Jim Southard, a 90-year-old Austinite and World War II veteran, wasn’t always a runner. But like many who are now addicted to the sport, he turned to running when going through a hard time while living in Indiana. Southard moved back to Texas in 1975, and now, 45 years after getting winded one block into his first run, Southard will participate in his 15th Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot this Thanksgiving Day.
“I’m not worried about competing any longer. If I can just complete the race without too much pain and be around other active people, I’m happy." — Jim Southard
“Each year [the Turkey Trot] gets better and better,” he said. “I’m not worried about competing any longer. If I can just complete the race without too much pain and be around other active people, I’m happy.”
Over the years, Southard has become a familiar face at the Turkey Trot and another local race, the Statesman Capitol 10,000. He’s won his age group at least 14 times at the Cap10K, according to a 2010 Austin American-Statesman profile, and runs the Turkey Trot in the 85 and older age group. He has run a handful of marathons since picking up running, but likes to stick to 5Ks now. While he alternates between running and walking during a race, he’s not about to stop just because he’s getting older.
“I’ll run as long as I can,” he said. “Walking and jogging and just participating is all I care about.”
Southard, who will race alongside more than 22,000 Austinites at this year’s five-mile race benefiting Caritas of Austin, trains in his West Austin neighborhood. Like so many runners, he likes to get his workout in early.
“If I’m not up by 4 am, I’ve overslept,” he said. “I read the Wall Street Journal, and then I go out and do my thing.”
Southard’s perspective is a nice reminder that running isn’t about the fastest time but the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and accomplishing a goal.
Southard runs at O. Henry Middle School, where the track is open for anyone to get in a workout in before starting the day. Southard is one of a few regulars who circle the track, and he likes to get in between six and 10 laps before he heads home.
“I run really slow now. A fast walker will pass me,” he said. “That's one thing that comes with age if you're lucky enough to continue, you get real slow.”
Despite slowing down recently, Southard says it’s his persistence and the sense of community at Austin’s popular races that keep him going. For younger runners who are sometimes obsessed with competing with themselves and others, Southard’s perspective is a nice reminder that running isn’t about the fastest time but the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and accomplishing a goal.
“Any stature I have [at races] is because of my age, not because I’m fast,” he said. “It's just about getting out there, joining with people and enjoying myself.”
Along with a five-mile race, the Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot also includes a one-mile walk and kids' fun run. Register for the race online by clicking here.