four times under 1:10, ten times under 1:15, and sixteen times under 1:20. At age 60, he set a then top age group record of 1:31:07. In his 70s he has won the 70-74 age group twice, captured two second places, and this year placed third.

“I’m not the runner I used to be,” Cederholm laughed. “I won when I was 60 and when I was 70, so now I’m looking forward to move to a new age group.”

He will compete in a new group next year, after aging out of the 70-74 group.

Cederholm is a longtime Marion resident and a Tabor Academy graduate – the private school is where he got into running.

“At Tabor I had to go out for a sport each season,” he said. “I was on a relay, and each of us ran a quarter mile.”

However, the school didn’t offer cross-country or spring track at the time, so to stay in shape, Cederholm’s dad suggested participating in the races in the month before the Boston Marathon.

“They were 10 or 12 mile races, and the guys who had a chance at Boston [Marathon] would be scratch runners,” he said. “I would have a half mile to go, and people would go streaming by me.”

In the 1970s, Cederholm ran the Boston Marathon every year except 1977, and he hopes to run it again next year.

“I figure once every five years I’ll run it,” he said.

Cederholm said the marathon hasn’t been as fun since the 2013 bombings – during which he was running the race.

“I told [my wife] the best I could do it in was 4:09, and the worst would be just under 4:25,” he said.

The bombs went off as the clock read 4:09:43.

“I didn’t have a cell phone on me running,” he said. “So for a good hour [my wife] was thinking the worst.”

Both Cederholm and his wife were uninjured, and Cederholm was given a bye to return the next year.

But with newly implemented security measures, Cederholm said the race wasn’t as fun. He had to get up at 3 a.m. to go catch a bus to Boston because the marathon required participants to be there by 6:20 a.m., and then he had to sit around until “the slow guys” group went off at 11.

“We got frisked by state troopers and it was just not fun,” he said. “The security was so tight, we were restricted.”

Cederholm estimates he’s run about 26 marathons in his life, and said it was always about being the best he could be.

“I was more interested in quality than quantity,” he said. “I ran against myself every time I ran. I wanted to push myself.”

One way he pushed himself was by tackling a 50K (31 miles) in Brattleboro, Vermont.

“I came in third, so I obviously didn’t win,” he said. “Then the next year I trained a little differently, and beat the two-time winner…I set the Vermont marathon record.”

To prepare for a race in Puerto Rico, Cederholm trained indoors and dressed in layers.

“I dressed like I was going skiing,” he said. “You want to be able to contend with the heat.”

At his peak, Cederholm was running more than 100 miles a week to train, but now takes a different approach as he’s gotten older.

“I was very stupid, because every time I looked in the mirror I’d say ‘I’m the same,’” he said. “You lose muscle mass as you get older…I’m having a hell of a time keeping on weight.”

Now, he said he rarely runs two consecutive days, and runs about three or four times a week.

“I run certainly at the aerobic threshold,” he said.

Depending on the route he takes, he runs anywhere from about four miles up to 10.

“I can get up to a half marathon, but my pace is so slow,” he laughed. “It’s 180 percent of what I used to do.”

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