I would rather drop dead running a marathon than die in a hospital bed says 85-year-old Moon Fahel

A retired mechanical engineer, Moon Fahel was the oldest runner this year at the Humana Rock ’n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon. “Another 26.2 Mile Run by Mr. Moon at Age 85.5” read the back of his running shirt, perhaps offering inspiration to weary stragglers. Fahel didn’t break any records. But he has been in the news lately as the marathon’s oldest runner.  As Fahel warmed up Sunday among the thousands of other runners, strangers stopped by to chat. “I’ve seen him somewhere. He’s very encouraging. I just started about a year ago, and this is my second race,” said Jody Steinman, 53, of Fort Worth. Also on hand Sunday was Lee, Fahel’s wife of 61 years, who is torn by her husband’s late-life passion. “We all have our fingers crossed. I worry about him every time he leaves the house,” she said. Moon, however, runs without fear or worry about how the grueling race may end. “I’d rather drop dead running a marathon than die in a hospital bed,” he said. Born in Syria, educated at the University of Texas at Austin and an executive for H.B. Zachry Co. Fahel started running about five years ago. Before that he was a speed walker and did some kickboxing. In 2013, he ran his first and only half-marathon and was hooked, despite hot weather. “People were falling like dead flies,” he recalled. He now runs more than 1,000 miles a year in training and does only full marathons. Over those same five years, he has been treated for three kinds of cancer. “Cancer survivors can draw some strength from my story. I am a three-time survivor. I enjoy a full and healthy life, and running is part of it,’ he said. Standing 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighing about 140 pounds, Fahel has a runner’s build. By running marathons, he has come to know his body better. “Usually, around mile 19 to 21, your mind begins to wonder why you are doing this. Your body starts asking, should I continue or stop,” he said. “At that point you should take some nourishment, typically a small bar of candy and some salt pretzels to prevent cramping,” he added. Fahel said that thinking about those he loves also gives him strength to continue. “I say, ‘I need to finish. They are waiting for me. They will greet me with joy.’ And that will get me through the next few miles, and then it’s a joy ride to the finish,” he said. After the race, Fahel usually goes out for dinner with his family, and the next day he wakes up feeling good. “I do not run for anyone else or to compete with anyone else. My objective is to have that moment of inner silence. And when I finish, sweating, gritty and tired, it feels good,” he said.

posted Monday December 3rd