Marathon man nears milestone

Jim Scheer has run 331 of the 26-mile races with 15 planned this year

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Fun facts about Jim Scheer

Scheer was born on Friday the 13th (March 13, 1942).

Scheer purchased his first pair of running shoes in 1978. He paid $14 for a pair of Puma shoes at Montgomery Ward.

His favorite marathons are Boston, Newport, Yakima River Canyon, Crater Lake and Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn.

Scheer has toed the line in the Portland Marathon 30 times.

The entry fee for Scheer’s first marathon was $12.

Jim Scheer was never much of a runner.

Growing up, he preferred football or baseball or basketball over running circles on the track.

“The only running I did was the running they made us do,” Scheer said.

“It just didn’t look that appealing,” he added.

But on his 26th birthday, Scheer laced up his Keds and went for his first jog. After that, he was hooked.

“Once I started it,” he said, “I loved it.”

A 34-year-old Scheer ran his first race on July 4, 1976 -- a 4.8-mile run through the Vancouver Barracks. Two years later, he ran his first 10K, and a year after that, he tried his first marathon.

“It went good for 20 (miles),” Scheer said.

By 20 miles, Scheer was walking. The last 6 miles of the race took him more than an hour to complete.

But three weeks later, Scheer came back for more, running his second marathon.

And he’s kept coming back ever since.

Scheer, who turns 70 on Tuesday, now has 331 marathons under his belt, in addition to countless half marathons and shorter races. He’s also run ultra marathons of 50 miles, 24-hour events and 50K races.

In his prime -- when he was in his 40s and 50s -- Scheer would go on 20-mile runs in Forest Park in Portland. He’d run two marathons in a weekend -- one Saturday, one Sunday -- or complete four marathons in five weeks.

An active schedule

In 33 years, he’s run marathons in 22 states and Victoria, British Columbia. His fastest marathon was completed in 2 hours, 52 minutes. He’s run in the “mecca of marathons,” the Boston Marathon, nine times.

Now, Scheer runs about four miles three to five days a week. He still races, but nothing shorter than 5Ks. He’s planning to complete 15 marathons this year, but his race time has slowed to about 4 hours and 30 minutes.

“You work just as hard and don’t go as fast,” Scheer said.

A heart condition he was diagnosed with in 2008 didn’t do anything to help his pace, either. Scheer’s doctor gave him permission to continue running, as long as he backed off of the intensity.

So Scheer stays active doing other activities in addition to running. He referees high school and premier soccer club games year-round, does yoga two or three times a week and, every now and then, lifts weights at the health club.

All of the physical activity has helped Scheer stay slim, and kept his blood pressure in the healthy range and his resting heart rate at about 50 beats per minute. In addition to exercise, Scheer said he stays healthy by avoiding junk food, getting plenty of rest and taking vitamins for joint health.

This week’s 70th birthday comes with a bonus: Moving into an older age group for marathons and other races. Scheer will get his first taste of the 70-74 age group at the Shamrock Run in Portland on March 18.

While his pace has slowed over the years, his love for running shows no signs of slowing down.

“I’ll never stop running as long as I’m able,” Scheer said.

“I don’t feel as good as I did when I was 40,” he said, “but it’s something to live for. I gotta live, I need to run Tuesday.”

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.