After 19 years and innumerable pastries, 'The Rev' is still running strong.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- It's 9 a.m. Wednesday on South Broad Street, and Austintown resident Arthur Joachim is warming up for the 1,806th time.
In a few minutes, Joachim, 75, will approach the starting line for Canfield's annual Firecracker four-mile race -- the 1,806th road race he's run during the last 19 years.
Joachim doesn't stretch, but he seems poised in anticipation of the start of the race. His strategy: "I try not to be last."
The race starts. Joachim runs with his chest forward and his knees barely bending, like a racewalker who is moving too fast. He wears a headband, an old race T-shirt and Velcro straps under his knees.
"You've got to take care of your knees because they're one of the first things that go on you when you get older," Joachim said. "So I've got these straps below the knee to hold things together."
How he got started: Knee injuries are what led him to running in the 1950s. Joachim, a Youngstown native and retired Presbyterian pastor, said that before he began running, he was an avid racquetball and handball player.
However, his knees eventually wouldn't allow him to move side-to-side on the racquetball court. So Joachim decided to start running.
"My knees were talking back to me," he said. "Running is easier on your knees because you're going forward."
The first race Joachim ran was in 1982 in East Liverpool. He placed third in his age group.
Joachim said he now runs about 100 races each year. He noted that the longest distance he's run is 27 miles during a race north of Pittsburgh.
"I was going to cut out after [15 miles] when some lady in a car stopped and asked if I was all right," Joachim said. "For some reason, I said to her, 'Have you got anything for energy in your car?'"
"She reached over and gave me a bottle of J-O-L-T," he said, spelling out the name of a caffeine-laden cola. "I thought, I've never run the length of a marathon, this is the day."
He hasn't had any Jolt since that race.
Finished them all: Joachim added that he has finished every race he has started, despite enduring back injuries and sweltering heat in the summer. Joachim also tripped and fell to the asphalt during eight races, often near the finish line.
His face still bears scabs from his most recent fall June 30 in Austintown.
Joachim started to speed up as he neared the finish line Wednesday. He said he could feel his stomach "tugging" from the pastries he had eaten earlier in the week.
"Candy, ice cream, pastries, I have some every day, so I have to run to keep my weight down," Joachim said. "The tugging in your stomach, that means you're slimming it down."
Some of the spectators began to shout encouragement as he closed in on the finish. A woman yelled from sidewalk, "Way to go, Rev! Another one tucked away!"
Reaching his goal: Joachim crossed the finish line in 48:16, meeting his goal of not coming in last. As he walked past the finish line, he said, "one more."
"It feels good at my age just to finish it," he said, adding, "I could run two more."
Joachim said he plans on running three races next weekend, and he hopes to finish 2,000 races before his running career ends.
"That's my fervent wish," he said.