Carrie Parsi in 2019. Photo courtesy of Judy Perrin

Concord Runners octogenarians make keeping on the move a mainstay of longevity

By Beth

In the eighth decade of life, when many resign themselves to sedentary pursuits, running may seem slightly, if not totally, out of reach — the equivalent of a Fila fantasy. But three members of the Concord Runners are among a dedicated group of octogenarians who don’t resign themselves to anything.

Country roads to Concord Runners

Fresh from an early morning run when The Concord Bridge caught up with her, Carrie Parsi, 85, ran 16 Boston Marathons from 1981 to 2009. She continues to run three to five miles three times a week. 

The Ireland native made a name for herself as a child, running along country roads from farm to farm. “I wasn’t fully conscious of what lay ahead of me, though,” she said, referring to joining a running community as an adult. 

This evolved following a move from Ireland to England, where she worked as a nurse midwife, and ultimately to Medford in the mid-1960s. From there she found herself in Lexington, joining a Lexington running group and then the Concord Runners. 

In her early 40s, running had become a mainstay. “It was as a member of the Liberty Athletic Club, the only all-women running club in the country as far as I know, where I really got started,” she recalled. 

There, she hit both an outdoor and indoor track, ramping up her speed and working up to 50 or 60 miles a week when training for a marathon. Parsi, who also works out at a gym, said that as much as exercise, it’s the camaraderie that’s important at any age. 

“When it comes to running, there are a lot of us [seniors] out there,” she said. “More than you know.”

Carrie Parsi with Concord Runners in 2022. Photo courtesy of Judy Perrin

Running, walking, meandering

Richard Fortier, 80, is no stranger to systems, including the one that got him into running.  

The former UMass Dartmouth professor, mechanical engineer, and mechanical device consultant has been running since 1968. A nearly four-decade member of the Concord Runners, Fortier still jogs on his own but recently switched to the Concord Runners walking group pending knee replacement in the fall. He is also a member of the Monday Meanderers, a cycling group, and he has no intention of slowing down.

Newlyweds Richard and Anne Fortier in 1989 at the Concord Runners’ meeting place. Courtesy photo

“In high school, I ran track; in college, I drank beer,” he quipped. His 140-pound frame ballooned to 180. That would have been the end of his athletic life except for a book someone gave him in 1968 by cardiologist Dr. Kenneth Cooper. The book was called ‘“Aerobics,” with its author known as the father of the same. 

“Aerobics” allowed readers to categorize the extent of their cardiovascular fitness in a 12-minute test, Fortier explained. The distance traveled in that test lands the participant in one of several categories, with swimming, biking, walking, and running offered as options to ascend to a higher category by accumulating points. 

“As an engineer, the system intrigued me,” he said.

Richard Fortier in the Mt. Washington Road Race, 1981. Courtesy photo

Soon reaching the top category, he started racing in the early 1970s. He ran his first marathon in 1977 to qualify for the Boston Marathon, making it in by the skin of his teeth. 

“At that time, you had to run in under three hours. My time was 2:59:30. And then it’s 26.2 miles of people yelling at you, especially passing Wellesley College, where traditionally all the girls come out to scream.”

Fortier maintains distance running requires a “contentive” state of mind. He has run a total of seven Boston Marathons and 14 New England marathons, as well as many half marathons and 10Ks.

He participated in 24 Mt. Washington Road Races from 1986 to 2014, until he was 70 — a distance and slow climb totaling 7.6 miles and ending up a mile higher up than the start. 

“I’m the most proud about that in my running career,” he said.

Alps to Laps

At age 22, Annemarie Altman started running as part of a women’s exercise class on her lunch break while working at MIT. She was already in relatively good shape from hiking the Alps, having grown up in Switzerland. 

“At MIT, we ran around the football field a couple of times,” said Altman, 80, a retired comptroller. “It got me started, but it wasn’t a great distance.” Enlisting her husband as a running partner, she increased her distance and found the Concord Runners. 

“I’ve done a couple of half marathons, but never a full marathon,” she said, adding she’s “not much of a runner, and not a fast runner,” though she logs three to five miles three times a week. 

“It’s a lot about the social aspect,” she said. “It clears my head and keeps me in decent enough shape to do what I want.” 

Her fitness regimen includes cross-country skiing, hiking, cycling with the Charles River Wheelers, working out at the Beede Swim & Fitness Center, and taking classes at the Council on Aging that focus on aerobics and balance: “It’s a combination of things that’s important.” 

Altman’s motivation comes from a book in which she keeps track of everything she does, every day. 

“I total it up every week, every month, and every year,” she explained. “When I look at a page and see there’s nothing on it, I figure I’d better get out and get going. I really like to run. It is easier to keep doing something if you like it.”