At 58 years old, Ahwatukee Foothills resident Scott Kipp hopes to still be a long-distance runner well into his 80s.
He admits he is slowing down as the years go by but that was a catalyst to shift his focus — from speed to distance.
Kipp will undertake his longest continuous run on June 3 in South Africa. He is running in the Comrades Marathon, a 89-kilometer (56-mile) ultra marathon in South Africa. He hopes to finish it in less than 12 hours.
The race will take him from Pietermaritzburg City Hall along the residential streets to the Sahara Kingsmead Cricket Stadium in Durban.
“The difference is that ultra marathons in the U.S. are on a trail and they don’t usually let you run on actual roads like I will be doing in this one,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it because when you’re running, it takes so long, you go so slow, you really become part of the community for a day. You’re running by people’s homes and they come out and clap and cheer for you.”
The Comrades Marathon is one of the most well-known international marathons. There are relatively few Americans who participate, however, as of the approximately 18,000 total runners, only 78 hail from the United States.
It will be by far his most taxing event. Previously Kipp, a pediatrician, ran in and finished the Boston Marathon, but the longest event he ran in was the Pemberton Trail 50K (about 31 miles).
“The training for this event is totally different — you can’t just go out and run 50-plus miles in a day to train,” he said. “I’ll do a hard run one day and instead of resting the next, I’ll do another hard run. And surprisingly I feel pretty good the next day.”
Kipp will be traveling with his wife and son to South Africa for the three weeks surrounding the race. Three other runners from the Phoenix-area, who are in the same runner’s club, will be running as well. One of them is 75-year-old Kay Martin, who initially spurred Kipp with the idea to run in the Comrades Marathon.
“When you get older, you’re not going to run faster, but you still want to challenge yourself so you run longer distances,” he said. “(Martin) is kind of my benchmark. I want to run to that age and older.”
They have trained together in preparation for their adventure to South Africa and Kipp said the most important thing in a race like this is pacing.
“At the start you feel so excited, fresh and enthusiastic, but you have to be careful not to start too fast,” he said. “A race this long, you have to eat along the way as well. Eating and drinking become very important.”
Kipp said his goal has always been to run in the New York City Marathon and if the past is any indication of the future, you can bet he will finish it.
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