Two Of Pittsburgh Marathon’s Oldest & Youngest Competitors On Running And Aging

May 4, 2018

Six decades separate the Pittsburgh Marathon's oldest competitor from one of its youngest. 

Pittsburgh resident Jerry Agin competed in the very first Pittsburgh Marathon in 1985. Now, he's 76 and still running. For 16-year-old student Benjamin Kravetz of Bedford, Pa., the 2018 Pittsburgh Marathon will be his second. 

The runners spoke with each other in an interview about their motivations and their hopes for the race. 

Jerry Agin runs a 70-miler in 1994.
Credit Courtesy of Jerry Agin

Agin, a retired engineer, has run 42 marathons. He's qualified for the Boston Marathon and competed in several ultra marathons in his lifetime. "My goal is to do it until I can't do it anymore," he said.

Agin started running later in life in his 30s, after switching from swimming, and competed in his first marathon in his 40s. 

Kravetz began running three years ago and participated in his first marathon in October 2017.

"I just saw running as a really great opportunity to just go after my dreams and get some exercise in on the side," he said. 

Both say that freedom and independence are paramount in the sport.

"I like getting out on the roads in the weather and getting from one place to another," Agin said. "I've tried it on a treadmill. It just doesn't have the same joy. I've tried it with earphones, [and] it distracts from the experience."

Kravetz agrees, noting that there's nothing like the feeling of discovering a new trail or vista.

But, Kravetz says, he struggles with motivation at times.

"Every once in a while you just hit a wall as you approach a new distance and you have to keep finding new ways to get over that wall," he said.

Agin says motivation has never really been a big struggle for him. However, he admits that age has proved a challenge.

"My times have gotten slower as I get older. I estimate about half-an-hour per decade as I age," he said.

As a result, Agin's only goal on Sunday is to finish the race.

"My longest marathon is five hours and eight minutes, but I've got six-and-a-half hours before they roll up the sidewalks. [I want to] just keep moving," he said.

16-year-old Benjamin Kravetz is one of four runners under 18 competing in the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday.
Credit Courtesy of Benjamin Kravetz

At 16, Kravetz is aiming for a speedy pace time of three hours or under, listed in the Pittsburgh Marathon official program as the top pace. Kravetz has clocked in at three hours and 22 minutes in the past, but says he's been diligently training since.

Kravetz trains by running the full length of the race, but Agin says he is happy to run 16 or 17 miles at a time.

Aside from their differences, Kravetz and Agin share a lifelong love of the sport. Kravetz says Agin has inspired him to keep running, even when he's 76 years old.

"I'd love to run as long as I can without slowing down," Kravetz said.

"You're going to slow down," Agin replied. "That's a fact of life. Keep running, yes. But that's something that I've had to get used to." 

Agin says he appreciates "the enthusiasm of a young person who doesn't accept limits." He's comforted that Kravetz and other teenagers can pick up where Agin left off.

And Kravetz is impressed by Agin's perseverance.

"We can all learn that there's always one more goal to work toward. You can never quite accomplish enough to say you're done," Kravetz explains. "You can always do a little bit more work, and there's always more potential."

They may cross the finish line hours apart, but Kravetz and Agin hope to meet on Sunday: a runner of the very first Pittsburgh Marathon passing a symbolic baton to the runner of its future.