Edgar County resident Paul Spinner competed in the U.S.A. Track and Field National Master’s Outdoor Championships at Iowa State University last week, running away with two first-place finishes and one second-place finish by the end of the day.
Spinner competed in the 75-79-age category, winning the 10,000-meter race with a time of 58.12 and the 2,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 12.06. He placed second in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 28.30. Each of the marks qualified Spinner for All-American status in his age group.
“It was a great experience and a lot of fun to run in,” Spinner said. “I really love to run but I also really love to compete and to win.”
Spinner, a native of Hillsboro, graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in civil engineering. After an esteemed engineering career, Spinner found himself beginning retirement at 56 years old and with a lot more free time. Having started running just three years before retirement, Spinner’s post-retirement life opened up an entirely new training regime for him.
“Retirement really gave me the opportunity to run more and at times better suited for me,” Spinner said. “It took about two years of training to really get me up to speed and in shape to compete in the races that I do now.”
Paul started out training by running in 5k (3.1 miles) races but quickly lengthened the distance he was competing in at races.
The distance began to grow from 5k to 10k (6.2 miles) to half-marathons (13.1 miles) and finally to full marathons (26.2 miles).
Spinner, now 75 years old, competes in just one marathon each year, but takes part in a plethora of other races. In all, he has competed in over 1,100 competitive races in his running career.
“I have run in so many different races across the country and the places and tracks I have seen are amazing,” Spinner said. “I am such a competitive person but I have done so much of it with my wife, and she is just as competitive as I am.”
Spinner has traveled across the nation to more then 25 states with his wife of 25 years, Penny, to take part in numerous races. One of his favorite competitions has been the Little Rock marathon, which takes place every spring in Little Rock, Ark.
Spinner has received some quality running advice throughout his career, with some of it coming from the late John McNichols, who was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Coaches Hall of Fame in 2018.
McNichols spent 34 years at the helm of the Indiana State University Track and Field and Cross Country programs.
“I met Coach McNichols around 10 years ago while I was training at Indiana State and he helped me starting out in the steeplechase,” Spinner said. “He was such a nice man and he gave me so many pointers about it. I was able to finish second in the nation in my first (steeplechase) race.”
Despite everywhere he has competed, Spinner still loves being an active part of the running community in Paris.
“There are so many nice guys who run here, I have made a lot of friends in Paris just from running,” Spinner said. “I love the community here and just everything about it. Everyone is helping each other to be the best that they can be.”
Spinner plans to continue his running career into the future and will be competing again today at the Run for the Bagel at the Bagelfest in Mattoon.
“Running has been a big part of me for some time now,” Spinner said. “I am just happy that I have been able to do so much through it.”