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Doug Clark: 72-year-old runner keeps on winning

In this March 2012 photo, Spokane ultra-runner Bill Misner competes in the 3-day 2012 World Treadmill Championships. (Courtesy Misner / The Spokesman-Review)
In this March 2012 photo, Spokane ultra-runner Bill Misner competes in the 3-day 2012 World Treadmill Championships. (Courtesy Misner / The Spokesman-Review)

I first met Bill Misner 25 years ago when he was preparing for his first 50-mile footrace with a horse named Zeke.

We spoke again in 1998 after he (Misner, not Zeke) became the first runner ever to log 10,000 miles in an organized race.

Now comes the latest footnote in the sweat-soaked saga of Bill Misner.

Last week, the 72-year-old Spokane athlete won his age bracket and placed third overall in the Treadmill 1 Mile World Championship.

“This was one of the most difficult events I have ever done,” reflected Misner. “It requires so much focus and intensity.”

The term “ultra-runner” really doesn’t do the man justice.

Although he once kept careful track of his mileage, Misner said he stopped counting after “about 30,000 miles.”

The New Balance and Montrail companies supply Misner with free footwear, which is a godsend.

This guy has gone through more shoes than the entire “Sex and the City” cast.

I always enjoy hearing about Misner’s latest conquest. Not only do I admire him for being a good, God-fearing Christian, but his athletic exploits always give me a glimpse at what I might accomplish if I swore off pie.

A word about the Treadmill 1 Mile World Championship: Don’t feel out of the loop if you’ve never heard of it. This was the event’s first running, Misner said. It drew 150 runners who competed in Long Lake, Minn.

The rules were pretty straightforward: Get on treadmill. Run like hell for a mile.

A referee is there to observe and to make sure no runner grabs onto the rails or tries to cheat with a pogo stick.

Time is officially entered once the mile mark is reached.

Due to a cyst on top of his left foot, Misner was the only competitor allowed to compete off-site. The day before the event, he had to have the cyst opened and drained, which “added a distraction of unimaginable proportion.”

On the plus side, he could at least put both shoes on again.

Misner logged his mile on a treadmill at Spokane’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Physical therapist Tom DeHart agreed to act as official witness for the 130-pound ex-Marine.

Another word about the Treadmill 1 Mile World Championship: The event uses the World Master’s Association age-grading system to allow men and women of all ages to compete fairly.

For example: Misner ran his mile in 6 minutes and 32 seconds. Using the age-grading formula, his time was recalculated to 4:39.7. That put him a whisker behind 50-year-old Brian Maas, who took second.

I’ve never been much good at math. But if they come up with a gravity-grading system I may consider entering.

At least there’s no concern about being trampled in a treadmill race.

You couldn’t say that about Misner’s two big races with Zeke, both of which were nationally televised.

Alas, in both contests the victor was the horse, of course.

Misner, however, made a statement for humankind in losing to Zeke by a mere 6 minutes in the 1987 race and under 4 minutes in the second go-round a year later.

The post-race years weren’t so sweet for the stallion. According to Misner, his four-legged foe had to be put down eventually for biting people.

I don’t know this for a fact. But I can say with a fair amount of confidence that Misner has never bitten anyone that I know of.

But like that famed Energizer bunny, he just keeps going, and going, and …

“I always come back to running,” said Misner of his passion for his sport. “I just never quit.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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