Some people celebrate their 70th birthdays by going out for a nice dinner with the family or taking a trip.
Not Tony Jones.
He celebrated his 70th birthday by running his 30th marathon.
Jones turned 70 on April 9. His daughter Angela flew home from Tennessee for a surprise birthday party in April.
That wasn’t the only surprise he received. His wife Marcia presented Tony with a quilt featuring the T-shirts from all the marathons he’s run. There was one empty spot at the bottom corner of the quilt for the Lincoln Marathon T-shirt.
“I didn’t have the T-shirt yet, plus I wanted to make sure he ran it before I sewed it on,” Marcia said.
He didn’t disappoint her. Tony ran the Lincoln Marathon on May 5, winning the bronze medal for third place in his new age division (males aged 70 to 74) in a time of four hours, 54 minutes and 40 seconds.
“It’s my final marathon,” Tony said. “The training just tears you up and you just don’t recover as quickly as you used to. Training for this marathon was really hard because every time I had a long run, it snowed and I had to plow snow at church.”
Running 15 miles in training takes him two to three days to recover, he said, but he won’t quit running. He just won’t be entering a marathon, which is 26 miles and 385 yards. “However, I will run half marathons,” he said. “That’s only 13 miles.”
Tony has been running since he was a Heelan High School student in Sioux City, Iowa where he recorded the state’s fastest time of 4:28 in the mile run. He continued long distance running on a track scholarship at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.
After college, he got married, concentrated on his job and raising a family with his wife Marcia. As often happens, his lifestyle changed.
In the late 1970s, he was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and his weight had ballooned up to 190 pounds. His kids convinced him to quit smoking and he decided to take the weight off doing something he once loved doing: running.
It wasn’t long before he was training for marathons. In 1984, when he was 40, he ran his very first marathon and was hooked.
Marathon races took him from as far east as Boston and as far west as Honolulu. His family was there to root him on at his final marathon in Lincoln.
Son Scott and his family were at the finish line — the 50-yard line in Memorial Stadium. Son Craig and his family were on the Lincoln streets cheering him on. And wife Marcia was “all over the place.”
Tony’s first marathon was in Omaha but Lincoln was the site of his most memorable race.
“I’ll never forget the one in Lincoln in 1992,” he said. “My goal was always to break three hours. I ran that one in three hours and 18 seconds. That was my best time.”
He averaged six minutes, 45 seconds a mile.
The San Francisco Providian Marathon was his favorite because he loved running the hills. In fact, he liked it so much, he ran it two different years.
What makes Tony run?
“It’s the satisfaction that I can do it, and not many others can,” he said. “It’s a lonesome journey, believe me, especially in the winter.”
And if you’ve lived in Ralston for any amount of time, chances are good you’ve seen Tony on one of his jaunts about town and, he said, you still will.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not going to go away. I’ll still be out there running — just not marathons.”