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80-Year-Old UWS Runner Tackles 18th NYC Marathon

By Emily Frost | October 18, 2012 2:40pm

UPPER WEST SIDE — Otto Mond smiles broadly as he walks past the finish line of the New York City Marathon in Central Park — it's a happy place for him. 

Crossing it is his favorite part. "When you finish, you get a real high," he said. 

He walks slowly but steadily in his wind pants and sneakers, but he runs at a nice clip, holding his hands in fists and swinging his arms as he takes short steps.

Mond, who just turned 80 last month, is well-acquainted with the finish line, he's crossed it 17 times since 1991. And though he's encountered his fair share of naysayers over the years, he's running the marathon again this year on Nov. 4, which he believes will be his final race.

Reluctantly, Mond admits that since turning 40, when he decided to try his first 26.2-mile run, he's completed 40 marathons.

"I hate to boast," he said.

Looking back, Mond said that his strategy has changed entirely from his first marathon, when he essentially had no strategy at all but ran his best time: 4 hours and 29 minutes. 

"I didn't know any better. I just ran and ran and ran," he said. "Now, my strategy is just to finish."

Mond worked for IBM for 35 years before becoming an independent consultant and moving from Suffern to the Upper West Side, where he lives now with his wife Gladys, who is 77.

He's not sure, though, whether his four sons and 10 grandchildren, who he thinks are getting him an iPad for his 80th birthday, will come into the city to cheer for him on Nov. 4. After all, he said, "I've been doing this for so long."

But Mond knows he can count on the crowds. They give him a boost as he runs, and sometimes walks, the course.

"People always come over to me and say 'You're my inspiration,'" he said. 

And in turn, he lifts other runners up, pairing up with struggling runners for part of the course.

"If somebody's struggling I say, 'Come on, come on, it's downhill, you can do it,'" he said.

This year, Mond is hoping his running buddy, Phyllis Roth, a younger senior and the director of the Upper West Side Jewish Association Serving the Aging, will join him for the marathon. Roth said she hasn't ruled it out. 

"Phyllis is very encouraging," Mond said. "She pushes me." Roth has been trying to get Mond to run in Central Park more often so that he can encounter more hills, but he really enjoys running along the Hudson.

His doctor is a runner too and her verdict on running marathons at 80 is, according to Mond, "'if you feel good, you should do it.'"

When Mond isn't running, he's writing poetry or his memoirs, endeavors he took up after joining JASA and taking a creative writing class four years ago. 

"Most of the poems are about nature or human beings, advice or reflections on different personalities," he said. Mond is regularly published in JASA's newsletter. 

The next few weeks are part of the petering out phase of training. Mond will try to get in a few more long runs, stock up on carbohydrates and he'll put a sign on his shirt so that people can call out his name during the race. 

"I always feel nervous, even if it's just a short race," he said. "That's the way it is."