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97-year-old takes it in strides

TUESDAY, APRIL 29, 2008

The Bloomsday bug bit Victor Rogers in 2001. He was 90. This week the 97-year-old Kennewick resident and oldest 2008 registrant hopes to walk the 7.46-mile course for the seventh time – regardless of the weather.

He’s finished all but one Bloomsday race since his first appearance.

“I’m feeling pretty good. I went out this morning and walked six miles and did it in pretty good shape,” Rogers, a cancer survivor, said by phone last week. “I like to walk up the hills” on his route, said Rogers, adding they’re critical to surviving the race’s three climbs, culminating with the most demanding, Doomsday Hill. “And that, of course, can be a little bit tough,” he said matter-of-factly.

A self-described “lightweight,” the 5-foot-7-inch, 145-pound Rogers said he shied away from group sports in school.

But years of childhood farm chores – like planting seed potatoes near Walla Walla – strengthened his heart, lungs and muscles.

After he retired, he got excited by the first book on aerobics, Dr. Ken Cooper’s “Aerobics,”and began gradually walking his way to adult fitness.

“I started walking then, kept increasing my walking and in 2001 decided I might as well walk Bloomsday,” he said.

Now, Rogers walks at least five days a week. On three days, he also straps on 10-pound ankle weights and performs leg lifts at home.

His other health secrets?

A pre-breakfast cup of warm, lemon-infused water – chased with three cups of cold water. An aversion to cigarettes, booze and soft drinks. Good healthy meals cooked by his wife of 67 years, Lena. And strong ties to his religious faith.

Despite all that, he was sidelined by pneumonia in 2005.

He came back the following year, only to be hampered by rubbery legs. In 2007, he gutted through a bout of exhaustion likely caused by dehydration. Neither setback kept him from going the distance.

“I hope it goes better this year,” said Rogers, who usually heels and toes his way over the 12 K course in about two hours, 30 minutes.

“I don’t like to jog. But I do step it up a little bit on the downgrades,” said the retired high school agriculture teacher, fertilizer salesman and delivery driver. Rogers gets his physician’s OK before every race. During one office visit, he said proudly, the doctor told him he hopped up to the examining table with the same agility as some of his 6-year-old patients.

Saturday, he and his wife will stay in a motel room in Spokane to ensure a good night’s rest.

Early Sunday, Rogers expects to hit the pavement alongside his 65-year-old son, Ken, and up to 50,000 or more other Bloomies.

Rogers is a Bloomsday rarity, said Don Kardong, race founder and director.

“Usually the oldest participants are pushed in wheelchairs – which is not the case with Victor. I’d be surprised if anyone older … has ever completed the course on his or her own two feet,” Kardong said.

Rogers’ wife will be anxiously waiting for him at the finish line. Admittedly, she frets over her hubby.

“Personally, I don’t want him to go (to Bloomsday) anymore,” Lena Rogers said. “I’m afraid at his age he might be taking on too much.”

In the background, her husband took a conciliatory tone and said: “We’ll see what happens this year.”


 

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