It’s a good bet that if you’re out and about on the roads anywhere from Blaine to Ferndale you’ll probably see Joe Klein pacing along with his dog Noah close by his side.
Coming from a family of couch potatoes, Klein was an unlikely candidate to be a marathoner. But after a car accident eight years ago left him with a train of caregivers and a litany of pills that he didn’t want anything to do with, Klein finally had enough of his sedentary lifestyle.
“I decided I didn’t really require all that, so I hit the road,” he said, and began walking regularly to build strength and regain his
Now he can’t stop.
The 73-year-old doesn’t have a set route, but aims to clock around four hours of road time on his daily constitutional. “Sometimes I make it really close to Ferndale,” he said. “But I’ll go up Valley View Road and down H Street and swing back. It’s around 12 to 15 miles. I just don’t get tired.”
He trains daily with his “coach,” a spunky chocolate Lab named Noah who likes nothing better than to hear the words, “Do you want to go for a walk?” Those seven words send her into a tizzy, and she’s so enthusiastic, it’s almost enough to outpace Klein. “She’s got great ambition. I have a tough time keeping up with her,” Klein admits, affectionately petting her forehead. “But as long as she gets to go with, she’s happy.”
His walking habit has taken him far and wide, and he’s raced competitively in marathons from Seattle to Anchorage, mostly wherever it’s convenient to visit family at the same time.
And, for every marathon Klein walks, he puts another 500 miles in his logbook in training. He swears it’s the secret to his improved and continued health. “Nothing can keep me from walking,” he said. “I go see my doctor once or twice a month. I think she’s amazed.”
In October, Klein completed the Okanagan Marathon in 3:26:46, earning the spot of overall male winner for the marathon walk.
Klein credits his youngest son with the impetus to walk marathons. “He ran the Vancouver marathon,” Klein said, “And I thought if he could do it, so could I.”
To date, he has 16 marathons under his belt, and, while he enjoys the “high,” he is getting close to calling it quits. “I’ll probably still walk halfs,” he said. “Marathons are expensive. It’s easy to blow between $500 and $1,000 per race and that’s not really in my Social Security budget.”
Shoes are a big chunk of that budget, with a new pair required for each marathon. Typically you can only wear a pair of shoes for 500 miles before losing the support and cushion needed to stay injury-free.
“I used to go and buy [discount shoes] for $13, but I’d wear them out in no time. They just couldn’t withstand the mileage. You need good shoes,” he said. Now he spends upward of $150 to keep his feet in good shape.
Klein’s seen a lot of pavement in his eight years of marathon walking, but he said he doesn’t really have a favorite route or race. While they all have unique qualities, and some are better than others, ultimately, there’s little difference when your feet hit the asphalt.
“One road is the same as another, you just keep going,” he said.