Tribune Print Share Text

Bernie Papa, 78, set to complete ninth NYC Marathon

Created date

November 14th, 2014
Bernie Papa trains for the New York City Marathon by jogging the hill leading up to Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community where he lives in Pompton Plains, N.J.
Bernie Papa trains for the New York City Marathon

Last year, more than 50,000 people ran the New York City Marathon. Of the finishers, only 42 were between ages 75 and 79. This year, Bernie Papa plans to be one of those select few.
At 78, Bernie will run his ninth NYC Marathon—his fourteenth marathon overall—on Nov. 2. At a four-mile-an-hour pace, he doesn’t expect to cross the finish line first, but he certainly expects to cross it.
“It should take me a little over six hours,” he predicts, having run three half-marathons already this year in preparation.
Secret to health
“My philosophy is to work out every day and do cross-training,” Bernie says.
His training routine includes Group Power and Group Kick boxing classes, cycling, swimming, and strength training at Spa 23 in Pequannock, N.J., as well as weekly distance runs and hills around Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, where he lives.
This year, he added hills to his training routine. Cedar Crest Drive—a long, steep hill—provides a convenient venue. “I figure it will build my stamina,” he says. As of August, he was jogging ten hill laps at a time, roughly once a week.
A marathon runner since 1982, Bernie didn’t start exercising daily until he moved to Cedar Crest. No longer working or caring for a house, he had the time—and it’s benefited him greatly.
“I believe consistency is the key,” he says. “That helps you as you get older—prevents you from getting hurt, from falling. I always put in a little effort every day.” His daily training lasts between one and three hours.
But Bernie says you don’t have to spend all day at the gym. “Just working out for a half hour a day gives you so much strength and can relieve pain,” he says.
He adds a healthy diet to his criteria for a healthy lifestyle. Cedar Crest’s five restaurants provide a variety of healthy options, including fresh salads, fish and chicken entrees, and sugar-free desserts. 
“I’m a chicken and fish type of guy,” Bernie says, though he admits to having a weak spot for ice cream. “Let’s face it, when you’re training like I am, you’re going to burn it anyway.”
Bernie typically eats cereal or a bagel post-workout each morning. Then he eats again at 5 p.m. in one of Cedar Crest’s restaurants. “We rarely go out to eat at restaurants—only when the grandkids visit. I figure, I’m paying for [a meal a day], and they have everything I need here.”
Every resident pays a monthly service fee, which includes a meal plan—either one meal a day for each day of the month or 20 meals a month. Both plans are flexible, allowing residents to treat guests and save meals for another day.
Bernie’s other key to a healthy, active lifestyle? His yearly physical with the Cedar Crest’s medical center’s in-house physician.
Realistic goals
Aside from exercise and healthy eating, Bernie’s secret to success is setting realistic goals for himself. “It’s going to take me a long time to finish [the NYC Marathon]—over six hours. The older I get, the longer it takes.”
But he doesn’t let that stop him.
“I’ve always been someone who has been physically active,” he says. “That’s how I live my life.”

Running for a cause this month
The past three times Bernie has run the New York City Marathon, he has run for a cause. This year, he’s raising funds for the Cedar Crest resident care fund. Cedar Crest is a not-for-profit community dedicated to supporting residents who experience an unforeseen change in their financial situation for reasons beyond their control. The Home for Life Commitment provides several options for residents to protect their future. The Residence and Care Agreement has complete details.

In the race
Eleven-year Cedar Crest resident Bernie Papa has run 13 marathons—8 in New York City, 4 in Scranton, and 1 in Bernardsville. His times may have increased with age, but so have his spirit and vitality.
Here are Bernie’s times for the New York City Marathon, which he will run again Nov. 2:
1. 1983  4hrs, 21mins   4:21 (Age 47)
2. 1987  4hrs, 35mins  4:35 (Age 51)
3. 1991  4hrs, 45mins   4:45 (Age 55)
4. 1992  4hrs, 52mins  4:52 (Age 56)
5. 1993   5hrs, 5mins    5:05 (Age 57)
6. 2004   5hrs, 58mins   5:58 (Age 68)
7. 2008   6hrs, 15mins   6:15 (Age 72)
8. 2010   6hrs, 55mins   6:55 (Age 74)